7 Detailed Tips on How to Keep Orchids Beautiful and Healthy
About orchids in general
Orchids are beautiful and colourful flowers that are easy to care for once you have found the most suitable environment for them – preferably on a sunny windowsill.
The Phalaenopsis (also called Moth orchid) is an orchid genus of approximately 60 orchid species and is one of the most popular type of all without any doubt.
It is originally native in the mountains of the Himalaya, southeast Asia, northern parts of Australia and the Philippines, but nowadays you can simply buy any of these flowers even in a shopping centre or a florist as well.
The orchid usually has only a few leaves that grow from a single stem. When one of the leaves start to wither, the plant usually starts to grow a new one immediately after that. Between the leaves grows the flower stem that can have more than 10 flowers on it when it is blooming. If the orchid is kept properly, the flowers can last for even up to 5-6 months.
I bought my last Phalaenopsis in January, 2012 and it was in bloom until June. Now, after about 4 weeks since it lost its flowers and I cut the previous flower stem it started to grow a new flower stem a week ago and now I can already see at least 5 bigger and smaller buds on it.
In the followings you can read my 7 detailed tips and tricks on how to keep your orchids beautiful and healthy. I hope you will find them useful!
Did you know?
Vanilla is a flavoring derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla.
Orchids thrive on light. For the Phalaenopsis a south-facing place is the best where it can get about 12 hours of sunlight per day (on many webpages I have read that Phalaenopsis likes places only with low lighting, but according to my experiences, this is not true – the more, the better). Although you must not expose it to direct sunlight, only indirect.
You know that your orchid gets enough light when its leaves are bright green and fleshy and it grows a new leaf immediately after another withered. Dark green colour indicates that the flower gets not enough light, meanwhile reddish blotches (and later dark, black blotches) on the leaf indicate way too much light or direct sunlight and sunburnt leaves. Also, when the plant gets too little light it won’t start to grow flowers.
Don’t start worry when a leaf of the orchid starts to get yellowish – this just means that the natural lifecycle of the orchid came to a point when it feels it has to grow new leaves instead of some old ones.
This plant requires watering only every 5 to 10 days. These orchids natively live in moist environments and rainforests but they don’t like to be overwatered – this will easily make the root start to rot. In fact, the Phalaenopsis prefers to be kept almost dry between two watering.
Also make sure your plant never ‘sits’ in water as this will cause it to get rot as well. Only water if you look at the bark under the plant and you see that it is dry or approaching to dryness.
As you will read under the ‘Humidity’ section, feel free to place your plant into the sink and give them a light shower with tepid water once a month instead of just watering it. After these showers always let the plant to drain off the excess water from itself.
If you suspect that your plant got too much water and is about to start to rot (its roots are brown and soft, mushy), repot the orchid as soon as possible.
In their natural habitat, orchids usually live in warm temperatures, where the thermometer shows 20 to 35°C, but indoor, near people they got used to temperatures between 15 to 35°C as well. Temperature lower than 15°C can cause the plant to become frost-bitten and die soon after that, meanwhile temperature above 35°C causes a heat stroke for plants that can also cause its death.
The ideal is if the daylight temperature is somewhere between 25 and 30°C, and at night orchids prefer a 6-8°C drop in temperature compared to daylight values.
Despite the common belief, orchids do not start blooming earlier if they are exposed to constant temperature drops during their life.
This is the most difficult issue to overcome when caring for an orchid, as 60-70% humidity is the best for the plant. This level is usually very high for a normal family home, so occasionally lightly mist the plant with a small bottle and take them to the sink and give them a light shower with tepid water at least once a month.
For the best environment place a fan in the room on hot days but don’t expose the plant directly to the blow and mist the room. These plants need more humidity during winter, when there is not that much sunlight, so mist them more often then.
If you can’t provide these things for your plant you still don’t have to get upset: set up a small humidity-tray by making sure the pot in which the plant is in has a high underlay, so you can place it in a small amount of water in a way that the root itself will still not reach the water under it / or place gravel into a tray and put the plant onto this and water the gravel (double-check the plant still does not reach into the water). This way the water will evaporate during daytime and this will create a nice humid environment in the pot for the plant.
After all the flowers fell down from the flower stem, you must cut the old stem just above the leaves – the closer to the soil, the better. After this the orchid will start to grow a new flower stem.
If your orchid looks too small or you can see no new leaves to grow at all, then you better cut the new flower stem off to encourage the orchid and not to let it weaken itself by ‘sending’ all the nutrients to the new flowers.
Also, check the plant weekly and cut down all the dead roots and leaves if it is needed.
Did you know?
The seed of an orchid is the size of a dust particle and it must associate itself with a special fungus to germinate.
Normally, you only have to repot your orchid every few years, when you can see the signs that the place in the pot is too small for the flower.
You surely have to repot your orchid when you see loads of green roots crawling out of the pot on its edge. You can start repotting when your flower is not in bloom as this is the best time to cut down the stress caused by repotting to the flower.
Simply carefully dig out the plant, cut down its died, brownish and soft roots and then place the orchid into the middle of its new pot with the roots down. Add the special, moist orchid soil (bark) until it reaches the bottom of the lowest set leaves. Wait a few days, preferably a week until you start to water the plant as usual.
Also, you must prepare to repot the plant if you see that the special soil, the bark under the orchid is starting to break down and decompose.
According to my experiences, all the above are not always enough to keep the orchid happy and healthy.
Even with the best care in the best environment it can start to get weak and its leaves can become parched after a while.
To solve this problem the best solution is to give it some kind of special nutrient solution for orchids, every 3rd or 4th week, when you can clearly see that the leaves may need some more nutrients.
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© 2012 Sophie
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