Miss Kirby's KommonSenseTips for
Caring for your Orchids
Orchids aren’t the delicate plants most people think they are! They are happy campers if you’ll follow the basics:
- plenty of light: all blooming plants need good light
- air circulation to the root system
(their natural habitat is attached to bark on trees and rocks)
- a high minor-element plant food
Orchids like to live in a window, patio, tree, palm or lightly shaded rock garden or waterfall.
TEMPERATURE: From 50 to 80 degrees F is best; but occasional highs above 100 F or lows even to the 30s will not harm them as long as no frost forms on the leaves.
SUN: Filtered sun is very important for plant growth and flowers. All orchids except Phalaenopsis will handle full sun before 10 am and after 5 PM. Dendrobium will handle full sun all day; the summer foliage will not be pretty, but they will bloom and live.
AIR AND HUMIDITY: Orchids are a tropical plant and like a humid atmosphere, so they love being outside in light shade in subtropical areas (in Florida, from Jupiter south). Phalaenopsis don’t like to be in too much heat; during the summer bring them into the air conditioning. If your orchids are
in a small closed-in area the air may become stagnant/stuffy. A small fan, or better yet two small
fans set on opposite sides of the plant area and blowing parallel to each other in opposite directions will give the air circulation orchids need. To increase the humidity around your plants, fill a shallow container with limestone, gravel, shells or brightly colored aquarium stones, fill the container about half full of water, and place your pots on top of the gravel just above the level of the water - never in it.
POTTING MEDIA: Orchids’ natural habitat is in the crevices of rocks, rotting tree branches, up in live trees or on the side of palms. Knowing this, it’s best to select either lava rock or tree fern fiber, or a combination of both. Remember, rock doesn’t decompose and the fiber will. If you pot in fiber you’ll probably have to repot every 2 to 3 years; if you plant in straight lava rock you’ll have to water more often. Clay pots and these media give plenty of oxygen to the orchid roots. ALWAYS have the top of your orchid root system exposed.
WATER: Orchids prefer to dry out between waterings. Inside the house, a large plant in a small pot will probably need watering twice a week, unless you have it sitting on water-covered rocks. But, if it’s outside during the summer in a breezy location it will probably need to be watered daily. No single definite rule can be made to cover all conditions and varieties. WATER ACCORDING TO YOUR CONDITIONS. When you water, do so heavily, then not again until the orchid is dry. If the side of the clay pot feels clammy and cool, it’s still damp. If the pot feels dry, the media is dry and it’s ready to water. Plastic pots are very difficult to check, so we recommend clay pots only. Too little water is better than too much, especially for Phalaenopsis. Water quality is important: city water is alright, chlorine and fluoride don’t seem to bother orchids. But do not use water from a water softener, they add salts to the water. Well water is safe for your plants. The pH should be 6.2 + -. Rainwater is great if you have time to collect it.
FERTILIZER: Orchids are air plants and in the wild can live on the nutrients they collect from the
air. There isn’t enough in most of the artificial situations we put them in for them to survive. So, for
strong growth and lovely flowers be sure to fertilize your plants regularly. Inside plants should be fed with Dyna-Gro Liquid Bloom and Dyna-Gro Liquid Grow (1/4 teaspoon per gallon of water) once a week. Outside orchids may be fed with our “WW” granular fertilizer at a pinch per 3 sq inch of plant, every 6 weeks. Your outside orchids will appreciate the liquid Dyna-Gro Liquid Bloom once a month as an instant supplement. It’s also good to flush the root system periodically with plain water to remove excess soluble fertilizer salts.
RE-POTTING: Re-potting is necessary when the plant outgrows its container by growing over the edge or becoming top heavy, or when the medium breaks down (when you use fibers or wood products) and no longer drains properly. Usually the plant outgrows the pot before the potting material breaks down. When the bulbs and stems are at the edge of the pot, it is time to
re-pot. In subtropical areas you may re-pot anytime.
NOTES: Leave your orchid in its original location until the blooms open, then move it to a “show off” location in your home. To make the blooms last longer, continue to water and feed on your regular schedule while it is in bloom. When your orchid has finished blooming, cut off the flower stem and the sheath around it just above the place where it grows out of the leaf and bulb. Phalaenopsis will sometimes re-bloom if you trim the flower stalk just above a flower node
several nodes down from the top. Return the plant to its normal growing place until it re-blooms again.