By: Liz Baessler
Orchids get a reputation for being finicky. A lot of people don’t grow them because they’re thought to be too difficult. While they’re not the easiest plants to grow, they’re far from the most difficult. It’s not as mysterious as you might think, and once you know what you’re doing, it’s remarkably easy. Keep reading to learn more about how to water orchids and orchid water requirements.
Perhaps the biggest mistake people make when growing orchids is overwatering them. Despite the fact that they’re tropical and like humidity, orchid water requirements are actually pretty low. In general, orchids like their growing medium to dry out between waterings.
To test this, put a finger in the growing medium. If it’s dry about an inch (2.5 cm.) down, it’s time for watering. For indoor plants, this will probably translate to about once a week. It will be a bit more frequent for outdoor plants.
Knowing how to water orchids is important, too. When it’s time to water, don’t just moisten the top of the potting medium. If your orchid is growing in a pot, set it in the sink and gently run warm water over it until it flows freely from the drainage holes. Never use cold water – anything below 50 F. (10 C.) can seriously damage the roots.
There’s more to knowing when to water an orchid than just the frequency. Time of day is also very important. Always water your orchids in the morning so the moisture has time to evaporate. Watering orchid plants at night allows water to settle into nooks and crannies and encourages fungal growth.
While they don’t do well sitting in water, orchids do like humidity. You can create a humid environment by filling a tray with a layer of gravel and adding just enough water that the gravel isn’t quite submerged. Place your orchid’s pot in this tray – the evaporating water from the gravel tray will surround your plant in moisture without waterlogging its roots.
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The first step when learning how to care for your orchid plant properly is to do your homework. As best you are able, find out what the native climate is for your particular varietal of orchid.
Wild dendrobium christyanum
According to the Rainforest Alliance, there may be as many as 30,000 different species of orchid today!
There are four basic types of orchid plant:
Each type of orchid has different basic needs to thrive. As a rule, orchids are either pan-tropical, which means they can grow successfully and become established in all but the coldest areas, or they are endemic, which means they need a specific type of climate to thrive.
Whether they are pan-tropical or endemic, there are two things that nearly all orchids share in common:
Orchids are undeniable a gem with their highly attractive blooms. In the past, orchids were rarely cultivated indoors because they’re not that easy to tend. Through time though, people discovered an orchid genus that’s suited for the home environment and that’s Phalaenopsis.
Phalaenopsis (moth orchids) are friendly for beginners. They’re also widely available in the market so you’d find no trouble acquiring one. If you’re having doubts about the success rate of caring for this orchid, hold up and learn from here:
|Scientific Name||Phalaenopsis spp.|
|AKA||Moth orchids, “Phals”, Moon orchids|
|Similar to||Giant pansy|
|Native to||Southeastern Asia (South India, Sri Lanka, southern China to Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea) and Northern Australia|
|Shape||Leaves are almost oval in shape Flowers look like a moth|
|Maximum size||8 to 12 inches high|
|Light requirements||Bright, indirect light with 60% shade|
|Preferred humidity||High (50 to 80%)|
|Preferred temperature||15-30°C (60-85°F)|
|Soil or Potting Medium||Brick piece/Stone, Leaf mold, Coconut husk, and semi rotten logs in the ratio of 1:1:1:1|
|Fertilizer||Fertilize actively growing and flowering plants every third or fourth watering with a commercial orchid fertilizer|
|Propagation method||Division of keikies|
|Toxicity||Non-toxic to cats and dogs|
|Vulnerable to||Mealybug and scale insects|
When watering orchids, the goal is to saturate the bark pieces, not the roots themselves. Always use room temperature water not cold, not warm. Avoid letting water stay inside the places where leaves meet the stems of an orchid this promotes rot. If some inadvertently splashes there, wipe it away with a soft cloth or blot with a paper towel.
The best way to water orchids potted in bark is to place the entire pot into a bowl that's at least as deep as the bark line. Pour room temperature water over the bark so it fills the bowl to just below the lip of the pot and let the bark soak for 10 to 15 minutes. If you put water in the bowl first, you're likely to push the bark out of the pot when you sink it into the water. Then, lift the pot out of the water, let all of the excess water drain out, and place the orchid back in bright, indirect light.
Clay pots make excellent vessels for orchid plants because the terra-cotta also absorbs moisture, offering the orchid a little more humidity and water when the bark dries out.
Moth orchids need watering with room-temperature water in the morning, as this gives them time to dry before nightfall. The potting material should never dry out completely, because moth orchids lack pseudobulbs that would make them somewhat drought-tolerant. During hot, dry summers, twice-a-week watering is usually necessary, but you can reduce this to once every 10 days if winter is damp. When watering, you should provide a thorough soaking but let the pot drain for a few minutes to prevent waterlogging.
So we’ve already established that overwatering and underwatering can be the downfall to growing orchids. In order to gain an understanding of how often you should water your orchid, one of the first things you need to do is note what type of pot your orchid is planted in.
If it is a clay pot then you will need to water more frequently because water evaporates faster from clay than plastic pot for instance. It is very important that your pot, regardless of whether it is clay or plastic, have drainage holes. Another way to determine how often to water is by which type of potting medium you used. If you used a potting media with better water retention you will need to water less frequently as compared to potting media with good drainage, which will need to be watered more frequently.
There are a few tricks you can follow to determine whether your plant is ready to be watered. The first of these tricks it to check the weight of your plant right after being watered. A few days after watering, after the water is absorbed and some has evaporated, the pot will become lighter. You will soon be able to tell if it is time to water your plant just by picking it up, feeling the weight of the plant and comparing it to the weight right after you’ve watered. Another trick is to either stick a bamboo skewer or your finger into the pot, and if they come out feeling damp then your plant is not ready for another watering. During the hot, dry summer months you may have to water more often because the plants will dry out sooner. Every species will have their own specific watering needs, but in general you will probably be watering every seven to ten days.
By following these simple steps and making sure your orchid is watered just right, you will be on your way to growing beautiful orchids in no time.
To get more watering instructions for your orchid be sure to check out the Orchids Made Easy book where watering – and everything you need to know about orchid care and maintenance – is covered in much more detail.
IMPORTANT: To learn everything you need to know about caring for your orchids, if you haven’t already I strongly recommend signing up for the “Orchid Care Tips & Secrets Newsletter” my wife and I publish by clicking here.
It’s completely free – and the best part? You can even choose the type of information you’d like to receive (reblooming tips, basics of orchid care, etc.) Join over 20,000 fellow orchid enthusiasts young and old and sign up for our free orchid care newsletter today! :-)
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