So you just brought home your first orchid – or possibly even more intimidating, you were given an orchid as a gift. Now what??
Many people throw out their orchid once the blooms fall off because they think it’s dying. Not so! What you should remember is that an orchid is a plant that, if cared for properly, can bloom again and again, year after year. How do you keep your phalaenopsis orchid (aka moth orchid) happy and healthy so that it will bloom again in the future? Here are a few key tips that will help you maintain your orchid’s health:
Over-watering is probably the easiest way to kill an orchid plant; a good guideline is to water no more than once every 7 to 10 days. I’ve written a separate post on how to water a phalaenopsis orchid, so be sure to read it over for more detailed information.
LET THE RIGHT LIGHT IN
Phalaenopsis orchids need bright, indirect sunlight; southern or eastern exposure is best. Orchid foliage can sunburn if it receives too much direct light. Sunburn will appear as black splotches on the leaves so if you see this, you should move the plant farther away from the window. If your house has really strong southern exposure, you may want to try hanging a light-colored or lacy curtain that filters the sunlight a bit.
Unless you maintain extreme temperatures at home, your orchid should be fine as is. Phalaenopsis orchids need temperatures around 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and a minimum of 60 to 65 degrees at night.
MODERATE HUMIDITY AT HOME
Phals flourish best in a home with humidity around 55 to 75%. If your home is very dry, you can place your orchid on a humidity tray to help keep the air around the plant moist. For more information on humidity trays, check out my post on how to make your own.
NOURISH WITH FERTILIZER
Phalaenopsis orchids should be fed about once a month at full strength or “weekly, weakly” to help encourage growing and blooming. Most garden centers and even big box home stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s carry orchid fertilizer. Schultz offers a good, readily available fertilizer that for feeding Phals as well as other types of orchids. Just remember that when you fertilize your orchid, you need to water it with plain tap water first, then pour the fertilizer mix into the pot. Pouring the fertilizer mix directly onto a dry orchid can damage the roots.
If you follow these basic tips you should be able to keep an orchid plant around for some time—maybe even years. Orchid growing at home doesn’t have to be complicated or scary!