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Give Your Orchids the Right Light

The right light will encourage flowering!

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light - orchids

Unlike some house plants, providing the right amount of light for orchids is not difficult. If you’ve got a good window or a good source of artificial light, you’re in business. 

Several years ago I lived in an apartment with a large living room. An enormous tree grew right in front of the window, effectively blocking the window and making the room dark and dreary. The kitchen, on the other hand, was smaller, but with tons of natural light. The living room for all its spaciousness, was not where I wanted to be. Like us, plants need light, and providing the right light for orchids is actually quite easy.

Most importantly, giving your orchid enough light is the #1 thing you can do to encourage your orchid to bloom! Light is definitely worth learning about.

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Natural Light

Orchids like light, but not direct light.  If an orchid gets too much sun, it can actually get a sunburn.  While it may be tempting to place an orchid right up close to a window, that practice is not necessary, and may even be harmful to the orchid.  Placing your orchid a couple feet away from the window, but not right in the middle of the room, is usually just the right light for orchids.

Phalaenopsis, the quintessential grocery store orchid, and Paphiopedilum, also known as the lady’s slipper, require medium light and will grow easily near a bright window.  An east window is ideal, but a south and west facing windows will also work.  Hanging a thin curtain will help diffuse the light if the light is too intense.  In climates with a lot of cloud cover, a full south exposure may be ideal.  

High sun variety orchids such as Dendrobiums and Cattleyas still do not want direct light.  A shaded south or west facing window is ideal for these orchids.

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Artificial Light

If natural light sources are insufficient, fluorescent bulbs work great! I’ve used and recommend using a full spectrum light bulb such as a CFL, a compact fluorescent light.  For most people using a long fluorescent tube just isn’t in the cards; a smaller bulb is unobtrusive and easy to use and will give the right light for orchids.  Place the bulb 6 to 12 inches above the orchid’s leaves.  Using a light timer makes artificial lighting even easier.  If you do use a light timer, try to mimic the season.  Leave the lights on longer in the summer, 16 hours, and shorter in the winter, 12 hours. 

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Resist the urge to set your orchid on your coffee table. Near a window will work much better 🙂 Remember, an orchid’s leaf color should be a bright green and upright. If you notice that your orchid’s leaves are leathery and limp, that is probably not a light problem, but is more likely due to over watering.

Limp Leaves: Signal a Watering Problem

To solve your problem, read on!

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These tools will help you too!

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2 Comments
  1. Kathi-Ann says:

    Anna, I am really having a hard time getting my Dendrobiums to rebloom. I have repotted them to allow the roots to get more air and placed them in bright light. I also used some sphagnum moss to help with moisture. I really need help here. It’s becoming frustrating. I live in the tropics so it s hot here.

    1. Anna says:

      Kathi Ann,
      As Dendrobiums don’t like to be re-potted, it may take them a while to recover and bloom. I know it’s hard, but give them time. Dendrobiums do like bright, indirect light. It sounds like you have that covered.

      Do you happen to know which species of Dendrobiums you are growing? There are three basic types: warm, intermediate and cool growing. And they can be either deciduous or evergreen. For your tropical climate, the warm-growing evergreen species should do well. Some popular species include: Phalaenanthes, Spatulata and Latouria.
      I hope this helps!
      Anna

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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

YES! THANK YOU!