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Growing Orchids 101

Updated on August 13, 2014

Growing Orchids Indoors For Beginners

I used to think growing orchids would be very difficult and take up way too much of my time. Luckily, that's not true at all - anyone can grow these exotic and beautiful flowers. The key is to start off with easier to grow varieties and make sure they get the recommended amount of water, light, humidity and fertilizer for their individual type.

In this lens I will cover several easy care orchids ideal for those new to growing this species. Orchids are different from other familiar houseplants.

Unlike ferns or philodendrons, orchids grow on rocks and trees in the wild, not in the ground. In fact, planting an orchid in potting soil and treating it like a houseplant is a sure fire way to kill it.

Growing orchids is more like growing cactus than growing houseplants (with a little extra humidity). They are much tougher than you would think! I'm so glad I finally gave them a try...now I'm hooked on these exotic beauties.

Moth or Phalaenopsis Orchids

Try This Easy Care, Popular Variety

Moth orchids or Phalaenopsis orchids (Pronounced "fail-eh-NOP-sis") pictured above and to the right, are some of the most common, least expensive, easiest to care for, and longest-blooming orchids available. In fact, one bloom spike can look great for four months or more! The flowers come in shades of white, pink, red, green, yellow, orange, and purple.

You must give moth orchids (Phalaenopsis selections) sufficient light - it's important for healthy growth and flower production. Provide bright light, but no direct sun. In the home, an east, west or shaded south window. Water weekly or every other week. They will not tolerate soggy roots, so when you water the water should "whoosh" right through the potting medium.

Promote more and larger blooms by feeding moth orchids monthly with a fertilizer formulated for orchids. The plants do their best in temperatures from 60F to 80F. For most beginners Phalaenopsis / moth orchids are a most rewarding plant because they thrive in conditions found indoors. If you can grow African Violets, you can grow Phalaenopsis orchids.

Cymbidium Orchids

Long Lasting Flowers, Commonly Used in Corsages

Featuring waxy, long-lasting flowers in winter or early spring and an easy-care nature, it's no wonder why cymbidiums (also called "boat orchids") are popular indoor plants.

Cymbidium orchids flower best if given a spot in bright light. In fact, you can even bring them outdoors to a shady spot for the summer.

Water them weekly to keep them from drying out. You can get them to bloom best by fertilizing them monthly in spring and summer. My favorite formula is a 20-20-20 solution. They thrive in temperatures from 50 to 70F. Cymbidium orchids flower best if given cool temperatures -- under 50F -- for a number of weeks, which is why they are usually in bloom in winter.

These orchids are prized for their long-lasting sprays of flowers, used especially as cut flowers or for corsages. There are two main types of cymbidiums - standards and miniatures. The fantastic range of colors for the boat or cymbidium orchids include white, green, yellowish-green, cream, yellow, brown, pink, and red.

Orchid Growing Tip

A good indicator of whether your orchid is receiving too much or too little light is the color of the foliage. The leaves of your orchid should be a light bright green. Dark green leaves indicates that your orchid is not getting enough light, whereas a yellowish coloration indicates that your orchid is getting too much light.

Dendrobium Orchids

Favorites of Florists For Their Long-Lasting Blooms

Dendrobium orchids are often seen at florists in bouquets since they offer long-lasting blooms (they stay looking good for a month or more) in a wonderful array of colors from white to purple, pink, and even green.

Like most other cultivated orchids, dendrobiums are epiphytes, or air plants...they do not root in soil. Other epiphytes include mosses, ferns and bromeliads.

The Dendrobium varieties prefer a spot in medium to bright light. Water them weekly or every other week and fertilize them monthly with a plant food formulated for orchids. They do best in temperatures from 50F to 70F.

The most common types of dendrobiums keep their foliage all year and bloom on new stems.

It's not necessary to turn your home into a steaming jungle in order to grow beautiful orchids.

How To Get Orchids to Re-bloom - Great Orchid Care Tips in this Video

Oncidium Orchids

Require Less Humidity Than Other Orchids

Sometimes called dancing lady orchids, oncidiums offer lots of colorful smallish flowers in clusters of 50 or more. They commonly appear in shades of yellow, purple, red, pink, and white, often with flamboyant, contrasting markings.

Oncidium selections do best in medium to bright light. Water requirements vary with the type of plant. Generally, plants with large fleshy roots or leaves need less-frequent watering than thin-leaved or thin-rooted plants. Watering should be thorough, and the medium should dry at least halfway through the pot before watering again.

Like many houseplants, orchids not actively growing should be watered less; many species have winter rest periods. Feed them monthly in spring and summer with an orchid fertilizer. They do best in temperatures from 50 to 75F.

Some oncidium orchids are wonderfully fragrant. Oncidiums are easy growing orchids that add a cheery note to any room of the house!

Buy Orchids Online Now - Many Varieties, Healthy Plants & Great Prices

Cattleya Orchids

Fragrant, Colorful Beauties

You might think of Cattleyas as a corsage orchid, but it's also a wonderful indoor plant, as well as cut flower. Cattleyas are among the most commonly grown orchids, and their culture is often used as the basis for comparison with other types of orchids. Blooms are often fragrant and appear in a wide range of colors, from red to pink, white, yellow, and orange. Some selections feature eye-catching markings in other colors.

Cattleya orchids do best in medium or bright light. Plants should be naturally erect, without need of much staking, and of a medium olive-green color. Dark green, limp foliage indicates too little light.

Water them once a week or two, mature plants must dry out between waterings. Feed them monthly in spring and summer with an orchid fertilizer to get the biggest blooms. They do best in temperatures from 50 to 70F. Cattleya orchids can bloom twice a year and the flowers last for weeks. Make sure they get plenty of light so they rebloom quickly.

Orchid Blooming Tip

Orchids may fail to bloom if night-time temperatures are very close to daytime levels. A two-week period in spring or fall where temperatures at night are kept ten to fifteen degrees cooler than during the day should initiate flower development, assuming the plant receives adequate light.

Orchids For Dummies - eBook Version

Download in Minutes! Great Resource For Orchid Newbies

As anyone who has read Susan Orlean's "The Orchid Thief" or has seen the movie "Adaptation" knows, orchids inspire a passionate following. And their popularity is rising: according to the USDA, more than 12.7 million orchids were sold in the U.S. last year.

Brimming with black-and-white illustrations and eight pages of color photos, this friendly guide introduces would-be orchid fanciers to today's most popular and intriguing orchid varieties and shows step by step how to select healthy plants at a nursery or commercial grower, cultivate them successfully at home, promote blooms, create beautiful orchid displays, and even produce hybrids.

The author, Steven Frowine, worked with orchids professionally as a horticulturist at Hawaii's National Tropical Botanical Garden and at the Missouri Botanical Garden, where he was chairman of indoor horticulture and oversaw over 10,000 plants.

Download this resourceful ebook now:

Orchids For Dummies®

Orchid Growing Tip

Don’t rush to re-pot your plant. Most orchids like to be root-bound, even if some of the roots grow over the sides of the pot or up into the air.

In the marsh pink orchid's faces

With their coy and dainty graces,

Lure us to their hiding places--

Laugh, O murmuring Spring!

~ Sarah Foster Davis, Summer Song

What Do You Love About Orchids?

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    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 3 years ago from Arkansas USA

      What a great guide! You do make growing orchids sound easy. I think they're just beautiful - love the variety!

    • paulahite profile image

      Paula Hite 3 years ago from Virginia

      The colors! Just beautiful! I shared your lens on our G+ page today. Come and check it out!

      https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/10593843672309975630...

    • hotsquid profile image

      hotsquid 3 years ago

      Orchids are one of my favorite flowers. Thanks for sharing the tips on growing them.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 3 years ago

      Their beauty of them is very striking but they are not my favorite flower. I used to have dozens of them when I lived in Sydney but now I have turned my attention to tuberous begonias and the like. Enjoyed reading this lens and the pics are stunning, Well done.

    • davenjilli lm profile image

      davenjilli lm 3 years ago

      so beautiful!

    • profile image

      sybil watson 4 years ago

      I started out with one dendrobrium and then kept repotting each keiki as it grew and now I have five - you're right, they are really easy to grow. I haven't had as much luck with the others, but I'll keep trying.

    • FrancesWrites profile image

      FrancesWrites 4 years ago

      Lovely blooms. Good tip about the foilage colour and the light. I like the layout of your lens too, very good flow.

    • profile image

      ChocolateLily 4 years ago

      I love their elegance and colors. My mom gave me two at our wedding three years ago. The large one is the first one you mentioned, and it has seemed to do well. It even bloomed this year. The mini orchid, alas, has passed on, despite my best (not very informed) efforts. I will keep this info in mind as I care for mine. Thanks!

    • kerrylea profile image

      kerrylea 4 years ago

      Love orchids and there are so many beautiful varieties.

    • LilyBird profile image

      LilyBird 4 years ago

      My mother can grow orchids like I grow weeds. Unfortunately I did not inherit her green thumb. I love the colors of orchids and may give it a try once more with the Moth Orchids you mentioned above.

    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 4 years ago from Connecticut

      Thanks for the tips! I've purchased several Orchids but after flowers fade, I cannot get them to bloom again. Their leaves are dark green, so they are obviously not getting enough light. Time to find them a new home in another room!

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 4 years ago

      I love everything about orchids - they were the type of flowers that I got in my corsages when I went to the prom! My mom actually was growing them down in The Florida Keys.

    • HappyTom LM profile image

      Tom Christen 4 years ago from Switzerland/Ecuador

      Such a beautiful lens! So nice pictures. It is a real joy to read it and so informative! Thank you for sharing this.

    • marktplaatsshop profile image

      marktplaatsshop 4 years ago

      My orchids always re-bloom they are in the south window, and get water once a week, letting the water drip away, and I do not have green fingers, thanks for sharing this wonderful lens about orchids I enjoyed reading it.

    • profile image

      RoSelou 4 years ago

      Oncidium is also known as Dancing Lady orchid and it is one of the orchids that has a very interesting shaped. Using imagination, I think they are ladies going for a ball.

    • shana273 profile image

      shana273 4 years ago

      Orchids are beautiful!

    • Pat Goltz profile image

      Pat Goltz 4 years ago

      They're just beautiful! There is only one species of orchid in the Sonoran Desert and I have never seen it. I photograph them every chance I get, which isn't often (though they do have some really good ones at the Tucson Botanical Gardens.)

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 4 years ago

      I do grow orchids inside my sunroom and these reward me with blooms twice a year. You are right, these are easier to grow than I thought--just need the right temperature, location, planting medium and TLC.

    • MJ Martin profile image

      MJ Martin aka Ruby H Rose 4 years ago from Washington State

      I love all the different varieties and colors, beautiful lens, beautiful pictures. Thanks for liking my pink page!

    • jayavi profile image

      jayavi 4 years ago

      Orchids are beautiful. I like Oncidium Orchids we call it Kandian Dancer.

    • profile image

      laurenrich 4 years ago

      I love Orchids, but I have never beem able to grow them. Thanks for the valuable information.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      This is great info for someone who just received my first orchid plant. Thanks!

    • IamShea profile image

      IamShea 4 years ago

      Now I know why I always killed the orchids that I took home. Thanks for the info.

    • GardenIdeasHub LM profile image

      GardenIdeasHub LM 4 years ago

      I really enjoyed your article about growing orchids and I did pick up some good tips.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Oh I love this lens because I love orchids. I can add a tip. If you have orchids outside and are going away. Be aware that you will not want to leave the saucer under your pots. I forgot and had a house sitter, they did not know to remove the saucer and did a good job on watering them. BUT, they rotted, as were too wet. all I have now is 1 in reasonable condition and 1 with about two leaves on it. I could have cried but it was my own fault.

    • profile image

      WinWriter 5 years ago

      I fell in love with orchids on a visit to Hawaii. They are so beautiful and delicate looking.

    • ClassyGals profile image

      Cynthia Davis 5 years ago from Pittsburgh

      I just received an orchid as a gift and thanks to you I'll know how to care for it.

      Angel Blessings**

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 5 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      thanks for the info on oncidium orchids. i am very much interested in this particular variety.

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 5 years ago from Australia

      Orchids are such elegant flowers and I think the most appropriate indoor plant - flowering, colourful, great natural design.

    • profile image

      candidaabrahamson 5 years ago

      Very helpful lens. I love the creative and original shape of the flowers--and their tendency to re-grow only on what seems like their own whim. Perhaps I'm a little more aware of what winds blow behind those whims now, thanks to your lens. Beautiful pictures, as well.

    • MadHaps LM profile image

      MadHaps LM 5 years ago

      Nice Lens, here in Florida we have great conditions for Orchids, Perhaps Cybidiums more difficult outdoors here unless they are a warm weather Hybrid. Good info for your readers to follow. Just completed my first lens, Orchids of the Americas.

    • efriedman profile image

      efriedman 6 years ago

      Thanks for covering different types of orchids. I love their delicate, exotic beauty, long blooming period and the huge treat of getting one to bloom!

    • Addy Bell profile image

      Addy Bell 6 years ago

      I've recently developed an orchid addiction. I have two Phaleonopsis, and today I bought a large Oncidium for $15 ... I hope I can keep them all happy!

    • Kstewart22 profile image

      Kstewart22 6 years ago

      Nice lens!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      Your images they are absolutely gorgeous. This lens is blessed by a squid angel and featured at Angel Blessings 2010. Have a wonderful day :)

    • Dee Gallemore profile image

      Dee Gallemore 6 years ago

      Orchids are my favorite floral . . . all varieties. Thank you for these starter tips (and the photos are gorgeous btw ;-)

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I have orchids now but in Asia they are easy to grow. I was never successful in Canada. A tip they gave me here in Asia was not to water but soak the plant in a pail. When I did this, my orchids bloomed again. Now, I don't have to buy each time their blooms finish as I have new ones coming up. Must be different for every climate.

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 7 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      Lots of great orchid growing tips. Thanks.

    • ClassyGals profile image

      Cynthia Davis 7 years ago from Pittsburgh

      Thanks for the great tips on growing orchids, now I have a page to refer to when I decide to give orchids a try. 5*****