How to Care for Orchids

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orchid care tips

Orchid care at home is the essence of what this website is about. Since most of us aren’t greenhouse growers, I offer a practical guide on how to care for orchids in a typical home environment. 

Caring for Orchids at Home

Although orchid care requirements vary from species to species, there are 7 care aspects that pertain to all orchids. This post is intended as an overall guide but is not specific to any specific variety of orchid. Knowing these 7 tips will help you care for your orchids at home.

Discover: Caring for orchids at home

Choose an Orchid with the Right Lighting Requirements

Indoor orchid care begins with choosing an orchid with the right light requirements. All orchids need light, but some orchids require almost full sun and while others do best in bright light.

For most orchids an east-facing window is ideal. This way orchids receive morning sun, but not the intensity of a west-facing window. At the same time, a south-facing window can also be ideal. The idea is that you can always take away light by adding a sheer curtain or moving the orchid away from the window.

I like to think of orchids on a sort of light requirement spectrum. If you are interested in a particular type of orchid, ask the seller how much light that orchid needs compared to a Cattleya (high light requirements), a Brassia (moderate light requirements) and a Phalaenopsis (low light requirements).

High Light Orchids

For those us caring for orchids at home, it’s important to give these orchids as much diffused light as possible. A south-facing window with a sheer curtain is ideal.

Cattleya-orchids-have-high-light-requirements - how to take care of an orchid

Cattleyas, the quintessential orchid, have high light requirements

Cymbidium-orchids-have-high-light-requirements-caring-for-orchids-at home.png

Cymbidium orchids have high light requirements. This is a link for a Cymbidium without such extreme temperature requirements. For Cymbidium online buying options, click here.

Dendrobium-orchids-have-high-light-requirements-caring for orchids at home

Dendrobium orchids have high light requirements. Dendrobiums are a diverse variety of orchid. If you’d like to give one a try, I’ve linked to an easy beginner Australian Dendrobium kingianum. Another a personal favorite Dendrobium Roy Tokunaga – another easy grower.

Moderate Light Orchids

Several hours of bright light will do the trick for these orchids. South, east, or west windows will work as long as the orchids are protected from direct light.


The Brassia is an easy to grow orchid that blooms and reblooms like nobody’s business. BONUS: this orchid has a lovely fragrance. For more information on buying Brassia orchids online, click here.


The fragrance from an Oncidium will fill a room. Some varieties will bloom more than once a year. For chocolate-smelling flowers try, ‘Sharry Baby’ and for a vanilla fragrance, try ‘Twinkle’.


Low Light Orchids

Any window will do for these orchids as long as they are protected from direct light. If their leaves become discolored from too much light bring them a few more inches away from the window or hang a sheer curtain.

Paphiopedlium orchids have low light requirements - orchid care at home

If you don’t have a lot of light, grow a Paphiopedilum These easy to grow orchids doesn’t mind repotting and blooms once a year and many varieties have lovely dappled leaves. To check out online buying options for a Paphiopedilum, click here.

Phalaenopsis orchids have low light requirements - home care for orchids.png

The glorious Phalaenopsis is the gateway drug to orchids. If you’d like to learn more about purchasing Phalaenopsis orchids online, click here.


Check out my EBOOK: WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR GROCERY STORE ORCHID to learn how to care for your Phalaenopsis orchid.


Above I have described ideal light conditions. For the record, I care for most of my orchids in my home in an east-facing window. I have huge eaves over my other windows, so my light is best on the east side. I just place orchids that require more light closer to the glass and those with lesser light requirements farther away.

My point is that even when conditions aren’t ideal you can make it work. I have a friend that grows moth orchids in a south-facing window in her classroom. Because another large building is across from her classroom her low light orchid does just fine in a south-facing window without a sheer curtain.

While we’re talking about light, I will add that most orchids can be grown under artificial light. When caring for orchids at home, don’t let lack of light stop you from growing orchids. This is the grow light system I use and my orchids have rebloomed and thrived with these lights.

Control the Temperature and Air Circulation

Two orchid care tips that go hand in hand are temperature and air circulation. My first recommendation is to choose orchids that thrive, like you and me, in the 70s (F).

The trick is that many orchids like temperature drops in the evening. My suggestion is to crack a window if it’s not too cold outside.

Air circulation is very important. Not only does it help to prevent disease, but it also helps to regulate the temperature. Orchids near a window can get too hot or too cold. Thankfully, a fan will help to moderate the temperature.

I wish I had a ceiling fan, but I don’t. Instead, I use this small and quiet Chill Out fan. I set the fan to it’s lowest setting and give my orchids a nice gentle breeze and they feel like they’re in paradise.


How to Water Your Orchid

Most orchids die because they’ve been over-watered. Learning to properly water is especially important when caring for orchids indoors.

Although water requirements vary, generally thin leafed orchids need water more often than thick-leaved orchids. Also, dormant orchids need less frequent watering.

You will know if your orchid is dormant because you won’t notice any leaf or root growth, or any flowers. The orchid is simply resting, gearing up for the next growth and flowering cycle.

This is how I water: first, I check the potting media of each orchid before watering it. If the media is still damp, I don’t water. This is especially true for orchids planted in sphagnum moss because moss really retains water. If your orchid has a plastic inner pot, examine the pot for condensation.

After a while, you will get into a watering rhythm. Here are a few tips that will help you while finding your orchids watering sweet spot:

  • Orchids do not like to sit in water. This is especially true for dendrobiums.
  • By the same token, miltoniopsis (pansy orchid) and paphiopedilum (lady slipper) do not like to dry out.
  • Don’t water because it’s watering day, first check the potting medium. If it’s still wet, wait.
  • More orchids are killed by overwatering than by underwatering.


Provide Some Humidity

I understand that you are likely caring for your orchids at home, not in a greenhouse. That’s me too. While providing adequate humidity is important, if growing in your home, it is equally important not to over humidify.

We want to grow orchids, not mold. I have had the most success using a humidifier and a fan. The humidifier provides the humidity and fan helps prevent disease and mold.

Sad to say, but I have tried humidity trays without any results. I know they are popular, but I would be lying if I said they have raised the humidity levels around my orchids.

I use a humidistat to track my humidity levels. For all my orchids, I try to keep my humidity levels at 50%. That’s on the high end for what is recommended for a home, and the low end for what is recommended for orchids. It’s not perfect, it’s a compromise.

orchids thrive with high humidity - learn how to care for an orchid

Fertilize Your Orchid Sparingly

Next, when it comes to fertilizing orchids, less is more. Salt build-up, the carrier for the minerals found in fertilizer, is really bad for orchids. The common refrain for fertilizing orchids is weekly weakly. One week in four, or even 2 weeks in 4 do not use any fertilizer. This will help to flush out the salts in the potting media. Be sure to dilute the recommended dosage by 1/2 to 1/4 strength.

Decoding Fertilizer Labels

  •  1st number refers to nitrogen.
    • Promotes healthy leaves.
    • Use when you see new leaves begin to grow.
    • Recommendation:  9-3-6
  • 2nd number is for phosphorous.
    • Encourages flowers.
    • Use before the flower buds appear. For example, if I wanted to fertilize for flowers in a winter-blooming cymbidium, I would begin fertilizing at the end of fall before the flower spike had begun to grow.
    •  Recommendation:  3-12-6.
    • Note: once the orchid is prepared to bloom, return to a balanced fertilizer.
  • 3 number stands for potassium.
    •  Supports a strong root system, including the overall well-being of your orchids.  Potassium also helps to fight pests and disease and bounce back from unfavorable conditions such as cold and drought conditions.
    • Use when roots are forming.
    • Recommendation: 0-0-3.

fertilizing orchids - caring for orchids indoors

RePotting Is Important

Finally, when caring for orchids at home, many people wonder if they need to re-pot. They do! I have a full post about when to repot orchids and how to repot orchids.

To get you started, here is a simple overview to let you know if the time is right.

Do Pot:

  • When the flowers have all died.
  • Before the soil breaks down. A good quality soil should last 1-2 years.
  • If you have purchased a new orchid and you want to check out the root system.
  • If you see new roots growing.
  • If your orchid is growing in sphagnum moss and you’d like to switch to a better potting medium

Don’t Pot:

  • If your orchid is still flowering.
  • A Dendrobium. Only repot a Dendrobium if you absolutely have to. They do not like their roots to be disturbed.
Learning to pot an orchid is important when caring for orchids at home

To discover the tools I use to pot my orchids, click here.

Indoor Orchid Care In a Nutshell

There you have it, a basic guide to caring for orchids at home. Many people think that orchids are difficult to grow. The truth is that they are easy, especially if they are watered correctly. Comment below to share your orchid concerns and successes.

I wish you the best in caring for these beauties!

  1. Gamini says:

    Thanks. It’s very important to me care my Orchid. But I have a problem with fertilising orchids. In Sri lanka we use
    10:52:10 as plant starter and 20:20:20 in the middle finally 13:02:44. Then I would like to know whether it’s too much. Sorry for my English.
    Best Regards !

    1. Anna says:

      The 10:52:10 fertilizer will promote flowering. Just remember to dilute to about 1/8 to 1/4 strength. The 20:20:20 is a good all around fertilizer. Dilute this one to 1/4 to 1/2 strength. The last fertilizer promotes a healthy root system dilute this one to 1/8 to 1/4 strength. Only fertilize 2-3 times per months and your orchids should do well. When it comes to fertilizing, less is more.

  2. Ashok says:

    Tips were great! I’m just a beginner

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you Ashok! Enjoy the journey!

  3. Norma says:

    Thanks for all the good tips to care for my orchids! Maybe now I can get more flowers!

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you for your kind words Norma! Anna

  4. Makayla says:

    I’ve just taken in my third moth orchid and I love them! So simple and beautiful! One has a shoot and will probably flower at the beginning of the year, the other is still growing it’s leaves and will probably send out a shoot soon! The third I just picked up today and has blooms!

    1. Anna says:

      It was great to hear from you! Congratulations on your 3rd moth. It’s practically impossible to have just one.
      I loved hearing about your orchid’s growing cycle. That’s what makes orchid’s fun when they aren’t in bloom. You read the signs and know the flowers are on their way.

  5. Mayra says:

    Hola yo no hablo ingles solamente español y francés y este sitio utilizo mi traductor mi duda es que fertilizante utilizar cuando mis orquideas estan saliendo hojas nuevas y raizes nuevas?

    1. Anna says:

      Hola Mayra,
      Check out this post on fertilizing:Fertilizing Orchids
      Thanks for checking out my website even though you have to use your translator!

  6. I live in a tropical country and just began my orchid collection. It has been tough getting the right light, temperature levels etc. I recently placed all under my mango tree and we had a bit if rainfall. They perked up and sent out roots, but I have to be careful not to get root rot. I can’t wait to see them all rebloom. Thanks for the tips.

    1. Anna says:

      How lovely–your orchids under a mango tree! Keep me updated on your orchid’s roots!

  7. Erin says:

    I have kept orchids for a few years and have had great success. They are doing beautifully in an East facing bay window. I also recently got a warm mist humidifier and holy Toledo are they blooming! I just recently found your website and I’m pleased to find I’ve been doing just about everything right with them BUT I’m also learning a lot of new tricks and tips from you! I do have one question that I can’t seem to find an answer to on your site. I’m in Michigan and we utilize our wood burning stove to heat the house in the winter. I know! A nightmare to keep humidity levels where they need to be. I manage to keep it at roughly 53% though. The question I have is, my orchids’ leaves are collecting quiet a bit of dust. What technique do you recommend for cleaning them?

    1. Anna says:

      Thanks for your comment! I bet your bay window filled with orchids is beautiful! To clean the dust off your orchids, I would first try a feather duster. If the ashes from the wood burning stove are too sticky, try gently wiping the orchids with a damp microfiber cloth.
      Let me know how it goes!

  8. Colleen Bateman says:

    I live in Southern Africa and have really good growing conditions for most orchids but we are hot and dry. I thank you for all the wonderful advice as I am very passionate about growing orchids and have been fortunate to purchase the orchids in my collection.. thanks so much for all the useful information

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you for your comment Colleen. I hope you’ll be back to Orchid Bliss! I’m happy to help if you ever have any questions!

  9. Pepita says:

    Very happy with all I have learned here. Thanks. I have a question in reference to the flower. Blooming beautiful for over 2 months plus but very dusty and how do I clean it ?

    1. Anna says:

      Good question. Leaves can get water spots and collect dust. Using a soft cloth you can clean them with lemon juice or vinegar. For more detailed instructions, read this post: Prepping Orchids for Display.
      Let me know if I can help with any other orchid questions!

  10. Audrina says:

    Hi I bought an orchid from Lowe’s the other day and I really want to take good care of it, I don’t know much about gardening but I’ve found a good window for it and I’m taking care not to overwater but the pot it’s in has no drain at the bottom and its not in an inner plastic pot so i cant check out the roots, it’s also in this mossy stuff. Should I re pot it and change out the potting soil?

    1. Anna says:

      Yes, I would definitely repot the orchid. Good drainage is important to prevent root rot. Check out this post on repotting: How to Repot Your Orchid.
      Have a great day!

  11. JD says:

    I have three Phals that I have just removed from a moss medium and repotted to a high quality bark and clay medium. Two are doing well with shiny upright leaves but one has leaves that are beginning to droop and look dull. I treat them all the same so I’m confused as to what the problem may be.
    Should I hold off watering the ailing phal?
    Will droopy leaves perk back up if I get things right?
    Thanks Anna!

    1. Anna says:

      I would try poking a bit sphagnum moss or wool rock down into the potting mix of the ailing orchid. It may just need a bit more water than the others – maybe its root system wasn’t as developed as the others.

  12. Jilliann Brennan says:

    I was given my store bought orchid WHEN I WAS in hospital 3 years ago .My First and only orchids to date .It flowered for a solid 2 years then died off .I had no idea what I was doing so just kept it in the same pot and continued to water sposmatically and it Is still alive but no flower stem ,the leaves are beautifully green waxy and and solid ,roots are great ,so am just waiting for a new flower stem if that happens ,not sure.But will definitely get a few more ,They sit on my kitchen windowsill under the verandah. I live in Victoria Australia

    1. Anna says:

      It sounds like you have a healthy orchid that just needs to trigger re-blooming. I am going to assume you are growing a phalaenopsis orchid. Luckily, living in Australia you are heading into winter. Normally, phals prefer warm temperatures (70-80F/21-26.7CC). But they do need about a month of intermediate temperatures (55-60F/13-15.6C) to trigger blooming. Also, these orchids do need a bright window to rebloom. Your phal will convert light into the energy it needs to flower.
      Thanks for reaching out,

  13. Carol says:

    Hi, I just subscribed, and felt encouraged to share my orchid story. As many are, I am both fascinated and intimidated by orchids. Most people likely receive them as gifts. It proceeds from that point, to questions about watering, light requirements, repotting, blooming, etc.

    Currently I have four Phalaenopsis. Two have colorful, yellow blooms with other colors and two white. One of the white ones I am certain was a gift and the other three probably came from Trader Joe’s. I just recently purchased a Dendrobium kingianum from Amazon because I was seeking one with fragrance and it was a reasonable price.

    It took quite awhile for me to learn about the requirements of these plants so they would thrive and flower. As in most things, as you learn, you crave more knowledge, which is where I am today.

    I have small areas, which makes it difficult to have enough space in the correct environment. I have freezing winters and blistering summers. I heat with a wood stove and cool with an evaporative (swamp) cooler. Consequently, my orchids are restricted to one window of my house and don’t go outside.

    I have tried many planting mediums and styles of pots. I am just learning about the air roots and the sheathing around the actual root. I am currently experimenting, trying to use what I have learned and to answer questions I have. YouTube has been helpful, but sometimes you need answers which you may not find a demonstration of.

    Hoping to continue learning!

    1. Anna says:

      Thanks for sharing your orchid story! Learning to care for orchids certainly is a journey!

  14. Eileen Pryor says:

    I recieved a orchid in bad shape, my first ever, It was going to be thrown out at a grocery store. It now has a new leaf growing, and I’ve got 16 orchids in my apartment.
    I love these beautiful plants, watering is my biggest concern.
    I only have phal orchids due to lighting, but I am looking into a artificial light source.
    I cant believe I waited so long to have these beauties.

    1. Anna says:

      It was great to hear from you! Congratulations on rescuing your first orchid!

      Here are a few helpful articles to help you with your orchid growing journey:



      I have had a lot of success with artificial lighting, so don’t be afraid to give it a try.

      All my best for you and your orchids,

  15. Judy Goodson says:

    My orchids are generally doing well. I water with rainwater when I can, but usually it’s just my regular tap water that’s been sitting out fo 24 hrs so the chlorine has evaporated. I’ve been told on various websites to only use distilled, rainwater, or reverse osmosis water. The last two are rather expensive. Please tell me if I can just use aged tap water.

    1. Anna says:

      I use tap water. If you let your water sit out overnight, you shouldn’t have any problems.

  16. Barbara Smith says:

    Hi, Anna, so happy to find your website. My problem right now is how to get a Miltoniopsis( Lillian Nakamoto) & an Oncidium(Sharry Baby) to rebloom. I am a windowsill grower, however, Sherry Baby has been outdoors all summer. Would appreciate any help. Thank-you so much, Barb

    1. Anna says:

      Miltoniopisis and Oncidium orchids need bright (but not direct)light (2000-3000 fc) – the leaves should not be yellow. The Miltoniopsis may have a reddish cast when receiving enough light. Also, these orchids like winter temperatures of about 58-62 F / 14.4-17 C and summer temperatures in the low 80s F / 27 C. Miltoniopsis orchids, in particular, love high humidity. Of the two orchids, the Miltoniopsis is the more finicky. The main things to watch for is to keep them from getting too hot and to keep them from drying out – keep the potting mix lightly moist – not wet.
      My sharry baby has been a reliable bloomer. In fact, it is in full bloom right now. Like you, I summered mine outside, and just brought mine indoors. The rest of the year I grow it on my windowsill. Let your oncidium dry out halfway before watering again.
      Best of luck,

  17. Barbara Smith says:

    Why do some leaves on my Miltoniopsis have brown tips?

    1. Anna says:

      Miltoniopsis are sensitive to fertilizer salts. The brown tips are a symptom of fertilizer burn. While you should only pot the orchid during active growth (when new roots begin to grow), in the meantime, water thoroughly with distilled water. After leaching with distilled water, you can water with regular water again. Then, when you do fertilize use only 1/4 strength. Pot as soon as the orchid goes into active growth.
      All my best,

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START HERE to Learn More About Caring for Orchids

Find Out What I Wish I Knew When I First Started Caring for Orchids