Growing orchids is easier than you think! In this detailed orchid plant care guide, I will show you everything you need in order to be successful. You’ll learn all about them, find out how to troubleshoot common problems, get answers to your FAQs, and much more.
Orchids are fairly easy to care for, and will rebloom year after year in the right conditions. They make wonderful houseplants, and a collection of several different varieties can reward you with year-round blooms.
The delicate flowers dangling from skinny stems is what makes orchids look so exotic… and it’s also what makes them look like they’d be really hard to grow. But they aren’t as difficult as you may think.
In this detailed plant care guide, I’m going to show you exactly how to grow orchids. You’ll learn all about them including their hardiness, different varieties, ideal growing conditions, fixing common problems, and so much more!
Information About Orchids
In order to successfully grow orchids, it’s important to understand how they live in nature. Most orchids are epiphytic plants. That means that in their natural habitat they don’t grow in the dirt.
Instead, they attach themselves to logs, rocks, trees, or even other plants. Don’t worry, they don’t feed on those plants, they just use them as a natural growing support.
Different Types Of Orchids
There are tons of different varieties of orchids, and they come in all sorts of colors and sizes. Many can be grown as houseplants, though some are fussier than others.
Phalaenopsis orchids (aka: moth orchids) are the most commonly sold variety you will find. That’s because they are the easiest orchids to grow, and perfect for beginners.
Other common varieties that are also pretty easy to grow include Paphiopedilum, Cattleya, Oncidium, Dendrobium, Brassia, Brassavola, and Cymbidium, just to name a few.
Once you get the hang of caring for orchids, and learn the secret to get them to rebloom, they make excellent flowering houseplants.
In most cases orchids bloom during the winter, making them a popular plant sold at garden centers and big box stores around the holidays.
They can bloom for several months, and the flowers will usually last all the way through spring. Some can even bloom year round!
Once they’re done blooming, the flowers will first droop and then naturally drop from the plant, which is totally normal.
How To Grow Orchid Plants
Before we get into the nitty gritty orchid care instructions, it’s important to understand a few things about them first. This way, you’ll set yourself up for the best success right from the start.
Are Orchids Annuals Or Perennials?
Though most commonly sold as houseplants, orchids are actually perennials in their native climate. The hardiness varies depending on the variety you choose to grow.
Some types require a warm, humid environment to survive, while others thrive in colder climates. So it’s best to know the recommend growing zone of the specific type you have before planting it outside in your garden.
Ideal Orchid Growing Conditions
They also grow best when the temperature is between 70-85F degrees, and need bright, indirect light. Epiphytes also grow best when mounted on a tree, or other sturdy support, or when potted in bark or wood chips.
Orchid Plant Care Instructions
Below I’ve broken down my orchid plant care instructions into small chunks to make it easier for you to digest, or simply skim through to find exactly what you’re looking for.
But remember, there are tons of different orchid varieties. So be sure to look up the specific type you have in order to give them exactly what they need to thrive.
Most orchids like to be watered consistently, but don’t like soggy feet. Allow the medium to dry out slightly between waterings, but not to the point where the leaves begin to shrivel.
Check the medium weekly to see if it needs to be watered. Then water thoroughly until it starts running out the bottom of the pot, ensuring that all of the medium gets wet.
Some people find it much easier to dunk the entire pot in water rather than pouring it over the top. If you choose to do this, soak the pot until it stops bubbling, but don’t submerge the entire plant.
Whichever method you use, make sure that you allow the water to drain completely from the pot. Never leave your orchid sitting in water for more than a few minutes.
Rainwater or distilled water are the best types to use on orchids. They are sensitive to the chemicals and salts found in tap water, which can build up over time and harm the plant.
Another important part of proper orchid plant care is ensuring they get plenty of humidity. Because they are epiphytes, high humidity is important for them. Use an indoor humidity monitor so you can see how dry the air is, and modify it as necessary.
Set the plant on a pebble tray to increase humidity, or mist them on a regular basis. Just make sure to do it in the morning so the leaves are dry by the evening to prevent disease or fungus issues.
Orchid like bright, indirect light. Never put them in full sun, or it could burn the tender leaves. Indirect light from a south facing window, or filtered light in a west or east facing window are the best choices.
Outside, you should place them in a partial shade location where they will be protected from the intense afternoon sun.
Since orchids are epiphytes, they get their nutrients and moisture from the air and not the soil. So do not use regular potting soil for them.
The roots need air in order for them to survive. Burying the roots in potting soil will cause them to rot, which could eventually kill the plant.
You could also try mounting yours on a log, tree, or wooden plaque, which looks very cool. But this can make it more difficult to water them, so keep that in mind.
Some orchids hate to be repotted, so be sure you only do it when it’s absolutely necessary. Spring and early summer, or after the flowers have died back, are the best times for repotting.
A few signs that yours needs to be repotted are if it looks as if it’s trying to climb out of the pot, lots of roots are growing out of the holes, or it will no longer bloom.
When potting orchids, always use a container that has drainage holes, or you could quickly drown it. A decorative orchid plant pot is a great option. Or you can simply plant it in a plastic pot, then drop it into the decorative container.
Orchids will perform their best if you feed them properly. Generally speaking, it’s best to feed them using a weak half or quarter dose of fertilizer every time you water during their active growing season (May-September).
Don’t fertilize orchids during the winter, or while they are flowering. Keep in mind that they are sensitive to chemicals and salts, which can build up in the pot over time.
So I highly recommend that you buy an organic orchid plant food, and follow the directions on the package.
Healthy orchids are usually pretty resistant to houseplant pests, but mealybugs, aphids, or scale can sometimes become a problem.
Organic neem oil is a natural insecticide that is very effective at getting rid of these nasty bugs. You can also use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to kill the pests on contact, or use an insecticidal soap.
Never use synthetic pesticides though, because these bugs can build up a resistance to chemicals, only making the problem worse.
In general, orchids don’t require a lot of pruning. If necessary, you can prune off the dead roots or leaves at any time.
Be careful pruning the flower stems though. Some types of orchid plants can bloom several times on one flower spike. So don’t automatically cut it down right after the flowers fall off.
Wait until it turns completely brown, then cut it all the way down to the base of the plant. If the tip of the stem turns brown, then you can trim it back only far enough to remove the dead portion, if desired.
How To Rebloom Orchids
Orchids don’t usually rebloom on their own, so you’ll have to help them out a bit. The trick to getting them to bloom is cooler evening temperatures.
Ideally, it should be at least a 10F degrees cooler at night than during the day (but not below 40F) for at least a week. This is easy for those of us who live in cold climates.
When you’re anxiously waiting to see if your orchid will bloom again, it can be hard to tell if the new growth is a flower spike, or just more roots. There is a subtle difference, so look closely.
The roots have smooth and slightly pointed edges. Bloom spikes will have folds at the tips, and they look kinda like a tiny mitten.
If you’ve been religiously following all of these orchid plant care instructions but yours still won’t bloom, that’s a sign that it needs to be repotted.
The easiest and most common method of propagating orchids is to divide them. To divide a mature plant, remove it from the pot and carefully tease apart the roots.
Some types of orchids can also grow babies or offshoots at the base or along the flower stems. Once they have their own roots, these babies can be removed and potted up into their own containers.
Many varieties can also be grown from seed, though this is fairly difficult and takes plenty of patience. If you want to give it a try, just keep in mind that it can take several years for orchid seedlings to grow large enough to bloom.
Troubleshooting Common Orchid Care Problems
When given the proper care, orchids are pretty easy to grow. However, there are several things that can go wrong, and sometimes it’s hard to figure out the cause.
So below I’ve included a list of some of the most common orchid care problems, the likely causes, and my recommended solutions.
- Orchid won’t bloom – Most of the time, this is caused by temperature. They need cooler temperatures in the fall and winter in order to flower. But it can also be caused by lack of light, using the wrong fertilizer, or your plant needs to be repotted.
- Brown leaves – When orchid leaves turn brown, it’s usually due to improper watering (mostly under watering). But brown leaves could also be caused by sunburn or fertilizer burn. Never allow the medium to dry out completely, keep them out of the full sun, and always use a half or quarter dose of organic fertilizer.
- Orchid plant is dying – The most common cause of orchid death is improper watering. Overwatering usually happens when you use the wrong type of potting soil. But yours could be dying because of under watering and/or lack of humidity.
- Leaves turning yellow – When the leaves turn yellow, it’s almost always due to overwatering, which can easily happen when epiphytes are planted in regular potting soil. Allow the soil to dry more between waterings, or repot it using the proper growing medium.
- Drooping or wilted leaves – If the leaves are drooping or wilting, then it’s probably not getting enough water and/or humidity. But drooping leaves could also be caused by overwatering, or happen when the plant gets too hot.
- Flowers are dying or dropping off – Orchid flowers naturally die back after a couple of months, which is completely normal. Once the flowers have all died, and the spike has turned brown, then prune it off all the way down to the base.
Orchid Plant Care FAQs
In this section, I will answer some of the most commonly asked questions about growing orchids. If you still have a question after reading through all of this, then ask it in the comments below. I’ll be happy to answer it as soon as I can.
Are orchids hard to grow?
It depends on the variety you have. Some varieties are harder to grow than others. If you’re looking for an easy one to start with, get yourself a phalaenopsis (aka “moth”) orchid. Those are the easiest to grow, and perfect for beginners.
Can orchids be planted in soil?
Do not make the mistake of planting epiphytic orchids in regular potting soil. Their roots need plenty of space and air in order to thrive. Burying the roots in soil will only smother them, and they will eventually rot.
What do you do with an orchid after the blooms fall off?
Some will bloom several times, so leave the flower stem on the plant until it turns brown. Once it has died back, then you can prune all the way down to the bottom of the stem.
Do orchids need a lot of sunlight?
Orchids like lots of bright, indirect sunlight, but never full sun. Direct sunlight can burn their leaves. If you don’t have much natural light in your home, then I recommend using a grow light for them.
Where should orchids be placed?
Indoors, place them in an east or west facing window, or give them filtered sunlight from a south facing window. Outside, put them in a partial shade location, where they’ll be protected from the hot afternoon sun.
Can you use ice cubes to water orchids?
Using ice cubes for watering orchids seems to be a common trend, and I get asked about it quite a bit. However, I do not recommend doing this.
Since most types are tropical plants that come from warm climates, using ice on them could end up causing major damage. So, I recommend you stick to using room temperature water instead.
Growing orchids is a fun hobby, and can become very addicting! Plus there are tons of different varieties that you can collect. Simply follow these orchid plant care instructions, and you’ll enjoy yours for many years to come.
If you struggle to grow a healthy, blooming collection of indoor plants year-round, then my Winter Houseplant Care eBook is just what you need. It will show you everything you need in order to keep your houseplants thriving through the most difficult time of the year. Download your copy now!
Orchid Care Book Recommendations
- Happy Orchid: Help It Flower, Watch It Flourish
- Understanding Orchids: An Uncomplicated Guide
- The Orchid Whisperer: Expert Secrets for Beautiful Orchids
- Orchid Basics: Hints, tips & techniques
More Houseplant Care Guides
- How To Care For An Orchid Cactus Plant
- Rabbit’s Foot Fern: How To Grow & Care For “Davallia fejeensis”
Share your orchid plant care tips or secrets in the comments section below.