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It's No Secret That Orchids Need Humidity Find Out How Much

4 Secrets to Successfully Give Your Orchids the Humidity They Need

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humidity for orchids

It’s no secret that orchids need humidity, but finding the right balance for you and your orchids can be tricky.  But, it doesn’t have to be.

Discover why orchids need humidity and how to give them what they want.  My recommendation for growing healthy orchids that will thrive in your home has just 4 steps:

  1. purchase orchids that suit humidity levels your home can reasonably provide (see varieties below),
  2.  invest in a humidifier if you live in an arid climate,
  3. use a humidistat so you can track your humidity levels 
  4. use a fan to prevent fungal and bacterial growth.

Bonus: At the end of this article, I’ve added an update about an experiment that increases humidity for my orchids without damaging my home.

It’s that easy!

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Orchids Need Humidity

In winter months, especially when the furnace is running, air can be especially dry. Chapped lips, split fingertips, and static electricity all indicate dry air. Or, if you’re like me and live in an arid climate, you may need to increase the humidity level in your home year-round.  That said, it’s important not to over humidify. 

Although many orchids prefer humidity levels between 50-80 percent, the recommended humidity for our homes is between 30 to 50 percent. Find the sweet spot where you can live peaceably with your orchid and without encouraging any sporing friends. If you grow your orchids in-house like I do, grow orchids that thrive with lower humidity levels.

Minimum Humidity Levels for Orchids

Even so-called low humidity orchids need humidity levels around 40%. I’ll admit that sometimes in the winter even that much is a struggle and I’m happy to get 30%. Here are a few examples of orchids that thrive with humidity levels between 40-50%:

If your humidity levels are particularly low, between 35-40%, try growing these varieties:

Many people wonder about providing humidity for Phalaenopsis orchids. It’s nice to know that these orchids are considered low humidity orchids. Although these orchids do best with humidity levels between 40-50% they will tolerate lower humidity levels.

When Orchids Don’t Get Enough Humidity

Here’s why orchids require humidity. Get ready for the science lesson. Don’t worry this won’t be too technical. It’s all about breathing. Imagine you are outside on a cold day. What happens when you exhale? You can see your breath or water condensation. When we breathe we lose water. It’s just more visible when we’re outside in the cold. As another example, when your glasses are dirty, breathing on the lenses adds enough moisture that it’s easy to give them a quick polish with a clean cloth. Orchids also lose water when they breathe.

Orchids and all plants have stomata or pores on leaves that allow the orchid to breathe-absorb carbon dioxide and repel oxygen. When orchids open their stomata to breathe they lose water. Humidity compensates for the water loss when opening their stomata.

When orchids don’t get enough humidity a drought situation ensues. If humidity levels are too low this means that the water loss through the stomata is greater than the water absorbed through the roots. In response to low humidity levels, the orchid closes its stomata and stops absorbing carbon dioxide. In essence, if humidity levels are too low, the orchid stops breathing.

How to Know If Humidity Levels Are Too Low For Your Orchid

The leaves tell the story. Wrinkly leaves, droopy are one indication that humidity levels are too low. For orchids that go through a dormant period in winter, the orchid’s leaves will turn yellow an fall off. When the leaves fall off it is called desiccation.

Orchids Humidity Tray

One popular way to increase humidity is to use a humidity tray for orchids. Simply fill the tray with gravel then pour water into the tray until it is about halfway full.  This will ensure that the orchid pot will sit on top of the gravel and not in the water.  If an orchid’s roots sit in water they will rot and die. The idea is that water evaporating around the orchid will provide a microclimate of humidified air.

I hate to say this, but in my personal experience, a humidity tray for orchids did nothing to raise the humidity level. I use a humidistat that displays humidity levels. When using the humidity tray my humidistat readings hovered around 35%. Then, without the humidity tray, my humidity levels continued at 35%.

Only by using a humidifier did I, according to my humidistat, raise my humidity levels up to the desired 50%. Perhaps if you live in a more humid area, a humidity tray will make a difference for you. Please comment below to let me know if you’d had success with a humidity tray for orchids. 

Just because a humidity tray didn’t work out for me doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it. Remember to keep the orchid’s roots above the water level in the tray.

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Using a Humidifier for Orchids

Because I live in a high desert, I use a humidifier for my orchids and it works.  You can purchase a humidifier at any local home goods store or order one online.  When using a humidifier, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure that undue moisture does not accumulate. Check windows and mirrors for condensation–those are signs of too much humidity. We don’t want to encourage mold! If you want to take the guesswork out of your humidity levels, you can buy a humidifier with a humidistat.

Buy a humidifier with the largest water tank that you can afford. This will reduce the number of times that you will have to refill the tank.

How to Reduce Airborne Fungus and Bacteria

To reduce fungal and bacterial growth keep your humidifier clean. Every time you fill the humidifier’s tank, follow the manufacturers’ instructions and clean your humidifier. It’s that simple, and, admittedly, it’s a pain too. But regularly cleaning your humidifier will reduce the amount of fungus and bacteria in the air. 

If you live in a humid environment you’re well-acquainted with fungus and bacteria that accompany high humidity levels. Using a fan will increase air circulation, preventing bacterial disease on your orchids and mold spores in your house. If you’re serious about growing healthy orchids and preventing fungal and bacterial growth, use a fan.

humidifer-for-orchids - orchids need humidity

Track Humidity Levels with a Humidistat

I am a big proponent of using a humidity gauge called a humidistat. This little guy will help you to make necessary adjustments so you don’t get too little, or too much humidity. The humidistat that I use tells me the humidity high and low and also the temperature high and low over the past 12 hours. I check my humidistat regularly. It is helpful to observe humidity change with the seasons and then make necessary adjustments.

Your Turn

I am a firm believer that bringing nature into our homes improves the quality of our lives, often in unexpected ways. Before growing orchids, the air in my house, especially during the winter months, was so dry my fingers would crack and bleed. If your fingertips have split due to dry air, you know that they take FOREVER to heal. Now that I’m using a humidifier for my orchids, my fingers are reaping the benefits.

To successfully grow orchids in your home, I have just 4 recommendations:

  1. Grow low humidity orchids (orchids that require about 40-50% humidity). This list includes Cattleya, Oncidium, Phalaenopsis, Paphiopedilum, Australian type Dendrobium Catasetum and Laelia orchids. That’s a pretty good list!
  2. If you need to increase humidity levels for your orchids, don’t depend on a humidity tray, invest in a humidifier.
  3. Buy a humidistat. Make it easy on yourself and your orchids and take the guesswork out of your humidity levels. This is something you can’t Google because outdoor humidity levels differ from indoor humidity levels.
  4. Above all, use a fan. Orchids need air movement to prevent fungal and bacterial growth on their leaves that accompany the humidity that they love.

Click here for my top tools for increasing humidity for your orchids.

Update: My Indoor Cold Frame Experiment

My biggest struggle as a windowsill orchid grower living in the desert is lack of humidity.  As an indoor grower, I don’t let my humidity get over 50%. I wondered what I could do to grow orchids indoors, and be able to safely increase the humidity.  That’s when I thought of my cold frame sitting outside in the garden.

I brought the cold frame inside – into my basement – and scrubbed it down. Lots of dirt had accumulated on the fiberglass walls that would block light to the orchids.

To increase humidity for my orchids, I brought in a cold frame for my orchids.

Initially, I hoped that the orchids placed together in a small space, the cold frame,  would boost humidity levels so that I wouldn’t have to use a humidifier.

While the humidity did increase without a humidifier, I knew I could safely add more humidity inside the cold frame without damaging my house, so I added a humidifier, humidistat, and a fan.

Remember: where there is humidity, there must be air movement. Air movement goes a long way in preventing bacterial and fungal problems.

Here’s a peek inside the cold frame The top is cracked open to allow for more airflow. On the bottom right you can see the humidifier. Not pictured is the small fan that keeps air moving and bacterial and fungus from growing.

Next steps: I may be adding LED lights to help the orchids get the light they need so they will re-bloom with an abundance of flowers.

I will keep you posted so you find out how this experiment worked out:-)

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8 Comments
  1. Nancy says:

    Thanks for this helpful info on humidity. It just makes sense that if my skin is dry, so are my orchids. Thanks for your sharing your insights!

    1. Anna says:

      So true and so simple!

  2. Anonymous says:

    this website is spectacular! and knowing you do all of the photography is just amazing. you really know your stuff Anna,

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you for your kind words! It was great to hear from you.

  3. Connie Jenkins says:

    I’m a beginner regarding these beautiful plants. My son gave me the 1st one (Mother’s Day) it hasn’t rebloomed, but reading all hopefully i’ll see more blooms.

    1. Anna says:

      Connie,
      What a wonderful son you have! Click on the link below for tips on how to rebloom your orchid.

      HOW TO REBLOOM YOUR ORCHID

      Your orchid wants to rebloom, these hints will help you to help your orchid do what it was made to do.

      Warm regards,
      Anna

  4. Alex says:

    What about if you live in a High humidity envronment, do I even need to water my Orchid at all? Here by the sea it is about 60% in Winter and 70-75% in Summer. I have a problem with mold, apart from the fan idea, can I just stop watering the orchid completely?

    1. Anna says:

      Alex,
      I have an aunt who lived in Singapour. She kept Phalaenopsis orchids on her front porch and never watered them and they grew beautifully. If you live in the right climate for growing a particular orchid and the orchid is kept outdoors you won’t need to water. I would check around with other local orchid growers and ask what kind of orchids they grow and how they care for them. If you keep your orchids indoors, they might need infrequent watering as humidity levels tend to be lower indoors. You could also experiment. Water one orchid, but not the other and see which one is the healthiest!
      Thank you for your question!
      Anna

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the ONE email you'll open every week

Saturday mornings I send out an exclusive email sharing my best tips on how to grow healthy orchids.

YES! THANK YOU!