Are you looking for a houseplant with colorful aesthetics and a pleasant fragrance? Then, an orchid plant would be an excellent choice. However, the work behind keeping an orchid alive indoors can be overwhelming, especially if you aren't informed. Accordingly, understanding how to keep an orchid alive indoors will help you tame its elusive nature.
Nonetheless, understanding the care process doesn't mean bypassing or creating shortcuts. Notably, orchids cannot be left to themselves for long periods. But with the right conditions, you'll be proud to own an orchid.
Having identified that orchids require a bit of pampering, here is a detailed guide on optimal orchid care. Therefore, if you are new to this houseplant, you don't have to go through the frustration of killing a few before mastering. Overall, orchids can be the right houseplants for home decoration with the right care.
Understand the Orchids
Scientifically, any flowering plant with fused female and male reproductive parts can be termed as an orchid plant. In line with this broad categorization, there are numerous orchid species. You will find these flowering plants in different habitats, including tropical and subtropical regions.
Ideally, orchids are categorized as either terrestrial for species that thrive in soil or epiphytic for species that thrive under tree canopies. Some of the most popular species to have as indoor plants belong to the epiphytic group, such as Cymbidium, Oncidium, Cattleya and Phalaenopsis orchids. For instance, the moth orchid (Phalaenopsis) is common in most homes.
Such specifics are important for insights on the best indoor orchid care. As such, tamed orchids tend to do better than those in the wild since you will be able to maintain their delicate balance at home. This premise takes us back to the earlier mentioned need for attentive care.
Generally, these plants are splendid to grow indoors, especially when one learns how to keep an orchid alive. In appreciation of these beautiful indoor plants, here are tips to make their care possible and rewarding.
1. Adequate Light
Notably, orchids thrive under bright but indirect light. So, in essence, your orchid should not be exposed to direct or intense sunlight but still requires a lot of bright light. Primarily, you want the leaves to receive enough light while ensuring the leaf temperature remains cool.
On the contrary, there are risks of exposing an orchid to direct sunlight, especially the afternoon kind. For instance, intense sunlight might cause wilting of flowers and the burning of leaves. This delicate balance brings us to the next question.
Which is the Best Place to Keep an Orchid?
Ideally, an indoor orchid should be placed on a window that receives mild direct sun. In most homes, an east-facing window is the best area for orchids since it gets the morning light. Alternatively, you can also place your orchid on the windows facing west or south. However, this alternative placement will require some shielding from the harsh noon and afternoon UV rays.
If unsure about which direction your windows face, apply a sheer curtain for all-day safety. Avoid moving your orchid to a dominant shadow even as you seek indirect light. The main idea is to provide dappled access to sunlight, as would be the case in the natural setting.
How Do you Tell Your Orchid is Getting Enough Light?
Knowing where to place your orchid works better with plant monitoring. Specifically, dark leaves indicate inadequate sunlight, while red hue leaves are a sign of too much light. According to the American Orchid Society, light-happy orchids present bright olive-green leaves and upright growths.
Also, direct light might cause the leaves to be warm. In such cases, use a sheer to filter the light's intensity. Therefore, you can check for visible signs or touch your orchid's leaves to consider appropriate action.
2. Place in Warm Room
Another important factor to prioritize is the temperature of the room you place your orchid. This factor also requires a careful balance between hot and cold. Orchids thrive in warm environments with temperature ranges of 60-850F. These temperatures correspond to humidity levels between 40% and 60%.
Relating to indoor contexts, ensure your orchid doesn't touch the windowpane. If not careful, orchids on a windowsill might not bloom due to the fluctuating temperatures. Another place to avoid placing your orchid is near appliances like a radiator or refrigerator. The reason for this is to avoid drying out its leaves with the heat produced by these appliances.
Also, ensure your orchid is in a humid location, as is the case in a natural setting. For example, orchids under tree canopies enjoy the humidity caused by rain trapped within tree bark. For house purposes, you can plant Sphagnum moss together with your orchid for controlled humidity. We have suggested Sphagnum moss since it dries out the slowest, unlike clay pellets or coconut chips.
Ideally, the humidity around a kitchen sink or a bathroom can help your orchid thrive. Nevertheless, direct steam might be too much and ensure to moderate the intensity. You can achieve correct humidity in dry areas by applying gentle mist using plain water.
3. Prune Spent Blooms
Simply put, cut faded or dead stocks. According to the North of England Orchid Society, cutting spent blooms will help your orchid renew quickly and flower again. For a better understanding, orchids produce flowers on stalks that extend from a plant's base. After flowers fade, the supporting stalks die or turn brown.
Primarily, you should aim to maintain the orchid's stalks green. This will give your plant a chance to produce more blooms within two to three months. Regarding pruning, there are two effective methods:
- Prune the entire spike to the base of the leaves, and you can be sure your orchid will develop another strong stem with more glorious flowers within one year.
- Alternatively, you can prune a dead bloom above the swollen bud (first node) below the surface. This second pruning method will ensure the remaining stem produces flowers within 8-12 weeks.
Pruning might seem like extermination, but it's another chance to grow for orchids. Cutting the spent stems, stalks or blooms redirects energy to creating a new flower. If you don't prune, your orchid will pour unnecessary energy into maintaining the stem. Therefore, pruning gives your orchid a chance to become more glorious.
4. Water and Feed Them Right
A healthy orchid only requires watering once a week, but you can give it another day if unsure. So see, it's not as tedious as you'd think. However, watering regimes may vary across different types of orchids. For instance, the Phalaenopsis orchid thrives when kept nearly dry in between the waterings. Nevertheless, for any indoor orchid, it is best to supply it with room temperature or lukewarm water.
Moreover, watering also varies across different seasons. As such, water more frequently during summer and less during winter. Also, on sunny days ensure you water before noon. Early watering gives your orchid time to dry as the sun shines, but this might be impossible during winter.
Tips on Right Watering
- Always water under the orchid leaves to avoid getting its crown wet. Ensure you dry the water even with a paper towel if such happens. Keeping the crown wet for long may lead to crown rot, eventually killing your orchid.
- Ensure your plant isn't exposed to sitting water by ensuring your orchid pot has drainage.
- Also, as you water orchids, use the technique of running water over the plant's roots to flush out any salts. While flushing, we recommend using rainwater and room temperature water while avoiding distilled water or salt-based water. Flushing or leaching excess salts will prevent harmful build-up that negatively affects the roots.
- While avoiding water retention, only water your plant when its bark is approaching dryness or is dry.
As part of how to keep an orchid alive, ensure it is supplied with the right nutrients. Like other houseplants, growing orchids can use the nutrient boost from fertilizers. Ideally, orchids work best with too little rather than too much fertilizer. You can add a weak fertilizer dose to your orchid weekly. This regime is best when these plants aren't blooming.
In particular, use a mixture of 20-20-20 fertilizer with water on growing orchids. The specific weak dose for orchids should have a quarter strength of all present fertilizer elements. During the growing season, apply this mixture during regular watering sessions throughout spring and fall.
Furthermore, skip using a fertilizer every fourth week and use plain water to wash away any salt build-up. Also, fertilizer application is not recommended during blooming or when plants are unhealthy or stressed. However, most fertilizers applicable to these plants are oriented more towards blooming than growth. A good fertilizer to use is the MSU Orchid fertilizer with the right balance of elements.
5. Repot on Occasion
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Understanding how to keep an orchid alive is also anchored in repotting when necessary. Even before we get to replanting, you should never plant an orchid in soil. Preferably, use bark chips for the potting mix since they retain some nutrients and moisture while freeing excess water. When it comes to terrestrial plants, you will need a fine potting mixture with excellent drainage.
After the initial potting, the bark chips decay over 1 to 3 years, making replanting necessary. Considering that many orchids prefer to be potted, you can make another pot mix to plant again. However, before you repot an orchid, rinse your pot to wash off old barks and any mushy or dried roots. Also, water your plant to get rid of the old pot mix.
Additionally, cut off any withered or dead roots before replanting. When ready, repot your orchid in moistened pot mix of bark chips or moss. At this step, ensure that the bottom leaves sit above the potting soil of bark chips or moss and 0.5 inches under the pot rim. Finally, keep orchids alive after replanting, by ensuring the potting mix and the pot have adequate drainage.
Frequently Asked Questions About Keeping an Orchid Alive
1. How long do orchids live?
Indeed orchids are not immortal but can live between 15 to 20 years. Over the years of replanting and adequate care, you will know your orchid is giving way through fewer blossoms and weaker stems. Natural fungi and bacteria contribute to this progressive weathering due to a declining immune system. Therefore, understanding how to keep an orchid alive will help you maximize its bloom lifespan.
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