Indoor Orchid Care

Top Tips for Indoor Orchid Care

Growing orchids indoors can seem like a daunting task for an aspiring horticulturist, but indoor orchid care really is not as tricky as it seems.  Many individuals who try to grow orchids cannot seem to get the hang of it, they become frustrated, and their orchids die.  However, given the proper light, temperature, and humidity, you too can grow these exotic beauties.

The main concern with indoor orchid care and the most common source of problems for orchid growers is humidity.  Orchids require high humidity, which can be achieved several ways.  First, you can increase the humidity in the room by using a humidifier for the room.  This is not always feasible, though, and they are somewhat costly, so another alternative is using a waterproof tray filled with gravel.  Add water to the tray so that the water is below the level of the surface of the gravel, and place the pot on top of the tray.  Take care not to sit the pot directly in the water, though, as the orchids cannot tolerate prolonged periods of water on their root systems.  As the water evaporates from the tray, the humidity is increased in the direct vicinity of the tray.  The orchid can take in this water from the air.  It is also advisable to mist the leaves of the orchid regularly with a fine spray of water.

Orchids prefer 12 to 14 hours per day of light.  The best place to grow an orchid is on a brightly lit windowsill that has been screened from the direct sun.  A sheer curtain will work well to filter the light.  Many orchids will also grow under artificial lights.  You should use no less than four 40-watt wide spectrum fluorescent plant bulbs.  The lights should be hung approximately six inches above the tops of the plants, and the lights should be left on 12 to 14 hours each day.

Temperature requirements for indoor orchid care vary according to the individual type of orchid.  Generally, average house temperatures will suffice for orchids.  Orchids from higher elevations require minimum nighttime temperatures of 45° to 50°F, and those from lower elevations require minimum nighttime temperatures of 58° to 60°F.  Daytime temperatures should be a minimum of 10-15 degrees higher during the winter, and they should be considerably higher during the summer months.

The feeding and watering requirements of your orchids are also very dependent on the individual type of orchid you have.  Epiphytes, which include cattleyas, oncidiums, dendrobiums, and vandas, should be soaked well with water and allowed to dry out completely between waterings.  Orchids should never sit in water, though.  Water them well with warm water (preferably rain water) and allow the plants to drain.  Other orchids including paphiopedilums and cymbidiums should never be allowed to dry out.  After the orchids have been in the same growing medium for one year, you will need to feed them with a liquid fertilizer made for orchids about once every two weeks during the summer growing season.  Water the plants before applying to fertilizer to avoid burning the plant’s roots.

Many orchids should also be allowed a resting period that is much like the dry season in their native habitat.  During this time, usually in late autumn or early winter, you should water the plants only enough to keep their pseudobulbs (the bulbous enlargements of the stems) from shriveling, and keep the temperature and humidity lower than the rest of the year.  Do not be alarmed if the leaves fall off of your orchid; this is normal during the resting period.  When growth begins again, return the plant to its normal place and resume regular waterings.

Indoor orchid care is not as difficult a task as many make it out to be.  With a little attention to detail, you will have an abundance of these special, unique flowers to enjoy.