- 5min read
- Published: August 2, 2019
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How to Care for Orchids Indoors
This blog post is contributed by Sarah Gerrard Jones, an expert on houseplants.
The very first plants I rescued were orchids. I was in a DIY store and they were putting the Phalaenopsis Orchids that had finished flowering in the bin! It seemed so sad that healthy plants were destined for death just because they’d finished blooming. I asked if I could take some home and that’s how my obsession with rescuing plants began. I went back week after week to save as many as I could and I’m happy to say they have all bloomed again.
Caring for orchids is relatively easy. However, encouraging them to bloom again requires a bit more attention and patience.
Orchids use a lot of energy to create their flowers, so after blooming they require a rest. Phalaenopsis Orchids go into a period of dormancy for about 6-9 months. They are not dead, they are just building up their energy reserves to re-bloom. Some people may find their orchid decides to bloom again with little intervention, while others may need help to kick-start the process.
Here are my five simple tips to encourage your orchid to flower:
Trim back the flower spike
After your orchid plant has finished flowering, take a look at the flower spike. Is it firm and green? If so, find a node under the lowest flower and cut it approximately 1 inch above that node (see photo below). If the spike is brown or black, this means it’s dead and you need to cut it back to the base of the plant. Cutting back the spikes helps your orchid conserve energy and increases the chances of a new bloom developing earlier than usual from an offshoot of the cut spike.
Sometimes the orchid won’t bloom again from the same flower spike, but that’s not to say it won’t bloom again from a newly formed one.
Water using rainwater and soak it
Orchids can be fussy about what they drink and because tap water varies greatly depending on where we live, I suggest using rainwater. There are various ways to water orchids but my preference is to soak it. I use a cover pot to hold the clear plastic pot, so I simply fill up the cover pot to the top with rainwater and leave it to soak for 15-20 minutes. This gives the potting bark time to absorb a good amount of water. If you don’t use a cover pot, just put the clear pot into a container large enough that the water covers the top level of your pot.
I would suggest, as a rough guide, to soak your orchid about once a week during the spring/summer months. Winter will be less frequent. Don’t let the potting medium dry out entirely between waterings. Just let the top inch of bark dry before watering again. You can use the colour of the roots as a guide to help you decide if you’re watering too little or too much. Healthy roots should be firm and green in colour. Healthy roots which look silvery need a drink, and overwatered roots will be mushy and brown. These have rotted and your orchid is at risk of dying. If this has happened, let the potting medium dry out and see if any of the roots are green. If there are some healthy roots left, cut away the mushy brown ones and reduce your watering schedule.
Use fertiliser to feed it
Feeding your orchid will help give it the energy it requires to produce new flowers. You should feed your plant with specialist fertiliser every 1-2 weeks in the growing season. Always follow the guide on the fertiliser bottle for dilution advice. I use a general orchid fertiliser while the plant isn’t flowering and switch to using bloom fertiliser when it flowers to help prolong the flowering period.
Ensure it gets enough light and watch out for sunburn
As a general rule, Phalaenopsis Orchids require medium, indirect light, but they will also tolerate lower light conditions. However, if the light is insufficient, they may not flower. When a healthy orchid doesn’t flower, it’s usually due to insufficient light.
It’s ok to put your orchid on a windowsill which faces north, and in most cases east if that windowsill only receives sunlight for part of the day. They must, however, be kept at least 2 feet back from a south-facing window to avoid being burnt. White patches with a dark ring indicate sunburn.
Encourage it to flower by adjusting the temperature
Temperature plays an important part in the flowering process of an orchid. Orchids enjoy similar temperatures to us, so if we feel comfortable with the temperature in our house, chances are your plant is happy, too.
If your orchid is reluctant to flower, try placing it where night-time temperatures will be slightly lower than normal, about 12-14 C. Exposing your Phalaenopsis Orchid to cooler temperatures for about a month will hopefully encourage it to flower.
Takeaways and useful tips
- Orchids like humidity. They enjoy being misted. Alternatively, place the pot on a saucer with gravel and fill it with water.
- Make sure to occasionally clean the leaves with a damp cloth to remove dust and allow the maximum amount of light to be absorbed.
- Many people believe that Phalaenopsis Orchids are toxic to pets. They are, in fact, non-toxic to cats, dogs, and horses.
Did you like it? Do you have experience with growing orchids at home? Share your tips in the comments below!
- Last update: August 6, 2019
Sarah Gerrard Jones is the person behind The Plant Rescuer - your go-to place to learn how to take care of your houseplants. Follow her on Instagram, read her blog or join a Terrarium workshop to learn how to make your home and workspace a happy, healthy place.