Orchid Care Tips
These are general guidelines for orchid care. Different types of orchids require slightly different care practices so please see the American Orchid Society for more specific care information by orchid variety.
Filtered (typically 30 -50 % shaded). In a home, your orchids will prefer an area near a window, but not in direct mid-day sunlight. The foliage of your orchid will show you if it is in the proper light setting.
A healthy orchid plant has foliage that is light to medium green with the new leaves showing a soft sheen. Too much light will cause the leaves to look pale or yellowish-green, and too low light will result in dark green leaves and the orchid will not flower well, if at all.
Ideal Temperature for Orchid Growing
Between 55 – 85 degrees is best for most orchids, which is why the thrive so well in our Hawaiian climate!
Orchid Watering Tips
Generally water your orchid 2-3 times week. If your plant is outside, rainfall may provide some or all it’s water needs, so be conscious of the weather patterns.
- Allow the plant to moderately-to-fully dry out in between watering.
- Miltonia, Paphiopdilem, Intergeneric Oncidinae and Zygopetalum and Masdavallias do not like to dry out completely in between watering and will require more frequent watering in warmer weather.
- Cattleyas and Dendrobiums like to dry out completely in between watering.
- Water your orchid early in the morning. Do not water any orchids at night, as that will increase the chance of root decay from staying too wet.
- Avoid overwatering as the constant wetness will cause the roots to rot. Test the soil media with your figure and if it feels wet, it is still wet and you should wait one more day.
- The best place to water your plant is in the kitchen sink. Use lukewarm water (do not use salt softened or distilled water) and water your plant for about 15 seconds and be sure to thoroughly wet the media. Then allow the plant to drain for about 15 minutes. It may appear dry but it has had enough water. After the plants are watered, they should be placed so that the pots do not stand in water.
How To Fertilize Orchids
Orchids need to be fed regularly but lightly. Orchids will do far better with too little fertilizer than with too much. Water with a well balanced, liquid, foliar fertilizer such as 20-20-20 at least once a month.
The “weakly, weekly” approach works well, applying a dilute (1/4 strength) fertilizer once a week. Also, it is best not to fertilize a completely dry plant as the fertilizer can burn the dry roots. Water first then follow with fertilizer solution.
A slow-release granular fertilizer can also be applied 1-2 times a year, again in a light dose. To granular feed hanging or mounted orchids, small sacks of the granular fertlizer can be made from old panty hose or burlap cloth and tied near the orchids roots.
Keeping a careful eye on your orchids is your best practice for identifying pest issues while they can be easily treated.
Larger pests such as slugs, snails, and caterpillers should be picked off by hand if found. Organic products such as Sluggo can be periodically used to keep slugs and snails at bay.
Small pests like whitefly, scale, mites, and aphids can effectively be treated using environmentally gentle products such as horticultural oil, neem and mineral oils, and insecticidal soaps. These solutions are only effective while they are still wet and must contact the pests, so are best used in frequent applications to reduce insect populations to below self-sustainable levels.
Ants can be treated with products such as Terro (sugar bait) or Amdro (food bait pellets).
Orchid plants should only need repotting once every few years. The main reason to repot will be if the potting mix (typically bark chips and perlite/cinders) breaks down. This will cause more moisture retention and a loss of air circulation (which can cause root rot.)
To check the bark chip media press a piece between two fingers, and if it is spongy feeling to the touch (or crumbles appart) and holding water, the plant should be repotted in fresh media.
The other reason to repot is if a plant is outgrowing its container.
In the first case, a larger pot may not be required, simply replace the growing medium. In the second case, the plant may need dividing or may be shifted into a larger pot. Fresh media should always be used.
When selecting a larger pot, base the pot size on the plant’s root system, not it’s foliage. You do not want to overpot your orchid.
Mounting Orchids On Trees
Orchids are Epiphytes (or “Air plants”) and their natural habitat is to grow on tree trunks in rainforest conditions, so mounting orchids on living trees (or palms!) in your yard is a great way to add some beauty and fun to your landscape.
In Hawaii, many popular varieties of orchids will do just as well (or better!) mounted in a tree as they do potted. Root-rot is never a problem if the orchid is mounted on a tree due to the naturally occuring drainage.
Selecting a place with the appropriate lighting conditions is key, as some varieties (especially Dendrobiums or Vandas) can handle more sunlight (i.e. on a solitary palm trunk), while others such as Cattleyas or Phaleonopsis do best with more shade (i.e. in a tree branch nook with filtered light.)
To mount an orchid, you will need material to tie the orchid in place and a bit of media to assist in moisture retention when the plant is newly mounted. Burlap cloth or twine works well for a tie and will naturally biodegrade on it’s own, or a plastic plant tie product can also be used (and then removed later once the orchid roots have attached to the tree).
Spagnum moss or coconut husk fibers work wonderfully for a mounting media. Wet the mounting media first and wrap loosely around the upper roots of the orchid, then tie on to the tree.
If in a more sunny location, the orchid will require more frequent waterings that it would of in its pot, due to the excellent drainage it now has! Follow the same fertilizing requirements as listed above.
Eventually the orchid will attach itself to the tree, and if the location you selected is ideal it will eventually grow into a very large specimen and award you with large and/or multiple sprays of flowers at a time!