I went out of town for five days this past week to visit my sister and nieces in Austin, so I had to abandon my orchids for the first time in awhile. Because I’ve gotten used to checking on them daily, leaving them made me a little nervous. I wanted to make sure my orchids didn’t dry out too badly; a bunch of them have aerial roots that I mist about once a day. What many orchid growers recommend if your home is on the dry side are humidity trays [paid link]. A humidity tray is a shallow dish lined with stones or pebbles and filled with water almost to the top of the stones; the plant sits ON TOP OF the stones and reaps the benefit of the water as it evaporates. You just have to make sure that the plant is not sitting IN the water – something that can lead to root rot. More details on humidity trays can be found here.
Phalaenopsis orchids are the most readily available orchids and tend to be an orchid newbie’s first; however, many of these beauties don’t come with instructions. Proper watering is key to maintaining a healthy and happy orchid plant, so I’m here to offer up some advice on how to water a Phalaenopsis orchid.
First, let me explain the issues with improper watering. When an orchid is over-watered its roots will rot, which prevents the orchid from absorbing water and nutrients; as a result, the plant will die a lot sooner than you’d like. Conversely, under-watering dehydrates the plant and slows its growth, meaning the plant won’t offer up as many of those beautiful blooms. And the blooms are why we buy orchids, right?!
Most orchid nerds will tell you that you should repot any brand new orchid almost as soon as you bring it home. This is recommended so that you can take a good look at the orchid’s root system and cut away any rotten roots (see my post on identifying healthy vs. unhealthy roots). Conversely, you may find a really nice set of roots like these:
You may have also heard not to repot an orchid while it’s in bloom. So, what exactly are you supposed to do with these two conflicting pieces of advice when you bring home a new orchid that is in bloom, like my latest orchid purchase?
Roots are the basis of any orchid plant. It’s very important for your orchid to have a robust root system; the orchid takes in water and nutrients through its roots which in turn allows the whole plant to grow, thrive, and ultimately put out those beautiful blooms.
First I’ll take a moment to show you what roots look like on the most common orchid, the Phalaenopsis (aka moth orchid). Phal roots, when healthy and moist, are a nice green color, like so:
Are you looking for a last-minute gift for your loved one today? Consider an orchid. Sure, a dozen red roses are THE thing to get your Valentine, but roses wilt and die so quickly. Orchids can last for years if you treat them right – and they aren’t nearly as hard to care for as some people think.
Stop by your local Trader Joe’s, Home Depot, Ikea, or florist and they will likely have some phalaenopsis orchids to choose from. Phals are the easiest orchids to grow in the home. Bonus: they can be a whole lot cheaper than a bunch of roses! TJs, for example, sells many beautiful orchids for under $20. I got this pretty fuchsia phal at Ikea for $15 last spring and it has already produced side shoots and rebloomed for me:
Share the orchid love on Valentine’s Day and you’ll be rewarded for months (and maybe years) to come!
I’ve been obsessing about orchids for about a year now and I’m still a total newbie. I love orchids so much that I decided to start a blog about them – and here we are. I’ll be sharing photos (my own & others’), information, links, things I’ve learned, and stories about my own orchids as I try my very hardest not to kill them.
A little bit about me: I’ve been living in NYC since December 2002. Currently, I live in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn and have been in my apartment for a little over a year. My apartment gets really great southern exposure so it has been a good environment for growing orchids. Right now, I am the proud owner of nine orchids (I’ll post photos & info about each of these separately):
Five phalaenopsis – two from Ikea, one from Home Depot, one from Trader Joe’s, one from a vendor at the Union Square Greenmarket (I *think* it’s Fantastic Gardens, need to find out for sure)
One oncidium from TJs
Two dendrobium – one from TJs, one from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
One odontoglossom from the BBG
My kill count is two, my first orchids ever (both phals). 🙁 I don’t think either of them were healthy when I bought them, because I didn’t know what to look for when buying orchids. I’ve learned a lot since then and most of my orchids seem to be doing well now!
I’m really looking forward to writing about orchids and sharing my passion for them. I hope you enjoy this blog and I’d love to hear your orchid stories in the comments.