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How Often to Water Orchids Indoors

Learn how to water correctly and you'll avoid the #1 cause of orchid death

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how to water orchids

I have experimented with lots of different ways to water orchids. Learning how to properly water orchids took a lot of experimentation and fine-tuning. Don’t be surprised if it takes a while to get it right, but don’t give up. 

To master watering orchids, it is essential to water from above with fresh, pure water. For orchids with water storage, pseudobulbs, water when the potting mix is approaching dry. Otherwise, for orchids without water storage, without pseudobulbs, keep the potting mix barely damp.

Knowing when and how to water orchids is an important factor in becoming a successful orchid grower. This article unlocks effective watering techniques. 

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CLICK HERE for 10 Tips to Properly Water Orchids


Despite Popular Advice – Do Not Water Orchids with Ice Cubes

Using ice cubes to water orchids came about at a means to prevent overwatering. The downside is that it can instead lead to underwatering. Besides, freezing temperatures, in the form of ice cubes, are not orchid-friendly. The orchids that most of us grow are tropical plants.  

How to Water Orchids in Moss 

Sphagnum moss is absorbent – very absorbent. The danger is that by soaking an orchid potted in moss in water the inner core of the moss stays constantly wet, resulting in rotted roots. 

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How to Water Orchids in Moss Without Using Ice Cubes

TIP: Because Phalaenopsis orchids do not have any water storage they like their potting medium to be slightly damp. If the moss is even slightly squishy it is moist.

If you are growing Phalaenopsis orchids, the best way that I’ve found to grow them in moss is to pot them kokedama style. This is going to sound really strange, but when I pot kokedama style I wrap the roots around a wiffle ball, then I loosely wrap sphagnum moss around the roots.

The wiffle ball eliminates the problem of having a rotted, wet center. This way the moss provides a layer of moisture around the roots, not a thick ball. I’ve had a lot of success growing Phalaneopsis orchids kokedama style wrapped in moss with a wiffle ball center.

If your orchids are potted kokedama style with a wiffle ball center, you can soak the kokedama in water and you won’t have to worry about rotting the roots. To water, wait until the ball feels almost hard and then set the kokedama in a bowl of water. Several minutes later the moss will have absorbed the water.

orchid soaked - watering orchids

How to Water Orchids In Bark

Fir bark is a popular potting medium because it is well-draining. If there is one thing that orchids don’t like, it is to sit in water. Bark prevents this problem.

There are at least two ways to water orchids that are potted in a bark based potting medium, watering from below and watering from above. No matter which way you water–from below or above–if you pot in bark be sure that when you water, water copiously.

The right potting mix is one of the most important parts to growing happy orchids. I highly recommend an orchid mix from Bonsai Jack.

Bonsai Jack’s Orchid Mix Recipe:

  • 98% Douglas Fir Bark
  • 1% Perlite
  • 1% Horticultural Charcoal

If you live in a dry climate as I do, add a couple of cubes of wool rock to the potting mix to increase water retention.

Remember: proper drainage is the most important element of an orchid potting mix. It is essential that the orchid gets good drainage and doesn’t say wet in the middle. In fact, orchids are potted in tall, narrow pots so that the center of the pot dries quickly.

Watering Orchids from Below

To water your orchid from below, set the orchid in a water-filled pot. This way the orchid roots soak up the needed moisture while keeping the crown, which is prone to rot, dry.

If you decide to use this method and water from below, prevent disease by using the same pot with the same orchid each time you water. Be sure to clean the pot after use.

TIP: Oncidiums especially benefit from being watered from below as these orchids are prone to leaf spotting. Keeping their leaves dry helps to prevent bacterial growth on their leaves, resulting in spotted leaves.

Watering Orchids from Above

To water orchids potted in bark, another method is to water from above by watering your orchids from the faucet. When using this method be sure to use a drain catch for any escaping wood chips. Also, avoid soaking the orchid’s water-sensitive crown.

The biggest benefit of this method is that it is an excellent way to flush the orchid potting medium of fertilizer salts. Even if watering from above using a faucet isn’t your primary means of watering, it is good to use this method at least monthly to flush the salts.

If you find that the faucet is too messy, use a narrow spouted watering can, to avoid the water-sensitive crown.

water-orchids-from-above-with-narrow-spouted-watering-pitcher.png

A Few Tricks to Determine When to Water Orchids (and When to Hold Off)

Time of Day Matters

Always water your orchids in the morning. This gives the crown time to dry off during the day before nightfall and prevents crown rot.

Finger Test

Before watering your orchid, check the moisture content in the pot. To tell if the orchid has sufficiently dried out, stick your finger in the growing medium if it feels almost dry, it is time to water. If you don’t want to stick your finger in the growing medium, stick a toothpick or chopstick in the medium and leave it there for five minutes. Then take it out and see if it is wet.  

Drainage Hole

Look at the drainage hole and check to see if the planting media is dry. If your plant sits in a clear plastic pot that is set inside another pot, gently lift the plastic pot out of the secondary pot and look through the plastic to inspect the planting media. If there is a hole in the bottom poke your finger through and feel for any dampness.  

Heft the Pot

As you become more experienced, you will be able to tell if the plant needs water simply by lifting it. If it feels light, water it.  

Condensation

If your orchid is in a clear plastic pot, it is easy to check for condensation on the sides of the plastic. Wait until there is only a little water condensation to water a Phalaenopsis or Paphiopedilum. Wait until there is no water condensation to water an orchid with pseudobulbs, such as a Cattleya, Dendrobium, or Oncidium.

Pseudobulbs

Many orchid varieties have water storage in the form of pseudobulbs, such as Cattleyas and Dendrobiums, and want to dry out between watering.

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Orchids with pseudobulbs have water storage and like to dry out a little between watering.

Answers to frequently asked questions about watering orchids:

How Much Water Do You Give an Orchid Plant? 

The amount of water you give an orchid depends a lot on the potting medium. Sphagnum moss retains moisture. That’s where the ice cube idea came from. Ice cubes prevent orchid growers from overwatering. 

Rather than relying on ice cubes to prevent watering, use the above strategies to determine if your orchid needs water.

If your orchids are potted kokedama style, with a wiffle ball, as mentioned above, you can soak the kokedama in a bowl of water.

Fir bark is well-draining and doesn’t hold much water, especially if the bark is fresh. Over time, as the bark begins to break down it becomes more absorbent. Because it is so well-draining, when using bark, water copiously when watering, then allow the water to drain.

A lot of orchids, such as cattleyas and dendrobiums like to dry out between watering and bark allows them to do that. I grow all my cattleyas and dendrobiums in fir bark and they do really well. I flush them in water and let them drain. Within 7 days, I water them again.

What About Watering Orchids in Winter?

You can tell if your orchid requires a dormant period because these orchids are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves in the fall and grow new leaves in the spring. If this is the case, occasionally give the orchid a heavy misting. While dormant, the orchid will look like it is dead, but don’t despair. Come spring the orchid will wake up and rejuvenate. Orchids that require this extreme period of dormancy include Catasetum, Cycnoches, and someDendrobiums and Lycastes.

To slowly wake up a dormant orchid, give it a good soaking around Valentine’s Day and then let it dry out again over the next several weeks.

If your orchid is evergreen it may still benefit from a reduction in water during the winter months. For example, if you were watering weekly during the summer, water every 10 days in winter.  

Orchids that benefit from reducing water (include: Some Dendrobiums, some Cattleyas, most Bulbophyllum, and most Coelogynes.

As Phalaneopsis, Vandas, and Paphiopedilums do not have water storage in the form of pseudobulbs, continue to provide adequate water for these orchids. Though as temperatures cool the rate they absorb water will lessen.

TIP: When purchasing a new variety of orchid, ask the seller if it is evergreen or deciduous. If it is deciduous, you’ll know that it will need a winter rest. Ask the seller what the recommended winter care is for that orchid.

What About Watering Orchids In Bloom?

Regularly water orchids that are blooming, growing new roots, or new leaves. While some orchids such as Cattleyas and Dendrobiums like to dry out between watering, others such as Phalaenopsis and Paphiopedilums like to remain evenly moist.

Evenly moist is an elusive term. The best way I know how to keep an orchid evenly moist is to grow them in a clear, plastic pot. This way I can keep an eye on the potting media and the roots. Water condensation on the sides of the pot is a key indicator the orchid is moist. I wait to water until most of the water condensation has been absorbed before watering again.

I would also like to add a word about what it means to allow orchids to dry out between watering. For orchids that like to dry out, I recommend potting them in fir bark. This is a well-draining potting mix that allows you to give the orchid a good soaking but does not retain a lot of moisture.

How do I know if my Phalaenopsis is getting enough water?

You will know if your Phalaenopsis is getting enough water if the leaves are upright and stiff. The roots will be bright green when wet with green or magenta tips. When dry, the roots will be silvery. Wet or dry, the roots will be firm and plump.

An overwatered Phalaneopsis will have mushy roots that have turned black or brown. The roots will be floppy and lifeless. The leaves will droop and will be leathery and floppy.

An underwatered Phalaneopsis will have dry, brittle roots and the leaves will be similar to those of an overwatered Phal, droopy, leathery, and floppy.

TIP: Don’t let aerial roots trick you into thinking your Phal is under-watered. Look to the potting medium, the roots growing down in the potting medium, and the leaves as watering indicators.

When to Water – In a Nutshell

More orchids are killed by overwatering than by under-watering.  When in doubt, wait a day or two. Another consideration that greatly influences watering and overall plant health is the growing medium for orchids.

Sphagnum moss soaks up and retains moisture, so orchids potted in this medium need less water, less frequently. Orchids potted in fir bark need more water, more frequently.

During winter months, transpiration, or the rate that orchids breathe, slows down. Resulting in a need for less water.

During active growth and when the orchid is flowering, water your orchids regularly as needed.

When watering, let your orchids be your guide, not your own timetable and your orchids will flourish.

CLICK HERE for your 10 Tips to Properly Water Orchids

Water Quality and Orchids

If you just want to keep your orchid alive, the above information is all you really need. 

If you are still mastering how to water your orchid, figuring out light and tinkering with temperature for your orchid, just bookmark this page and come back when you’ve got those three pillars of orchid care mastered. But, if you’re ready to level up watering your orchids, let’s talk about water quality.

Why Water Quality Matters to Your Orchid

Orchids growing in their natural habitat are watered with pure rainwater, which contains very little minerals and salts. Orchids are ill-suited for anything less. This is true from both epiphytic orchids that grow attached to trees and semi-terrestrial orchids that grow on the ground. 

Take Paphiopedilum orchids for example. If you grow slipper orchids and they aren’t doing well, improve the quality of their water and you’ll see a marked improvement.

Orchids are adapted to pure, clean rainwater. 

Though just to be clear, rainwater does contain some dissolved solids and does absorb some pollutants, but it is far purer than groundwater.

What’s So Special About Rainwater?

Rainwater, unlike groundwater, does not contain a lot of dissolved solids. Most dissolved solids are some form of salt

  • Bicarbonates
  • Sulphates of sodium,calcium, magnesium, potassium
  • Chlorides

Along with the dissolved salts, groundwater also contains small amounts of dissolved organic matter. On water quality reports these dissolved components are recorded as total dissolved solids (TDS) (kind of sounds like a disease) and are expressed in a percentage of part per million (ppm).

Along with containing low amounts of TDS, rainwater has a pH lower than city water as chlorine is added to most city water. 

Let’s Talk About pH

pH is a measurement of acids and bases expressed on a range between 14 (most basic) and 0 (most acidic) – 7 being neutral. Orchids prefer a reading between 5.5 and 6.5. Each number is 10 times more acidic, or basic, than the next. 

To be more specific, bases and acids differ on the amount of free hydrogen and hydroxyl ions that are in the water. The more free hydrogen ions the more acidic the water. The more free hydroxyl ions are in the water, the more basic the water. 

NOTE: As an example, rainwater pH varies across the US between 4.3-and 5.3, much lower than many cities with tap water with pH readings as high as 8 (See usgs.gov).

The bottom line is that for most of us, the water that comes from our taps is not ideal for watering orchids. This is because tap water and even spring and water contain high amounts of salts and minerals, and if you’re on city water, chlorine.

IMPORTANT TIP: Whatever water you use, do not use softened water as it contains high salts that will quickly kill your orchid.

How to Find Out About Your Water Quality 

The first step is to determine your water quality, specifically the amount of TDS and the pH. If you are on municipal water you can:

  1. Look it up online.
  2. Call/email your water conservation district.

If you are on well or spring water you can buy a TDS meter and a pH strips – or even a digital pH meter.

Ideal TDS and pH Ranges for Growing Orchids

The next step is to compare your reality, your tap, well, or spring water with ideal, or even tolerable, TDS, and pH levels for growing orchids.

  • Ideal TDS: less than 100 parts per million / <100ppm
  • Okay TDS: 100-200 ppm
  • Unacceptable TDS: >300 ppm
  • Ideal pH range: 5.5-6.5

How to Improve Water Quality

If you’ve discovered that your water quality doesn’t measure up, your best options are to either collect rainwater or improve your tap water. Or, you can move to a location with better water quality. Just kidding.

How to Collect Rainwater

To harvest rainwater, simply place a container, this can be a large barrel, under a downspout that runs off your roof. You will also need a pump to get the water out of the container and into a water pitcher.

Using rainwater is the most environmentally conscious choice as there is no waste, as there is in reverse osmosis (described below). 

Improving Tap Water 

Here are a couple of ways you can improve the quality water of your tap water. The first solution works best if you grow only a handful of orchids. The second solution is an investment you may want to consider if you are unable to collect rainwater and grow a large selection of orchids.

Mix Distilled Water with Tap Water

If you are growing only a few orchids here is an easy way to improve your water quality. Mix distilled water with tap water. Test a 1:1 blend and see what your TDS and pH levels are. Though a few adjustments may need to be made, 50/50 is a good starting point. If you are growing lots of orchids, you may need to use another method.

Reverse Osmosis (RO)

Reverse Osmosis is simply a water filtration system where water is forced through filters leaving the dissolved solids behind and the pure water passes into a collection tank. The dissolved solids go on to the sewer, septic, or groundwater – however, you dispose of water. This means that inevitably, there is some water waste. 

Because RO water is so pure minerals, fertilizer, needs to be added back into the water. Before using RO water, test it to be sure you have enough dissolved solids that it is safe for your orchids. 

Adjusting pH

To get a pH reading use a measured amount of a large quantity of water, such as a 10-gallon barrel, mix in your fertilizer, specific to the volume of water, then take the pH reading. 

To adjust acidity use a few drops of citric acid or vinegar, or pH Down. To make the water more basic, use potassium hydroxide or pH Booster. 

When balancing pH, only use a few drops, let it sit for a few hours, then take another reading. 

The easiest way to test pH is to buy litmus strips or water quality meters.

Fine-Tuning Water Quality for Your Orchids

After choosing the water purification method of your choice: collecting rainwater, mixing tap water with distilled water, or implementing an RO system, you need to test, both for TDS and pH, before using it on your orchids to be sure it falls within acceptable ranges. 

Then, for the most accurate results, test the water again after it has run through your orchid’s potting media. In other words, test the water that runs out of your orchid’s drainage hole. The media that your orchids are potted in will impact the quality of the water. 

You wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t love your orchids. Fine-tuning water quality is a serious business, but it isn’t anything you can’t handle. 


CLICK HERE for your 10 Tips to Properly Water Orchids


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72 Comments
  1. Bess P Falls says:

    If the air roots are shriveled, I’m guessing that I’m not watering enough. Should I cut off the shriveled air roots

    1. Anna says:

      That is a very good question. Leave the hard, shriveled aerial roots alone and let them do their thing. It’s the roots that are down in the potting medium that will tell you if your orchids need more water. Don’t take watering cues from aerial roots. If they are too unsightly you can cover them with some preserved moss.

  2. Chantile says:

    I ALWAYS tried the ice cube trick, and it never worked. I thought it was just me! Phew! I’ll try your tip from now on, thanks!!!

    1. Anna says:

      Chantile,
      That’s how I started out caring for orchids as well, following the instructions on the care tag. You’re right, ice cubes just don’t work. There are much better ways to water orchids!
      Anna

  3. barbara rowe says:

    Why do my leafs wilt??

    1. Anna says:

      Barbara,
      In most cases limp leaves indicate a watering problem. Look at your orchid’s roots to determine if you are more prone to over or under watering. Then adjust your watering schedule accordingly. Most of us tend to over water our orchids. Over watered roots are limp and brown. Under watered roots are dry and brittle. Another possibility may be that the orchids are too hot. Check out these two posts: Limp Leaves and Temperature and Air Circulation.
      Best of Luck!
      Let me know how it goes.
      Anna

  4. Sherrie Doherty says:

    What do I do about black spots on some leaves?

    1. Anna says:

      Hi Sherrie,
      Follow this link: GETTING RID OF SPOTS ON ORCHID LEAVES
      for more information.
      Let me know if you have anymore questions. I’m always glad to help.
      Anna

  5. Lindie says:

    Thanks for your wonderful advice, my sick babies are now in clear plastic pots so l can see what’s going on but what outer pot do you recommend and is small best ???? ?

    1. Anna says:

      Lindie,
      For the outer pots, use a ceramic pot that’s large enough to hold and stabilize the plastic pot.
      About pot size: Orchids like a pot that’s just large enough to contain their roots and allows for a couple of years of growth. Using a pot that’s too large doesn’t allow the center of the pot to dry out and results in rotten roots.
      Thanks for your thoughtful questions,
      Anna

  6. Madonna Spaulding says:

    Hi, after I trim my orchid do I water it still or wait till it gets flowers on it. Can you please let me know? You have great tips.
    Thank you.
    Madonna Spaulding

    1. Anna says:

      Madonna,
      Yes continue to water your orchid. There are some orchids that go dormant during the winter months, but those orchid varieties lose their leaves in the winter. If you are growing a Phalaenopsis or a Phaphiopedilum these orchids do not have water storage and need to be watered regularly. Other orchid may need you to cut back on water in the winter.

      I am going to guess that you are growing a Phalaenopsis orchid. If this is the case continue to water normally.
      Good luck!
      Anna

  7. Beth A-H says:

    Last week, for our 20th wedding anniversary, my darling husband gave me a dozen red roses and eight (yes, EIGHT) orchids! I have always thought orchids were difficult to grow… I think I have a LOT to learn, but I’m picking it up fast. My biggest problem is finding places to put all of them in the correct light. One is a Dendrobium Nobile which I understand can be kept outside until the temperature drops to frost level. The rest are Phalaenopsis. I only have north and south facing windows to work with. Would either of those exposures be okay? Do they need to be on a windowsill or will they get enough light, say on an end table in the sitting room that is perhaps 10 feet from the window? Many thanks for your help. I’m sure I’ll be back to your website many, many times.

    1. Anna says:

      Beth,
      What a thoughtful husband you have! Congratulations on 20 years of marriage!
      I love Dendrobium orchids. It is very helpful that you know which type of Den you are growing. Nobile Dendrobiums are winter-deciduous. So don’t freak out when it loses it’s leaves in the fall.

      In the summer, water thoroughly and regularly. Then, during the fall begin to restrict water as the orchid begins to go dormant. If you can keep the orchid at about 55F for about 3 months in the winter (that’s the hardest part), you will help the orchid prepare to bloom in the spring/summer.

      South-facing windows can provide good light for orchids. If you could keep them 3-5 feet from the window that would be ideal, but you still need to enjoy them. Perhaps leave them where you can best enjoy them while they are flowering and then once the blooms are spent, move them to a more ideal location.
      ~Anna

  8. nancy Roberts says:

    i am using Leca pebbles and a clear plastic pot with slits in edges. should i put that pot in a solid ceramic type or clay type pot? or can it be just clear platic pot alone? I am finging that the slits open to air are better for the orchid, i hope!

    1. Anna says:

      Nancy,
      I have orchids growing in LECA, some with ceramic and some with a plastic outer pot. I don’t think there is a right or a wrong here. I thinks it just depends on your preference. Try both ways and see what you, and your orchids, like best.
      Anna

  9. Kanchan says:

    Thanks Anna for all the info. Will try all the tricks. Where will I get a wiffle ball

    1. Anna says:

      Kanchan,
      These balls are unconventional, but they’ve worked well for my orchids. Here is a link for a wiffle ball. I will receive a commission, if you purchase through this link 🙂

      WIFFLE BALL

      Thanks,
      Anna

    2. roberto serna says:

      Buenos días:
      desde hace años vengo cultivando orquídeas phal, el problema que tengo es que no consigo solucionar es que las hojas se vuelvan coraceas, es decir, flácidas y rugosas,
      no soy capaz de solucionar este problema, no creo que sea un problema de regado ni de abono, riego por inmersión cunado el sustrato está prácticamente seco, y abono cada 15 días con un mínimo abono 20 20 20.
      Gracias por su ayuda y cordiales saludos,
      Roberto

      1. Anna says:

        Roberto,
        Thanks for reaching out to me. Do you think your orchids have a bacterial infection or sun or cold damage?
        You can send me a photo of your orchid leaves at [email protected]
        Soludos,
        Anna

  10. Mariet Robinson , Moama, NSW, Australia says:

    Thank you so very much for all of your good advise.
    My husband gave me a Phalaenopsis 14 months ago while he was in hospital. One of the nursing staff purchased it for him to give me. after 4 months of gorgeous flowers it is flowering again! I could squeal with excitement We watched eagerly as soon as a node was visible, at first I thought it was root, no, I ve been rewarded with Three spike, 1 with 11 blooms, 1, 10 blooms and one with 12 blooms.
    Not sure when to repot it though. It is in a glass vase, gravil at the bottom and moss around the roots.

    1. Anna says:

      Mariet,
      Wow! What an amazing orchid! It sounds like your orchid is growing in water culture. I have successfully grown orchids using semi-hydroponics, but I haven’t tried water culture. I will insert a link on how to pot orchids semi-hydroponically since the methods are similar. Be aware that your orchid roots are accustomed to water culture and wouldn’t take kindly to repotting in the traditional way.

      POT ORCHIDS USING SEMI-HYDROPONICS

      Take care! Sending prayers to you and your husband,
      Anna

  11. Dora says:

    I’m Dora Marcone from Entre Rios, Argentina. I like growing Cymbidiums but they don’t flower every year. Will you please give some tips to grow them successfully?
    Thank you very much for all information about orchids.

    1. Anna says:

      Dora,
      It was great to hear from you. The main reason that Cymbidiums fail to bloom is because they don’t get cool enough in the fall/winter. If you have a way to get them down in the 40 F/ 43 C for a few weeks they should bloom for you. These cooler temperatures help set the flower spikes.
      Best of luck to you!
      Con carino,
      Anna

  12. Natalia says:

    Hi, I bought phalenopsis, well actually two in one pot, however after coming home I realized they had this rotten smell. I took all moss out, spayed them with fungicide, the roots where ok, so I potted them separately in bark and in about a week their bottom leaves started to rot, I took them out of their pots, the roots got rotten and I took off two bottom leaves from each orchid, after that they had left with just couple of good roots but unfortunately their leaves are very much thin and floppy, I am afraid that the leaves will continue to rot from the steam. Do you have any advice how to stop orhids to rot from the stem?

    1. Anna says:

      Natalia,

      It looks like you took all the precautions you could after discovering the crown rot. Since it sounds like the crown was already in progress before you purchased the orchid, you could see if you can exchange your orchid at the store where it was purchased.

      Here are some tips on how to identify, treat and avoid crown rot. This condition is not uncommon, but it is preventable.

      https://orchidbliss.com/orchid-crown-rot/

      Best,
      Anna

  13. Colleen says:

    Hi Anna , can I spray my Oncidium Orchid with orchid leaf spray, and how and often should I water it ? I just had it bought for me . thank you .Colleen.

    1. Anna says:

      Colleen,
      I recommend cleaning the leaves with rubbing alcohol, lemon juice, white vinegar or diluted milk.
      Follow this link for specific instructions on caring for your orchid leaves:

      https://orchidbliss.com/prep-your-orchid-for-display/

      To water your oncidium, allow the pot to dry between watering. Water less frequently during the winter and more often during the summer. Keep an eye on the lead pseudobulb (this is the newest bulb) which should be plump, firm and smooth. As the leaves spot easily, try to keep water off the leaves when watering.

      Thank you for your thoughtful questions!
      Anna

  14. sharon says:

    I have 7 orchid in my window. what can I do to make them look better with all the roots. i
    t’s not the Prettiest.

    1. Anna says:

      Sharon,
      Do you know what kind of orchids you are growing? Aerial roots are adapted to growing in the air rather than the potting mix. Even so, here are a few options:

      You could repot your orchids so that the aerial roots are potted. Another option for phalaenopsis orchids – this is a scary one, but it works – is to sever the main stem from the base, making sure that you have several aerial roots on the stem. Pot the stem. Don’t do anything with the remaining potted base – if the roots are healthy, new leaves can grow. Higher humidity levels will also help the root base to grow new leaves.

      I don’t recommend pruning off the roots – better to embrace them than remove them.

      Good luck with those aerial roots! Let us know what you decide to do about them.
      Anna

  15. Elena says:

    Ciao!! In ottobre mi hanno regalato una bellissima orchidea pero’in pochi giorni a poco a poco mi ha perso i fiori, si sono seccati i steli e qualche giorno fa si e’ staccato alla base le ultime 2 foglie senza radici. A questo cosa si puo’ fare? Grazie mille .

    1. Anna says:

      Elena,
      Do you know what kind of orchid you have been gifted? Some orchids just have a hard time acclimating. If you have a dendrobium, for instance. Just give it time and a new pseudobulb may begin to grow. Continue to care for your dendrobium by watering it and allowing it to dry out between watering.

      Another possibility is overwatering. If the roots are soggy and limp, the orchid has been overwatered. Re-pot your orchid in fresh potting media into a well-draining pot. Use a mix specially formulated for orchids – fir bark is the most popular mixes.

      Here is a helpful article on how to re-pot orchids:

      HOW TO POT YOUR ORCHID

      Have a wonderful day,
      Anna

  16. Melissa says:

    I have zero experience growing orchids and would appreciate some direction. My friend gave me an orchid that she bought from the grocery store. Unknown variety. It is potted in bark in a clear cup that sits inside a pot. Seems to be a pretty healthy plant except that there is some root rot at the bottom of the cup (slimy, brownish roots). Do I just leave it alone and make sure not to overwater or do I trim the rotten part off? I’d have to pull the whole plant out to get to the rotten roots. Thanks for your help!

    1. Anna says:

      Melissa,
      I am guessing that your orchid is a phalaenopsis – the kind most commonly sold at grocery stores. Here is a link to an article that covers basic orchid care.

      HOW TO CARE FOR ORCHIDS

      To take care of the slimy roots there are two things I recommend. First, you can pour some hydrogen peroxide over them to kill any bacteria. Secondly, yes use care not to overwater the orchid. Phalaenopsis orchids like their potting media just barely damp. Once the orchid has finished blooming you can re-pot it and trim off any dead roots.

      Here is a link to an article on potting orchids:

      HOW TO POT ORCHIDS

      I wish you the best in caring for your orchid!
      Anna

  17. Bonnie Heinzman says:

    I have several orchids that are doing well. I do have a question about the pseudo bulbs growing on my Den. A new one forms every time it blooms. What do I do with the old ones still in the pot?

    1. Anna says:

      Bonnie,
      Thanks for your question. It can be tempting to cut down the old pseudobulbs, especially if they lose their leaves and become kind of ugly. The best practice is to leave the old pseudobulbs alone. While the old pseudobulbs no longer produce flowers, they do continue to provide nutrients and water to the orchid.
      Best,
      Anna

  18. Connie says:

    I love orch I can never get them to Blom leaves alway turn yellow and fall off what do I do wrong?

    1. Anna says:

      Connie,
      I would watch for over-watering – as yellow leaves can be an indication of too much water. Also, light and temperature are key factors in re-blooming. Here are some helpful articles on how to rebloom your orchids:

      HOW TO RE-BLOOM YOUR ORCHID

      USE LIGHT TO RE-BLOOM YOUR ORCHID

      USE TEMPERATURE TO RE-BLOOM YOUR ORCHID

      Best!
      Anna

  19. Elle says:

    I made an arrangement of blooming orchids in my clam shell and filled around them with moss. There is no drainage & I’m wondering how long I can enjoy them in there? Should I just mist the plants?

    1. Anna says:

      Elle,
      If it’s practical, I would remove the orchids to water them, then after they have drained, repack them into the most. I don’t recommend misting the plants. If you can’t easily remove the orchids from the shell, just add about 1/4 cup of water to each orchid – being careful to keep the water away from the stem.
      Your arrangement sounds beautiful!
      Anna

  20. Werndy says:

    Hi – from New Zealand – I was given a phalaenopsis in Dec (summer for us) it bloomed for maybe6-8 weeks max. I cut the flowerstems back to a node. One has since died off. My questions are first – I think I have under watered – leaves are limp and bark dry – how long do I leave the pot soaking in a bowl of water and how soon after this will the leaves look better. When it comes to fertilising, how duo you do that in a bark medium ? Given spraying has been my form of watering so far is it enough to fertilise by misting the bark and leaves or should I soak each week in fertilised water ?

    1. Anna says:

      Hi, Wendy from New Zealand!

      Thanks for reaching out to me! It sounds like you are caring for your orchids outdoors, based on the information that you are spraying your orchids. If so, continue to spray your orchids. This is a much easier method. It is just hard to water that way indoors.

      If the orchids tend to dry out too quickly, you have a couple of options. First, you could water more frequently, or you could add a small amount of sphagnum moss or wool rock to the bark to increase water retention, without letting the orchid sit in water.

      About fertilizing, if you have a watering can add 1/4 strength fertilizer to the water. Be sure that the fertilizer does not contain urea as orchids cannot break urea down into a usable form of nitrogen to benefit the orchid.

      Unfortunately, once the leaves have drooped, they will never return to their former upright position. Though they will improve. If possible, keep your eye on the orchid roots to indicate if they need water. Silvery, plump roots are healthy, but not wet. Healthy roots turn bright green with they are wet. Limp, black roots have been overwatered. Brittle dry roots are underwatered.

      If the orchid is properly cared for, new leaves will stand up straight and firm.

      Thank you for your thoughtful questions!
      Best,
      Anna

  21. Frank Madewell says:

    Thanks for the information it easy to understand and very thorough! I have shied away from orchids because of the watering problems, but with a site like your Orchid Bliss to follow I want to try them again! Thanks again Great site Frank

    1. Anna says:

      Frank,
      Thank you so much for your kind words. I couldn’t have asked for a kinder compliment! It is my goal to provide easy-to-understand information about how to successfully care for orchids.
      Best of luck giving orchids another try,
      Anna

  22. Anonymous says:

    ANNA
    THANKS FOR THE INFORMATION I THOUGHT I KNEW SOMETHING ABOUT ORCHIDS I HAVE FOUR -3 I DON’T KNOW THE NAMES 1 IS A PHALEANOPIS GROWING FLOWER STEM 3CM LONG. MY PROBLEM ORCHID HAS 13 UPRIGHT AND STIFF LEAVES AND LOTS OF AERIAL ROOTS, YET IT SHOWS NO SIGNS OF NEW LIFE. I DECIDED TO RE-POT IT. WHAT A SHOCK. 90% OF ITS ROOTS ARE WHITE BUT BRITTLE. I WATER ONCE A WEEK FROM BELOW I USE A SPECIALLY FORMULATED BARK. WHAT IS WRONG IS MY ORCHIDS?
    FOENA

    1. Anna says:

      Foena,
      Brittle roots indicate underwatering. Try watering from above making sure that when you water you water thoroughly, then allow the water to drain, so the orchid is not sitting in water.

      Here is an article that will go into depth on how to water orchids:

      HOW TO PROPERLY WATER YOUR ORCHIDS

      All my best,
      Anna

  23. Dana Tudor says:

    I just bought a phalenopsis orchid from Sams. Got home and it does not have a drainage hole. There was not an inner plastic pot with drainage either. I placed it in a slighter larger pot to keep all the bark from falling off. This pot doesn’t have drainage either. I am so afraid I may have damaged the beautiful blooms. Should I just wait and see what happens? HELP!

    1. Anna says:

      Dana,
      If this were my orchid, this is what I would do: I would (gently) place the orchid into a terracotta pot with drainage. These pots are very inexpensive and readily available. Once the flowers have faded you can determine your next steps – check out the roots and potting mix and decide if you need to re-pot and get your orchid ready to bloom again.
      After you’ve placed the orchid in the pot with drainage, keep an eye on the potting media. Barely moist is perfect for phals.
      All my best,
      Anna

  24. Dana Tudor says:

    Can I water and just tilt the pot so all the water can drain out? Sorry, I meant to add this question to my previous comment.

    1. Anna says:

      Dana,
      Yes, tilting the pot after watering is another option. I would tilt it once after watering, and then I’d tilt it again a few hours later, just to be sure that there isn’t any water accumulated in the pot.
      Best,
      Anna

  25. tracy Edison says:

    I heard that cork is good mixed with Leca. is this a good thing?
    When I repot, should I..
    Mix Leca and cork?
    Bark and cork?
    Or use a little of all 3?
    Reading your info, as I am a first timer at try to grow and keep them alive. !!
    Thanks Tracy

    1. Anna says:

      Tracy,
      I haven’t used cork as a potting mix, though cork slabs are a popular choice for mounting orchids. As a mount cork slabs are lightweight and long-lasting. Also, cork does not absorb much water.

      LECA is a bit more water-absorbent than cork, and will not breakdown or decay. Though it will absorb fertilizer salts. If you do use LECA, just be sure to regularly flush the salts. I successfully use LECA to pot orchids. I do add bits of wool rock for added moisture retention.

      Fir bark is the most universally used potting medium for orchids and many orchid varieties love this mix. Fir bark is relatively inexpensive. When new fir bark is not very water retentive, but as time goes on, the bark breaks down and becomes more absorbent. Personally, I have found that my orchids do well in this mix. I live in a dry climate and find that my orchids do best with a little wool rock added to the mix.

      As far as combining the materials, LECA will help the fir bark to resist compaction as the fir bark begins to decay. As I said above, I haven’t used cork, but I can’t see that it would hurt – it’s lightweight, decay-resistant and repels water. All three of these potting mixes will allow for air to the roots and are fast-draining. If you live in a dry area, or find that the mix doesn’t retain enough water, use a chopstick to poke a bit of wool rock around the roots.
      Thank you for your thoughtful question!
      Anna

  26. Meta andre says:

    I have a stem that is growing with leaves and roots at the top of my plant where the flowers bloomed at one time what can I do should I just let it grow or how can I cut it thank for some of the tips I have read

    1. Anna says:

      Sounds like you have a keiki growing. A keiki is an offset that is an exact clone of the mother plant. You can learn more about keikis by clicking HERE. While keikis can grow on healthy orchids, they can also be an orchid’s final effort to survive – so check out the mother plant – the roots and leaves will tell you if it’s healthy.
      Best,
      Anna

  27. Pat DeLacey says:

    I have two big containers with phalaenopsis orchids sitting in fir bark. The orchids are still in their original plastic containers. They have been growing successfully for about 4-5 years. My query is, should they still be in their original plastic containers? I have read that they shouldn’t be left in them. The aerial roots happily grow down into the bark or lie on the top. Should I try and take them out of the plastic pots and just plant them in the bark? There are about 6-9 plants in two containers that holes in the bottom and sit inside another container for drainage.

    1. Anna says:

      Pat,
      Congratulations on your orchids! It sounds like they are doing well.

      Honestly, more than 2 years growing in the same potting media is a long time. Likely the bark has decomposed. Re-potting the orchids in bark is a good idea. I use and recommend Bonsai Jack’s Universal Potting Mix. I also like to add a couple of squares of wool rock to help keep the potting mix a bit more damp for my phalaenopsis orchids. If you live in a humid area, your orchids may not need the wool rock.

      Here’s a bit of info on orchid pots – plastic pots keep the potting media wetter longer, clay pots dry out faster. While neither pot is “good” or “bad” it is good to consider the your climate (arid or humid) and your care-style (do you water often? do you travel a lot?). Answers to these questions will help you choose pots best suited to your orchids.
      All my best,
      Anna

  28. Mary says:

    I bought a phalaenopsis orchid after Valentine’s Day on clearance. I repotted it using the fir bark mixture. I watered it at the same time I water my other 4 orchids, every 7 or 8 days. The leaves became wrinkled and limp so after reading your information on repotting I decided to look at my roots. They were brown silvery and slimy (looked the same with first repotting) so I repotted again in the fir bark. It has been 2 weeks and leaves still look the same. Should I remove these leaves or just be patient? I still watered every week. Maybe too much? I thought about flushing with hydrogen peroxide. Can you tell I’m not sure what to do?? My other orchids are doing great. I love your site and all the information!

    1. Anna says:

      Mary,
      Yes, looking at the roots is the key to figuring out orchid care. The old leaves will never regain their former turgor. Watch the new leaves, if you are watering properly, the new leaves will come in firm and upright.
      All my best,
      Anna

  29. Liz says:

    Your columns are very informative. Thank you. I have 7 very healthy orchids. All are growing many air tendrils. Do you have information on this subject?

    1. Anna says:

      Liz,
      I am guessing these tendrils are keikis – plantlets that are exact clones of the mother plant. This article tells how to grow keikis, but also what to do with them.
      KEIKIS
      Best of luck,
      Anna

  30. Brian says:

    Dear Anna

    I have just started my luck on orchids. I am going through your tips and encouragement. I am feeling quite confident but cautious.

    Thanks

  31. Donna Marchetti says:

    Dear Anna,
    your information is Priceless!
    I see how I have underwatered my Oncidium as it has wrinkled pods! Not sure how to correct this and not overwater it!

    1. Anna says:

      Donna,
      Just keep in mind what Oncidiums need:
      1- The potting mix should be free-draining
      2- Water often
      3- The potting mix should be evenly moist
      Follow these three guidelines and you’ll be home free.
      Best,
      Anna

  32. Shelley says:

    Hi, I have two orchids, one I think I have determined is a phalaenopsis but the other lost its blooms before I could figure it out, though it has multiple leaves overlapping each other like jenga. With that one, it wasn’t in great condition when I bought it, the roots had been dyed blue to get blue blooms so I can’t see what actual colour they are, but they look a little shrivelly. I cut the stem right down to the bottom because it all went shrivelled and I read somewhere that you can cut it down and it’ll be fine. That one has since grown a new leaf and a new root but the leaves underneath aren’t doing well and all but the new one are drooping. I can’t tell if I’m over watering it or underwatering it, but I made up a fertiliser mix and run that through the pot once a month.
    The second orchid is the definite phalaenopsis, this one isn’t doing so hot. Two of the leaves are still upright, but the lowest one which is really long has drooped a lot and has basically died at the end. Two blooms are holding on for dear life but they’re pretty shrivelled and will probably fall off any day now though it’s been blooming since last year. It has a dark stem and thick dark green leaves that grow up the stem. I’m very worried about this orchid as it was a birthday present and I don’t want to kill it accidentally. I tried the ice cube method of watering it but I don’t think either orchid liked it. They both have bark potting mixes so I know that means they won’t retain water, so I have a mist bottle and spray them both every day. I just can’t tell if this second one is over watered or underwatered? Should I repot them both and hope for the best? Can I cut off leaves that look pretty dead?

    1. Shelley Barker says:

      Should note that they’re both in a West facing window with a small mist humidifier in between them. The window has venetian blinds that we keep closed most of the time but the light comes down through them and still reaches the orchids. I open them a bit more during the day so they get more light as I live on a narrow road and the house opposite me blocks the light until early afternoon so I don’t want them to not get enough light.

    2. Anna says:

      Shelley,
      Here is a super helpful article that will help you care for your phalaenopsis orchids:
      HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR PHALAENOPSIS ORCHID
      PHALAENOPSIS CARE CARD
      Hopefully, these posts will help you straighten things out with your phals. Send me a picture of your other orchid and I will see if I can identify it.
      [email protected]
      Best,
      Anna

  33. Carol Weisberg says:

    I was given 2 phals. They are both in glass vases with stone. One has a topping of something that looks exactly like the air plants that grow on trees. It is definitely not moss. The other has some orchid bark mixed with the stones. There is no drainage for either one. I am afraid to over-water. Please advise.

    1. Anna says:

      Carol,
      I would place them in a new pot with plenty of drainage.
      Best,
      Anna

  34. Beryl Haygood says:

    I wanted to know is okay if I can put peat moss in the Orchids I have right now or wait until when it’s time to re-pot the orchids? Where can I get
    wool rock? Where can I get other orchids from? My grocery store are only carrying phalaenopsis. Cymbidium I like to grow but I was told that growing cymbidium was not to grow here where I live in Arizona is that true? How about catalilys and other orchids?
    Beryl

    1. Anna says:

      Beryl,
      I do not recommend using peat moss to grow orchids.
      Here is an Amazon link to purchase wool rock.
      And, here is a link to a helpful article on how to increase humidity for orchids.
      In Arizona, you will have lots of light, but you will need to be sure you can supply your orchids with enough humidity and proper temperatures.
      I suggest reaching out to your local orchid society to find out which types of orchids people successfully grow in your climate.
      Here is a link to the Desert Valley Orchid Society.
      Best,
      Anna

  35. Kathleen Dunham says:

    I am so glad I found your site! I received two orchids from my students Spring of 2019. I always shied away from them thinking they were too finicky for me. But they have rebloomed and survived. Your site, even the comments from your readers provides so much information. Thank you! By the way, my husband grew up in Southeastern Wyoming.

    1. Anna says:

      Awe! Kathleen, thanks for sharing!

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