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How to Care for Your New Orchid:

A Complete Guide to For Success

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orchid care tips

Discover how to care for orchids. Let’s keep this simple. If you can meet just three core care requirements – temperature, light, and water – your orchid will thrive. Promise

To successfully care for your orchid the most important consideration is the location –  where you will put your orchid. To determine location there are just three considerations: temperature, light, and water – including humidity. These three pillars of orchid care trigger flowering and promote overall health.

Let’s keep this simple. If you can meet just three core care requirements – temperature, light, and water – your orchid will thrive. Promise. 

Discover: Caring for orchids at home

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First, think of temperature as the messenger.

Cool temperatures signal that it’s time for the orchid to hunker down and rest, while warm temperatures tell the orchid it’s time to grow roots, leaves, and, best of all, flowers. 

Second, for orchids and all plants, light is energy.

Flowering takes a lot of energy and without enough stored energy your orchid may grow beautiful leaves and even a healthy root system, but it may fail to flower. 

Third, remember, water the roots – humidify the leaves.

Just as temperature tells the orchid when to rest and when to grow, water sends a similar message. Most cultivated orchids come from climates with varying degrees of wet and dry seasons. During the wet season, orchids grow, and during the dry season, they stop. 

Water to the roots is just as important as water to the leaves. Remember, when watering leaves, water in the form of water vapor – humidity. Orchids lose water through their leaves as they expel oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide. Without enough humidity, the orchid may shed leaves and go dormant.

Once you have a solid handle on what your growing environment is like, you’ll be able to choose an orchid that fits your environmental description, and if it doesn’t, I’ll show how you how to tweak your growing environment so you can grow healthy orchids. 

1- Begin by Growing Orchids with Temperature Needs You Can Easily Accommodate

Really, between temperature, light, and water, always begin with temperature. I say this because the temperature is the one element you have the least control over. This is true even for greenhouse growers equipped with heaters and air conditioning. 

For example, growing orchids that require 55F / 12.7C temperatures are prohibitively costly for Florida greenhouse growers. Why foot the energy bill when these same growers can grow a magnificent array of orchids perfectly suited to their tropical climate?

Orchid Grower Types

Orchids are commonly classified into one of three temperature groups – Warm, Intermediate, and Cool-growers. Though crossing over into more than one temperature group is not uncommon. For example, phalaenopsis orchids are warm-growers with about a month of intermediate temperatures. 

Here are the three basic temperature ranges for orchids. 

Warm Growing Orchids

Warm-Intermediate Growing Orchids

Intermediate Growing Orchids

Cool Growing Orchids

Dendrobium phalaenopsis

Dendrochilium

Ludisia - Jewel

Brassia

Paphiopedilum - Slipper

Phalaenopsis

Cattleya

Miltoniopsis

Zygopetalum

Standard Cymidiums





NOTE: This table is intented as a general guide. Before purchasing an orchid, always check with the seller to find out what the optimum temperature range is to grow your prospective orchid. Rememeber, there is a lot of variance within orchid genera.

To make it easy on yourself to grow orchids that will easily flower, choose orchids that most closely correlates with temperatures already present, or easily accommodated in your home, greenhouse, or outdoors.

Because temperatures are never guaranteed, here are a few ways you can manipulate temperatures.

A- Use a fan to moderate temperature.

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, cooling, or warming, the air near the window.

If you have a ceiling fan, that’s a great way to add air movement. If not, do what I do and turn on a portable fan. Set the fan to it’s the lowest setting and point the fan away from your orchids. This gives the orchids a nice gentle breeze and they feel like they’re in paradise. Temperature is moderated and chances for bacterial and fungal growth are significantly reduced. 

B- Crack a window to accommodate an evening temperature drop.

Orchids grow best with a slight temperature drop in the evening. One way to do this is simply to crack a window if it’s not too cold outside.

C- Create a microclimate with a seed mat.

Some orchids are very sensitive to temperature drops below 60F / 15.5C. If you live in a 4-season climate or have the air conditioner cranked up your orchid growing climate may drop below a comfortable growing temperature for your orchids, a seed mat is a reliable way to keep your orchid’s roots warm. 

A seed mat will help to stabilize temperatures immediately around the orchid. Additionally, if you use a smart plug, you can have the seed turn on during the day, and automatically turn off at night. In this way, you will accommodate a nighttime temperature drop. The seed mat stays at around 70F / 21C. 

2- Orchid Care Is Incomplete Without Sufficient Light

First, know what your orchids lights needs are – then give them what they need.

Thanks to artificial lighting you don’t need to be quite as fussy when choosing your orchids based on their light requirements. You just need to know what they are and to be prepared to give your orchids enough light. If necessary, be prepared to provide artificial light.

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 intensity by adding a sheer curtain or by moving the orchid away from the window.

Orchid Light Spectrum

I like to think of orchids on a high-to-low 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).

Use this handy table to help you decide which orchids will do best.

Genus

Foot Candles

Lux

Brassia

2000 - 3000

21528 - 32292

Cattleya

2000 - 4000

21528 - 43055

Dendrobium

1500 - 5000

16146 - 53819

Paphiopedilum

1000 - 2000

10764 - 21528

Phalaenopsis

1000 - 1500

10764 - 16146

Vanda

4500-5000

48437 - 53819

How to Measure Light

Light for orchids is measured in foot-candles and lux.

A foot-candle (fc) is simply the amount of light emitted from 1 candle 1 foot away. 

Lux is the metric system for measuring light intensity.

The easiest way to measure the light in your orchid’s growing space is to download an app on your phone that will give you a reading.

High Light Orchids

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

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.

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.

Light – Orchids – and Real Life

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 supplemented with artificial lights. I have wide 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. On another table, I have artificial lights, both fluorescent and LED.

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.

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.

3- Best Practice Orchid Care – Water for Roots & Humidity for Leaves

Water orchids in two ways. First, water your orchid’s roots. Second, water your orchid’s leaves – humidity.

Most people get that they need to water their orchid’s roots, but understanding an orchid’s need for humidity can be a revelation. Still, learning how to water is a balance. A balance you can learn.

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

A- Watering Orchid Roots

Although water requirements vary, here are a few tips to get you started. 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. 

TIP: If possible, learn the name of your orchid, the genera, and species, so you can fine-tune the needs of your orchids. 

This is how I determine if my orchids need 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:

  • Orchid roots do not like to sit in water. This is especially true for dendrobiums.
  • By the same token, phalaenopsis (moth orchids), miltoniopsis (pansy orchid), and paphiopedilum (lady slipper) do not like to dry out. The potting media should be kept just barely damp – never soggy.
  • 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.
  • Most orchids need water when the potting media is almost dry.

B- Watering Orchids Leaves Via 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 the fan helps prevent disease and mold.

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.

TIP – This is really important! Using a spray bottle is a popular way to water orchids. Spray bottle misting is beneficial, IF done properly. Use a spray bottle to mist your orchid’s roots NOT leaves. This is especially helpful if your orchids are mounted. Regularly misting the roots will help your orchid stay hydrated. On the other hand, misting the leaves only encourages bacterial and fungal infections. Rather than misting the leaves, use a humidifier to hydrate the air.

3 pillars of excellent orchid care: Temperature, Light, and Water 

Providing proper temperature light and water are vital to growing healthy orchids because they are what encourage the orchid to really thrive. In other words, proper temperature, light, and water mimic the orchid’s natural environment. 

Think of it this way. Life is a series of chemical interactions. Good health results when these chemical interactions perform in the best possible way. 

Level Up Your Orchid Care with Fertilising, Re-Potting, and Treating Pests and Disease

Once you have provided your orchid with a healthy home there are three more things you can do to up the ante to grow truly amazing orchids:

  1. Fertilizing
  2. Re-potting
  3. Diagnosing, and treating problems such as pests and disease.

1- Fertilize Your Orchid Sparingly

When it comes to fertilizing orchids, less is more. The salt build-up, the carrier for the minerals found in fertilizer, is really bad for orchids. 

But wait! If fertilizer salts are so bad for my orchid, shouldn’t I avoid fertilizer altogether? 

The short answer is Nope. If done the right way fertilizer will help your orchid grow larger, more abundant flowers, a stronger, vigorous root system, and healthier leaves.

Here’s how to fertilize your orchids properly.

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.

When fertilizing, it’s just as important to know when NOT to fertilize:

Stop fertilizing your orchid if:

  • Your orchid goes dormant. Some orchids are from climates that experience a dry season and a wet season, rather than winter and summer. If this is the case for your orchid, wait until the wet season (spring) to begin fertilizing. When purchasing an orchid, always ask the seller if the orchid what kind of winter care your prospective orchid requires.
  • Your orchid is sick and needs some extra TLC. After your orchid recovers, begin fertilizing again.
  • A new flower spike emerges. Flowers are the most sensitive part of the orchid. Resume fertilizing once the buds open.

Orchids require both macro and micronutrients. Fertilizers are labeled with three numbers that represent the percentage of macronutrients they contain – the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. To make sure your orchids get micronutrients, look for a fertilizer label that says complete

A word about nitrogen. Look for nitrogen that is not urea-based. Urea-based nitrogen depends upon the soil to convert it into a useable form. As most orchids are epiphytes and do not grow in traditional potting mixes, urea-based nitrogen will flush through the potting mixes, not harming the orchid, but not benefitting it either. 

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.

2- RePotting Is Important

When caring for orchids at home, many people wonder if they ever 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 to re-pot orchids.

Do Pot:

    • When the flowers have all died.
    • Before the medial breaks down. A good quality potting mix 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.  – This is is especially important. 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.
  • If your orchid is dormant.
  • A Dendrobium. Only repot a Dendrobium if you absolutely have to. They do not like their roots to be disturbed.

3- How to Prevent – Identify – Treat Common Pests and Disease

While orchids are relatively healthy plants, there are a few things you should know about. The most effective way to treat pests and diseases is prevention.

Good orchid culture will save you time, money, and heartache.

Provide Air Movement – Use a Fan

Preventing bacterial and fungal infections is so simple, so be sure not to overlook it because it’s so easy. 

Discourage bacterial growth and fungal infections with good, constant air movement. 

If you are serious about growing healthy orchids, invest in a small, portable fan

Turn the fan to the lowest setting and point it away from your orchids so that the air doesn’t point directly on your orchids. 

Here’s why air movement is key to disease prevention.

Orchids need humidity to thrive. Tiny pores in an orchid’s leaves, called stomata release oxygen and water. These pores also absorb carbon dioxide and water. If there is not enough water in the air, the orchid dries out.

But, orchids aren’t the only ones who thrive in humid conditions – so do fungi and bacteria. The antidote is air movement. So don’t neglect a fan.

How to Identify and Treat Fungal, Bacterial, Sunburn, and Viral Infections

Fungus and Bacteria Happens. If you suspect fungal or bacterial infections, no worries, I’ll show you how to diagnose and treat these common hiccups in orchid care.

Diagnosing Fungus and Bacteria

  • Soft brown or black spots on leaves
  • An unpleasant odor

Treating Fungus and Bacteria

  • Increase air movement
  • Use fungicide if the problem is rampant

Diagnosing Sunburn

  • Collapsed leaf tissue that at within a few days turns brown

Treating Sunburn

  • Using sterilized shears, cut away the burned part of the leaf

Diagnosing Viruses

  • Black or brown streaking on new growth
  • Misshapen flowers

Treating Viruses

  • Viruses cannot be cured.
  • Dispose of orchid.
  • Control spread by always using sterilized tools.
  • Keep disease-spreading pests, sucking insects such as aphids, under control.

How to Identify and Treat Common Pests

Some insects are called pests for a reason. If you suspect pests on your orchids, here’s what to do.

NOTE – Sanitize tools when going from one orchid to another – especially when treating pests and disease.

Identifying Scale

  • Hard light brown, yellowish bumps on leaves and stems

Treating Scale

  • Treat with insecticide or use a toothbrush and rubbing alcohol to remove 
  • Trim away old sheaths, leaves, and flowers

Identifying Aphids

  • Green or brown insects on new growth

Treating Aphids

  • Spray off with a jet stream of water
  • Use an insecticide if necessary

Identifying Mealybugs

  • Cottony webs tucked in leaves and flowers

Treating Mealybugs

  • Spray off with a jet stream of water
  • Use an insecticide if necessary

Identifying Spider mites

  • Pitting on leaves
  • Very tiny spiders

Treating Spider mites

  • Use horticulture oil
  • Introduce beneficial, predatory mites

How to Care for Orchids Bonus – Flowers, Leaves, and Roots

And that, my friend, is the secret to good, solid orchid care. First, provide the proper growing environment with the right temperature, light, and water. Then, follow up with fertilizer and re-potting along with knowing how to prevent, diagnose, and treat pests and disease.

If you find that you still have questions, read on. Here’s an in-depth look at orchid flowers, roots, and leaves.

Orchid Flowers

When caring for orchids, the end goal is to grow healthy orchids that reliably bloom. 

  1. After the orchid has finished blooming and the flowers are spent you can cut off the flower spike. CLICK HERE, to find out more about where to cut the orchid flower spike.
  2. Some reasons an orchid won’t rebloom include a lack of light or wrong temperatures – usually lacking a cool rest. CLICK HERE, for more information on how to rebloom orchids.
  3. Dropped, withered flower buds, called bud blast, is the result of an unfavorable environmental factor. CLICK HERE, to learn how to prevent bud blast.
  4. A little plantlet growing on an orchid’s flower stalk is called a keiki. These offsets are exact clones of the mother plant. CLICK HERE, to learn more about keikis.
  5. Problems with the flowers. CLICK HERE, to learn more about treating pests and disease.
    1. Streaked = could indicate a virus
    2. Black/brown spots = could be a bacteria called Botrytis 
    3. Malformed = could insect (aphid, thrip) or pest (snails or slugs) damage, environmental stress, or even a virus, particularly when accompanied by streaking.

Orchid Roots

Familiarity with the orchid roots is like peering into the orchid’s soul – they tell you everything. Here’s what you can learn about your orchids just by their roots:

  1. Limp, lifeless roots = too much water 
  2. Tan, brittle roots = not enough water
  3. Bright green roots = just watered/wet roots
  4. Silvery green or white roots = dry healthy roots
  5. Thick roots = use an open potting mix with large, coarse pieces 
  6. Fine roots = use fine potting mix
  7. Black root tips = fertilizer salts in potting mix or pot, especially terra cotta, are high
  8. Lots of aerial roots, roots that do not grow down into the potting mix = potting mix is decomposing

Orchid Leaves

Being able to correctly interpret leaf symptoms and properly treat them will help you to grow healthy orchids. 

  1. Color – light green, rather than dark green indicates sufficient light.
  2. Wrinkled, limp leaves = either too much or too little water. Take a look at the roots so see if you’re over- or underwatering.
  3. Accordion, pleated leaves = indicate a lack of humidity. These leaves will never straighten out, but you can prevent more pleating by increasing humidity around your orchids.
  4. Brown hard bumps = uh oh, could be scale, particularly if they come off when wiped with a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol. CLICK HERE, to learn how to treat scale.
  5. Brown or black spots = sounds like a bacterial or fungal infection. Increase air movement. If the leaf tissue is collapsed, it could be a sign of sunburn. Remove the damaged leaf with sterilized shears and move the orchid further away from the light source. 
  6. Brown leaf tips = salt buildup. Flush fertilizer salts with lots of water. Leach salts by soaking orchid in distilled water for several minutes. Repeat one week later. This is a good indicator that it is past time to re-pot your orchid.

Notice how many of the orchid problems relate back to temperature, light, water, fertilizer, potting, and pests/disease. 

Remember, with orchid care, it is all about the journey. Now you have the know-how to successfully navigate orchid care. Begin with a solidly, orchid-friendly growing environment and go from there. Fiddling and tweaking are all a part of the fun.

No giving up! You’re in this for the long game.

I wish you the best in caring for these beauties!

84 Comments
  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:

      Makayla,
      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.
      Anna

  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!
      Anna

  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:

      Kathy-Ann,
      How lovely–your orchids under a mango tree! Keep me updated on your orchid’s roots!
      Anna

  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:

      Erin,
      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!
      Anna

  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!
      Anna

  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:

      Pepita,
      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!
      Anna

  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:

      Audrina,
      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!
      Anna

  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:

      JD,
      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.
      Best!
      Anna

  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:

      Jilliann,
      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,
      Anna

  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:

      Carol,
      Thanks for sharing your orchid story! Learning to care for orchids certainly is a journey!
      Best,
      Anna

  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:

      Eileen,
      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:

      HOW TO WATER ORCHIDS

      HOW TO PROVIDE LIGHT FOR YOUR ORCHIDS

      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,
      Anna

  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:

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

  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:

      Barbara,
      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,
      Anna

  17. Barbara Smith says:

    Why do some leaves on my Miltoniopsis have brown tips?

    1. Anna says:

      Barbara,
      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,
      Anna

  18. helen crisman says:

    Thank you for your article on care of Orchids. I have used ie cubes but often do not always set the in the medium but they maybe at the root stalk or crown are. I will be more careful. I just re potted a few plants. I am also very upset as I think i have a virus which has attacked 6 of my 13 plants. So I separated them, and am throwing some out. I have looked at a ton of pictures, read everyone’s descriptions and cannot quite determine if it is a virus or bacteria. I am using peroxide on some and Cinnamon on my healthy plants as precaution. I have raised orchids for 20 years and this is the first tht I have had any problem. So SAD

    1. Anna says:

      Helen,
      Yes, viruses are very destructive. Most devastating is that there is no cure (unless you send it to a specialized lab). It is really sad especially as each orchid is an investment.

      If you really want to determine if it is a virus, you can submit a sample to agdia.

      As you’ve been reading a lot about viral and bacterial infections you may already know this identifier – viral infections will appear to be more a part of the plant tissue. Viral infections spread through the inner tissue of the plant – rather than topically as bacterial infections usually are. I know that sounds pretty nuanced, which can make distinguishing the two difficult.

      Wishing you all the very best,
      Anna

  19. Teresa says:

    I was wondering if you should leave orchids in the clear plastic container they come in or is it okay to take them out of the container.

    1. Anna says:

      Teresa,
      If my phals are growing in sphagnum moss, I always remove the plastic liner pot and they do MUCH better!
      Best,
      Anna

  20. Barbara Bommarito says:

    Dear Anna.
    This is my first time in your web site. I like the simple straight forward directions and information. I have
    I have a shallow wide clay pot with several phals in it. I planted them in orchid bark. Some are rescued and some I bought as small plants. and I wonder if that is a mistake. Plants are doing well. I was recently given a tall orchid plant with the flower stems coming out of the top of the top of the tall stems. I am not sure which species this is and if I have to take care of it differently. I have one of the heavy leaved plants with dark spots on it. the rest of the leaves are fine. I was told to cut it off but have not. Should I seperate the combined plants into separate pots?

    1. Anna says:

      Barbara,
      I am so glad you found my site! To answer your first question, yes you can have multiple orchids potted together. But, make sure that you have excellent drainage, or if the orchids are potted in sphagnum moss, the moss should be kept barely damp, never soggy. The reason many orchids are potted in tall, narrow pots is so that the center of the pot will dry out quickly. A soggy center can quickly lead to rotten roots.

      Multiple orchids potted together to can certainly create a stunning orchid arrangement. Here is a link to an article detailing how I’ve potted multiple orchids together:

      MULTIPLE ORCHIDS IN A SINGLE POT

      To answer your other questions, it would be helpful if you emailed me at [email protected]. Please include photos.
      Thanks,
      Anna

  21. LiZa Sims says:

    OMG, your website is incredible. I love the links, links, and more links. I am very new to this. My interest began at my home in Paradise, CA. I collected some Phalies, Cats, and Oncidiums. Then the horrific Inferno aka “the Camp Fire” reduced my entire world to ashes.
    Now I’m freezing my rear off in N. Nevada, but happy to be alive. I was able to save 1 of my 4 beloved cats, 2 African Grey parrots, and my aged blind and deaf chihuahua.
    I now have a VANDA! (a big deal for me) My challenges are *space for the orchids, now that I reside in a tiny rental, understanding light requirements and proper placement, and concern over the hard-water situation here. The water is so full of minerals (i guess it’s minerals) that my humidifiers leave a white residue everywhere.
    I’m trying to learn all I can, Identifying orchids remains an obstacle, as identification when not in bloom proves difficult for me.
    I am in love with your website, it done so well and is chock-a-block full of generous information. I thank you for sharing your wisdom with us. I’m definitely a Fan!
    >^..^<

    1. Anna says:

      LiZa,
      Thanks for reaching out. I am glad to hear you survived the devastating fires in CA and are moving forward caring for orchids! And, thank you for your kind words. Let me know how your vanda does in NV. Those beauties need lots of light and humidity.
      Best,
      Anna

  22. Catherine Cistaro says:

    I just bought a phal and still trying to learn how to look after it. I have a very small apartment and will not be able to grow a lot.

    Catherine

    1. Anna says:

      Congratulations Catherine! Phals are the gateway to a very fulfilling hobby. Don’t worry if you aren’t able to grow a multitude of orchids! A lot of joy can be found in the care of just one orchid.
      Best,
      Anna

  23. Melanie says:

    I have 6 orchids. 1 zygopetalum, a mini phalenopsis, and 4 phalaenopsis. I have 2 phalaenopsis orchid that I can’t get to rebloom for the life of me. One has been dormant for 5 years, it does still gets new leaves, but never more then 3, and my mini hasn’t bloomed in almost 2 years. All the phalaenopsis got repotted last year because 2 had some weird white stuff growing in the roots and they have flourished since then. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong with the other 2. They all sit in the same spot, and I use a water guage before I water. I just moved the dormant ones to a new window to see if that helps. Hopefully it works!

    1. Anna says:

      Melanie,
      That’s really tough when they’ve all been treated the same and some bloom, while others don’t. I think that what you did, moving them to a new location is a good idea. For whatever reason, maybe those orchids need a bit more light, or, maybe some cooler temps (down in the 60sF/15.5-ish C) to wake them up and initiate blooming. When you mix things up with light and temperature, give it time to see if it will make a difference.
      Let me know how it goes,
      Anna

  24. Donna says:

    Anna,
    I have had several Phalaenopsis over my lifetime. I have had moderate success with them. I am anxious to jump into the world of raising a vanilla orchid. Any tips? I live in northern Arizona and often our home is not real warm(in the winter). We are looking at starting a micro-green greenhouse, and was thinking of putting them in there.

    1. Anna says:

      Donna,
      Sounds like fun! I don’t grow vanilla orchids because I don’t have the right conditions for them. These orchids are pretty tricky and can grow to be quite large – they are actually vines. If I had a greenhouse, and I will admit to fanaticizing about having one, I would start with orchids that I am already familiar with – orchids that I already grow well and would like to see them do better. For example, you can really crank up the humidity in a greenhouse. So, I would put some of my cattleyas and dendrobiums in there and see how they did. Of course, there would be tinkering – especially with light (a shadecloth will probably be your best friend in AZ) and temperature. This sounds like a really fun project.
      Best,
      Anna

  25. Linda says:

    Anna,
    I’ve had many orchids through the yrs but in time, they end up dying. This one is really
    different. Now I have a phal that has already rebloomed several times. I’m very surprised. I can’t wait to keep learning

    1. Anna says:

      Linda,
      Congratulations on your re-blooming orchid! Continuing to learn and to keep trying is the key to success with orchids (and life too 😉 )
      Best,
      Anna

  26. Janet Johnson says:

    Anna,
    Watering properly has been a big issue in the past. I already learned things from just reading the first article!
    Getting the orchids to rebloom has not been the easiest either. Some seem easier than others in reblooming. I am looking forward to learning more!
    Thank you!
    Janet

  27. Vivian says:

    I have these very long roots that are about 4 ft long and I don’t know what to do with them and is this natural?

    1. Anna says:

      Vivian,
      Long roots just mean that your orchid has a healthy and established root system. Enjoy your roots and be happy you have such healthy orchids 😉
      Best,
      Anna

  28. Anonymous says:

    What causes orchid buds to start to develop and then dry up and fall off??

    1. Anna says:

      Great question! Bud blast is caused by environmental changes or extremes. Check out this post for a detailed answer:
      BUD BLAST
      Best,
      Anna

  29. Anonymous says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience! A few of your tricks were an unexpected discovery for me. I am very glad to meet you, Anna 🤗I love all flowers especially orchids!

  30. Shirleen says:

    Hi Anna

    I live in the Northern part of Illinois and a beginner in terms of growing orchids. I have been gifted with a few Phalaenopsis that I placed at the south and west facing windowsills. I think they are currently dormant but would like to see them bloom in the next few months. I also would like to try other types of orchids that I can grow inside my home. Your blog is so inspiring and very informative.

    Thank you so much.

  31. Julie Elden says:

    Hi Anna, this information is great thank you!
    I am new to growing orchids, my main concern is the watering as over /under watering have the same effects…..Droopy leaves but as you say, it’s all trial and error.
    My main concern today is that after examining my orchid I have just decovered my boyfriend has cut all of the ariel roots as he thought they were ugly. (Sad /angry doesn’t even come close!!) any tips on how to save my orchid now that these have been cut?
    Kind regards
    Julie

    1. Anna says:

      Julie,
      You are not the first to have their orchid’s aerial roots trimmed off. You can offer your orchid higher humidity and indirect sunlight while it recovers. If the roots in the potting mix are healthy the orchid will recover.
      Best,
      Anna

  32. Carol Draeger says:

    I live in New Mexico and am trying to grow my orchids that I brought from California. I have 2 Milatonia and 2 Phals and 1 cymbidium. I lost several from the trip and would like to save the ones I have. I am finally getting new roots on the phals and the leaves look good. The Milatonia seem to dry out really fast. None have rebloomed. The water here is very hard and we just got a water softner and RO system. What PH should the water be. I have dyna grow fertilizer and would like to know do I use bloom and grow at the same time. I just found your site and bought your ebook. thank you for any help you give me.

    1. Anna says:

      Carol,
      Yes, you’ve moved to a very different climate. The sun is more intense, the air is drier and temperatures are more extreme. You are serious about water and your orchids will thank you. The ideal pH of water for orchids is between 5.5 and 6.5. If you can achieve these lower pH values your orchids will be able to more efficiently absorb essential nutrients like calcium and magnesium – which results in improved flowering. Use Grow, in the spring when the orchids are in active growth, and then use Bloom when a new flower spike begins to grow, or when you think the orchid is ready to initial blooming. Once bud appear, you can hold off on fertilizer.
      I wish you and your orchids all the best in New Mexico,
      Anna

  33. Simone Britt says:

    I’ve had my mini orchids for about 6 weeks.. all of the flowers are drying up and falling off. I got it in the mail for Mother’s Day. I just opened up the container to find the roots are all smooshed in 2 small plastic containers. Tomorrow I plan to go get new pots and soil to repot.
    Can the two be planted together or do they need separate pots? Thanks so much for any advice.

    1. Anna says:

      Simone,
      I recommend potting them up separately.
      Best,
      Anna

  34. Ann says:

    Hello Anna,
    I received my first orchid as a retirement gift from my coworkers. I’m first to admit my thumb isn’t exactly green. I’m not tied down with work now, so I’m hoping I’ll have enough time to figure this all out, I’m not even sure what species of orchid I have. The tag that came with it didn’t say what it is. It is about two feet tall with beautiful magenta color flowers and deep green thick leaves. The tips are starting to turn a redish color. Not much of it, just a little. Should I water more?
    Thanks, Ann

    1. Anna says:

      Ann,
      I am going to guess you have a phalaenopsis, as that is the most common orchid available. Here are a couple of links to help you care for your phal.
      PHALAENOPSIS CARE FOR BEGINNERS
      PHALAENOPSIS CARE CARD – pdf download
      Congratulations on your retirement!
      May you grow many beautiful, blooming orchids,
      Anna

  35. Delaine says:

    I am new at orchid ownership(I love them). One of my orchids looked bad so I checked your information, it needed to be re-potted. I ordered Bonsai Jack potting medium. When I removed the old potting medium, most of the roots were dead so I trimmed off the dead ones and re-potted it. Now it has produced many aerial roots around the base of the plant. Will they grow into the potting medium or should I re-pot it again and make sure those new roots are in the medium? Thank you for this wonderful website!!

    1. Anna says:

      Delanie,
      I would leave it alone while the roots grow. Also, Bonsai Jack’s mix is a nice, free-draining open mix, so you can water frequently. Just keep the mix barely damp.
      Best to you and your orchids,
      Anna

  36. Wynonah says:

    Every random phal everywhere in the grocery are tightly packed into non-orchid friendly containers. How can I best support a blooming orchid in one of these containers without killing it so I can enjoy the blooms for as long as possible yet help the orchid survive?

    1. Anna says:

      Wynonah,
      Enjoy the flowers. After the flowers fade, try mounting or kokedama-ing your orchid.
      HOW TO MOUNT YOUR ORCHID
      TRY THE JAPANESE ART OF POTTING YOUR ORCHID KOKEDAMA STYLE
      Best,
      Anna

  37. Julianne says:

    Hi Anna,
    Thank you for having me.
    I was given a pinkish Orchid for mother’s day 2 years ago.
    The blooms were striking.
    Then I killed it by over watering.
    I was apprehensive to toss out the plant so I put it in the carport on the mosaic table and left it alone.
    This year I have the most incredible huge white blooms with yellow centers.
    Two courses on the original stock and nine more blooms on a second stem.
    I only just noticed the 9 were one a separate stem that is heavy and bent over.
    How did that happen? I am sure it needs to be re-potted by now.

    1. Anna says:

      Julianne,
      All I can say is CONGRATULATIONS! What a great story! Thanks for sharing.
      Here is a link with information on how to re-pot an orchid.
      Best,
      Anna

  38. Diane Stafford says:

    Do I cut the old, dried up flower stems down at the plant?

    1. Anna says:

      Diane,
      Yes. Here is a link with more info.
      CUTTING BACK THE ORCHID FLOWER SPIKE
      Bes,
      Anna

  39. Stefanie Woolverton-Villa says:

    I would like to find the best pot preferably a ceramic double pot To repot my orchids. Where can I find them.. I found one years ago and it’s doing my orchid justice but can’t find others unless they are for African violets

    1. Anna says:

      Please comment if you have a ceramic double pot designed for orchids you’d like to recommend.

  40. Beryl Haygood says:

    I just wanted to know when my orchid are finished blooming do I repot them? I get orchids as gifts from my daughter she knows I like orchids . Some of my orchids I see some roots are dead ,do I cut them? I live in Arizona and I am just wondering where I have my orchids is a good window. I have phalaenopsis, cymbidium to . Do I need to get a tray with some rocks for the phalaenopsis orchid to get moisture air. Do you want me to take a picture where my orchids are at?
    Thank you Beryl

    1. Anna says:

      Beryl,
      After blooming and when new roots appear is the best time to re-pot orchids. When you re-pot, trim away dead roots with sterilized shears. Phals need a bright window – east-facing is preferable. Cymbidiums enjoy lots of bright light. They are considered a “high light” orchid. Here is a link with information on how to increase humidity.
      Best,
      Anna

  41. Alexander Lui says:

    Dear Anna,
    It is my pleasure to read the useful info from you on how to care for Orchids !!!

    I recently purchased a pot of Vanda Miss Joaquim, Papilionanthe Miss Joaquim.
    The pot mixer is coconut husk (not coconut barks)

    The 2 stems of Vanda was buried (hidden) below the coconut husk.

    I like to get expertise advice from you on how to water my Vanda.

    I am not sure to water the coconut husk or directly on the stems with roots (not sure if arieal roots)

    Currently, I am spraying water on the arieal roots as I afraid root rots but it may not be the correct solution as the humidity in Singapore is high.

    After a week, 3 of the Orchids have wilted.
    I placed it under direct sunlight.

    It will be great if you allow me to attach some pictures of my Vanda.

    Appreciated your advices, pls.

    Alexander Lui

    1. Anna says:

      Alexander,
      Vanda orchids like a very open, well-draining potting mix. Spraying water, daily, on the roots is the right thing to do.
      Anna

  42. Teresa says:

    I just found your website and am impressed with the straight forward info. I have several Phals that I keep in my kitchen, east facing window. For the most part I have kept them healthy and reblooming. I have not heard any advice on diseases or bugs. Occasionally I find what I think are mealy bugs or scale on them. Seems like out of no where! I’ve just been spraying and cleaning with alcohol. Your suggestions?

    1. Anna says:

      Teresa,
      Yes, regularly checking for pests is essential to preventing infestations. Here is a helpful article on how to treating pests:

      CONTROLLING PESTS AND DISEASE

      Warmly,
      Anna

  43. Nan says:

    I have thoroughly enjoyed your input. I purchased two orchids on the sale rack at Lowe’s (actually I saved them). I have nursed them about 1-1/2 yrs. I have plenty of patience. One has bloomed & it is outstanding…has been in full bloom for about 6 mos& is still very pretty. The other has grown with plenty of foliage but hasn’t bloomed. From what I’ve read I think it needs to be repotted. The most successful way that works for me is thoroughly watering it with warm water early in the day until it drains out of the pot. I fertilize every 2 wks while it is blooming. Well I have gone on too long. I have been an avid flower grower for yrs & just became interested in orchids since my friend gave me one. You are a wonderful source of information. I’m so glad I found you.

  44. Stephanie Carroll says:

    I just bought an orchid (phalonopsis) and repotted a week ago with bark and sphagnum moss. The center of the leaves are drooping? What do I need to do to bring the leaves upright? I will appreciate your advice.

    1. Anna says:

      Stephanie,
      Here is a link to an article on what to do about drooping leaves:
      LIMP ORCHID LEAVES
      Since you just bought the orchid, it may be that the orchid was improperly watered before you got it. Is there a possibility that you could return/exchange the orchid?
      Yours,
      Anna

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