Orchid Care for Dummies

I’m not calling you a dummy, unless you managed to kill an orchid in 2 weeks like I did. Then you can assume dummy status with me. I’m also not an orchid professional. I consider myself more on the novice rung of the orchid-raising ladder. I have managed to keep 2 orchids alive for 2.5 and 1.5 years, plus have them re-bloom! Yes, I consider it quite an feat considering my first experience.

First of all, my experience is only with the Phalaenopsis orchid and there are hundreds of orchids. Secondly, if you don’t have great patience with an occasional blooming flower, orchids may not be for you. My experience has been that the blooms last 3-4 months and then it’s another year before they bloom again.

When I bought my first plant, it was planted in a small pot and not in a plastic pot inside a ceramic pot like the last few I bought. The instructions said that when the surface feels dry, water it. Well for the first thing, the pot it was in didn’t drain like the plastic ones do. Secondly, I knew orchids thrive in humid climates so I didn’t even think of over-watering as being the cause. Bam! Turned yellow and died. Shortly thereafter I was at a festival on Jekyll Island where a vendor had beautiful orchids planted in antique clay pots. While I badly wanted another one, I was feeling rather gun-shy at owning one, much less plunking down $40+ for one in an antique pot. I mentioned to the vendor that I had one and had killed it within 2 weeks. He snorted in surprise? shock? and then asked how often I watered it. Wasn’t hard to figure out that is the problem.

So, I bravely bought another one and searched the www for some tips on keeping them alive. This is what I’ve learned.

  1. Keep your plant in a well lit place out of direct sunshine. Direct sunshine can cause “burn” spots on the leaves. My bathroom window is on the east side of the house and is frosted. It also has a wide sill so that’s where I keep mine because
  2. They like a bit of humidity and a bathroom is the perfect place for that.
  3. Water them every week to 10 days. I don’t do the ice cube method like some people do.
  4. Feed them with an orchid feed once a month when they’re not blooming and twice a month while they bloom.
  5. It seems easier to control their wetness when in a plastic pot. Once I transplanted one of them into a Dixie cup that I had cut hole in for drainage.
  6. After they’re finished blooming, your supposed to cut the stem down to just above the first node down the stem. I haven’t tried this yet but if you cut it when the blooms are just starting to fade, it will send out more blooms.
  7. If you transplant them, do not use standard potting soil. Make sure to buy potting soil for orchids which usually is mostly comprised of bark.
  8. Patience, patience patience. A once-a-year bloom isn’t very often and it seems hardly worth the effort. However, when that new shoot comes up and you see the little bumps appear, you get all excited. They are delicate beautiful flowers and are worth the wait.
  9. The color of the orchid may change. One of the orchids I have was given to me by a friend after surgery a year and a half ago. I don’t remember what color the blooms were but I’m sure they weren’t white. When it started blooming this past winter, they were white with a tiny bit of color in the center. Turns out you can color them.  I’m guessing the one I had had been colored at the store or greenhouse. Maybe not. Maybe my memory is off! 🙂
  10. If you buy one, choose one that is not yet fully blooming. This way you should have more bloom time than the fully blooming ones, which could be near the end of their blooming cycle.

Orchids

Orchids-2 b
The bloom on the left is from the stem that I trimmed back to the top node. The other stalk came up later but bloomed at the same time.

If you have experience with Phaleanopsis orchids, or recommend another type of orchid, I’d love any feedback that you might have.

 

Orchids-13 b

Here are some other helpful articles on the web:

Getting Orchids to Bloom Again

Phalaenopsis for Beginners

Orchid Care FAQs

4 thoughts on “Orchid Care for Dummies

  1. vickikauffman

    This almost makes me want to try again! I was sorely tempted by some beautiful ones at Aldi today but i’m really good at killing them too. I’ve almost resorted to (hushed whisper), fake ones, because you fairly can’t kill them 🙂

  2. Ruth Hochstetler

    I killed my first orchid by babying it too much … probably gave it too much water. The next go round, I had much better success, and really love them. I’ve found that they love to be outside in the summertime, and when you bring them in just before frost, they will likely be ready to bloom. I don’t have a good place to set them outside where we now live, too much direct sun, so I haven’t been as successful here. I think they are worth any extra effort, because the blooms last so long. The orchid man that helped me get started didn’t like the potting soil that they put out for orchids, he made his own mix … his formula was 4 parts peat moss and 1 part pearlite. (no soil). If you have a chance, visit orchid alley in southern Chesapeake. At least I hope he is still there.

  3. Marylou Hershberger

    @vicki — Oh, you really should try again, especially if you can find a discount one. 🙂 The benefit of a fake {shiver} plant is that is always “blooming” and you could put it in a darker corner of your house, say your mantle, and it would “survive”. 🙂

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