Understanding the natural growing habitats of orchids helps us to understand where they should be happiest in our home. In nature, most orchids grow in tropical climates with lots of humidity, ventilation, and filtered light. Here are a few tips for growing orchids indoors and outdoors.
Finding the Perfect Indoor Spot
Find a window that provides good filtered light throughout the entire day. In nature, most orchids grow in trees or within the landscape under trees and get filtered light from daylight until dark. Make sure the light your orchid receives is filtered with a sheer or screen. Don’t place a plant in a window with direct light as glass can actually intensify the light and cause burn.
Orchids do well in bathrooms as they provide plenty of humidity. However, not all bathrooms have a window which is needed to ensure proper lighting. If you don't have a sunny window, grow lights are an alternative option.
Also remember that humidity levels are important when growing indoors. Your air conditioner and heater are designed to remove humidity from the air. So you will need to provide additional humidity by misting your plants daily. Another alternative is to create a water reservoir with pebbles and a shallow dish filled with water to the top of the pebbles. By setting your orchids on top of the pebbles, your plants won't sit directly in the water - but humid air will rise around the plant to provide the humidity your plants need.
Outdoors with a view
Back porches, lanais or pool areas provide a great growing environment for your orchids. Just remember to place your orchid where it won’t receive direct sunlight. Be sure to check the light levels throughout the day as shadows and light patterns may change from the morning to the afternoon.
Typically, an outdoor environment provides natural humidity, but it’s still a good idea to keep an eye on the weather. During certain times of the year, the humidity can be very low and you may need to mist your plants. Also pay close attention to the type of orchids that you are growing. For example, vandas often require daily waterings.
Another benefit to outdoor growing is natural ventilation. However, during certain times of the year, the wind may be stagnant. Most plant diseases and insects thrive in hot, stagnant areas. A simple box fan can provide the circulation needed to keep diseases and insects at bay.
While the information above offers good rules of thumb (a green thumb!), keep in mind that different types of orchids have different requirements. To learn how to care for specific orchid varieties, visit our common orchid varieties page for more details.
What potting mix is best for growing orchids? Bark, moss, lava rock? Well, the answer depends on the type of orchids you are growing, the location of your orchids, and how you care for them.
For example, if you're in an area with a very dry climate, you should select a mix that retains moisture. If you grow your orchids indoors and tend to over water your plants, you will want potting mix that drains well. So how do you know which mix retains moisture and which ones do not?
First, let’s look at the ingredients found in orchid potting mixes and their specific traits:
Of course, we don't expect you to find these individual ingredients and make your own orchid mix. Thankfully, our head grower applied his many years of research and experience to develop our line of Better-Gro Orchid Potting Mixes. The following products are the exact same mixes that we use in our greenhouses to grow thousands of plants each year.
Improper Light Levels
The right amount of light is essential for maintaining plant growth and encouraging re-flowering of your orchid.
High light levels lead to leaves that are yellowish in color and in some cases can cause scorching of the leaves. This scorching first appears as white patches on uppermost leaves, which eventually turn brown. Extreme cases of scorching can kill the plant! Yellowish leaves caused by high light levels are easily remedied by moving the plant to a slightly shadier spot.
Low light levels typically won’t kill your plant, but it is the most common reason people fail to re-bloom their orchids. In this scenario, plant leaves are typically dark green and the plant fails to re-flower during its normal blooming season. The ideal leaf color should be an even, medium-green. Slowly increase the light level over a couple months by introducing the plant to slightly brighter conditions, until the desired leaf color is recognized. In Phalaenopsis, low light levels can also lead to soft, floppy elongated leaves.
Most orchid problems are preventable.
There really is no magic to growing orchids successfully; just some preparation and care is all you need.
For more information about proper air movement and light levels, watch our video below.
There are several factors that lead to poor orchid growth. Correctly identifying the source of the problem is key to understanding how to treat it and avoid it in the future. In this post, we’ll discuss the most common issues that arise from improper watering and feeding levels.
Overwatering and Underwatering
Not too much and not too little - but just the right amount of water will make your orchids very happy. But how do you know how much is just right?
Over-watering is the most common problem associated with poorly performing orchids. Symptoms can look very similar to those of under-watered plants because it often rots the roots and therefore prevents them from taking up adequate amounts of water.
The first thing to do is to examine the roots of the plant. If the roots are rotted (soft, black and soggy) then chances are the plant is being over-watered. If the potting media is fresh and the pot size is not too large, then you will need to cut back on the frequency of your watering. Also, because the rot is often associated with a bacteria or fungus, you may need to drench the plant or pot with a good fungicide or bactericide.
Under-watered plants often exhibit limp or withered leaves and withered stems or bulbs. This happens because the plant is not getting enough water to keep the leaves, bulbs, or stems turgid.
If the pot is not too small for the plant and the roots are in good health (white and firm), then this is easily remedied by watering the plant more frequently. Remember that Cattleyas and Dendrobiums like to dry between waterings. Once the potting media dries out, you should water the orchid promptly. Do not let the orchid stay dry for a prolonged period.
Also, realize that larger pots tend to stay wet longer than smaller pots. One trick to learn is to lift the pot up when it is ready to be watered and note the weight of the pot. Now, water your plant thoroughly and let it drain for 5 minutes, then lift the pot up and again note the weight. The difference in pot weight is noticeable and, over time, this can be a quick and easy way to tell when your plant requires watering.
Within the Orchidaceae family, there are flowers of all shapes, sizes, colors -- and fragrances. Many orchid species have strong scents, which range from putrid to pleasant. Here’s a look at why orchids have such an array of aromas, along with some species you might want to smell and others that are quite offensive.
Fragrances Help to Attract Pollinators
In the wild, orchids’ scents help the plants attract pollinators. Often an orchid’s scent is tailored for a specific pollinator:
Sweet Smelling Orchids
There are many sweet-smelling orchid species in a number of different genera. The following are just some of the delightfully fragrant orchids grown by Better-Gro:
Foul-Smelling Orchids Smell Like Decaying Matter
Although you’ll rarely hear them discussed and almost never find them in a mainstream nursery, there are a number of offensively smelling orchids. Some of the worst smelling orchids are in the Bulbophyllum genus:
As mentioned, these orchids aren’t trying to deter predators with their scents, although they may send you running away. They’re trying to attract insects that thrive on decaying matter.
Orchids Smell Best in the Morning and Evening
Most fragrant orchids smell strongest in the morning or evening, when the pollinators they’re trying to attract are most active. Many species give off their scents in the morning, but some, like Lady of the Night, try to attract nocturnal moths and other insects by saving their scents for the evening.
Additionally, orchids will often smell stronger on warm, sunny days than cool, cloudy ones. The higher temperatures and sun heat up the plants’ oils, causing them to put off a stronger fragrance.
Orchids are fascinating plants with diverse flowers. To learn more about different kinds of orchids and their blooms, as well as how to care for them, we invite to peruse our website.
Happy Blooming from Better-Gro!
Phalaenopsis orchids are beautiful and prolific. If left alone, each spike produces five to 10 blooms at a time, and each flower can last up to three months. With a little care, however, you can coax even more flowers out of a Phal. Here’s how you can enjoy almost never-ending blooms on a Phalaenopsis.
Check Your Phalaenopsis After Blooming
Before trying to entice a Phalaenopsis spike to produce more blooms, you need to check the plant and the spike’s health. First, only healthy, green spikes should be coaxed into flowering a second time. If there is any yellowing on the spike, it’s drying out and will eventually die. It should be cut back to the base, even if just the tip is yellowing, to let the plant focus on developing its root system and growing leaves. The orchid should flower the following season, within 12 months, and its flowers will likely be larger because the roots and leaves will be more developed.
Second, only spikes that don’t have any more buds on them should be trimmed. Occasionally, a spike will cease growing and flower, only to grow again and produce more buds. If there are more buds on the tip of the spike, leave it alone until they finished flowering.
Cutting Back a Phalaenopsis Spike
As long as a spike is healthy and has no more flowers, you can try to coax more flowers out of it by trimming it back. Instead of cutting it all the way back to the leaves, leave two nodes on the spike. Cut it about ½ inch above the second of the two nodes. (Nodes are the little bumps on the stem.)
Most of the time, if the plant is healthy, and conditions are right, one of the two nodes will produce a side shoot. This side shoot will begin flowering within eight to 12 weeks. Although these flowers may not be quite as large as the initial group of blooms, they will still be beautiful and last for a long time.
In some cases, the node will form a keiki, which is a little plant. Keikis must remain attached to the mother plant for two years, at which point they will begin to develop roots and can be planted on their own. During these two years, however, a keiki will send up spikes of its own, which will produce flowers.
Timing Your Trimmings
As long as a Phalaenopsis is healthy, you should be able to continue cutting its spike back to produce more side shoots and additional flowers. If a Phal has more than one spike, timing your trimmings can produce virtually never-ending blooms, because flowers can last for up to three months, and side shoots will produce blooms within two to three months.
Keep in mind that when you keep flowering on the same spike, it will slow down the plant’s growth. It takes a lot of energy and nutrients for an orchid to grow a spike and flower. Just like people need a nap after exerting a lot of energy, your orchid will need a rest period after flowering to stay healthy. So, be sure to strike a balance between continual growth and rest periods.
Watering and Feeding Your Phalaenopsis
Between blooms, you should continue to water and feed your Phalaenopsis as normal. Its soil should be kept moist, although not soggy, and it should be fed twice a month with an orchid-specific fertilizer. If you’re trying to coax more blooms out of your Phal, alternating feedings between Orchid Plus® Plant Food and Orchid Better Bloom Plant Food will help maintain a healthy plant and produce beautiful blooms.
Happy Blooming from Better-Gro!
It's likely that you have stopped to admire a Vanda at your local garden center or even seen them growing in a greenhouse or your neighborhood. These eye-catching orchids certainly attract attention. Less common than Phalaenopsis and Cattleya orchids, Vandas require slightly different care than other orchid varieties, but they are well worth the effort!
Vandas are showy, long-lasting, frequent bloomers. They are very rewarding to grow and often times fragrant. Prized for their intense colors, they are commonly available in hot pink, orange, red and purple. The Vanda genus also includes a species with vibrant blue flowers called Vanda coerulea or the Blue Orchid (shown right). Unlike many other orchids that bloom just once a year, healthy Vandas can bloom throughout the year.
Leaves and Types
Vandas are different from Cattleyas and Oncidiums in that they don’t have pseudobulbs. Water is retained in the plants' leaves which is why they need to be watered more frequently.
Vandas come in three types and are easily distinguishable by looking at the plant's leaves.
Their natural habitat ranges from India and the Himalayas to China, the Philippines and New Guinea. A few species are found in the Western Pacific Islands and Queensland, Australia.
Most species in the Vanda genus are epiphytes, meaning they grow on other plants without harming the host plant. By clinging to trees, Vandas have access to more sunlight versus growing on the forest floor, while still being shielded from direct sunlight by the tree canopy. In addition to growing in trees, some Vandas are lithophytic which means the grow on rocks, and some are terrestrial (grow on the ground).
Vandas come in many sizes. Some are tiny and can fit in the palm of your hand whereas others can grow up to 6 feet tall.
Individual flowers range in size from less than an inch to four inches. They grow in clusters with up to 15 flowers per stem. Vandas are easily recognizable from other orchids due to their long, rambling roots that enable the plant to cling to trees. Often times, you will find Vanda roots growing two to four feet below the plant. Vandas are unique in that they do not grow in traditional orchid plant media like fir bark and charcoal.
Caring for Vandas
If you are interested in learning more about the ideal conditions for growing Vandas, please visit our Vanda Care Instructions on the Better-Gro website. There you will find recommendations for temperature, light, watering, feeding and humidity.
We hope you will consider bringing home your own Vanda in the future. Please send us your photos on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #BetterGroBlooms.
Happy Blooming from Better-Gro!
These plants have the same needs as their larger counterparts: humidity, light, and warm temperatures.
Water: Because of the smaller pot size, often times they will require less water than a traditional phal. We suggest that you water once weekly, making sure the pot drains entirely through the drainage holes. If you keep the plant indoors, you may need to lightly mist your mini to add humidity. Or, you can place the orchid pot in a container of water and pebbles making sure the pot is sitting on top of the rocks and not directly in the water.
Temperature: Your orchid will enjoy the same temperatures that you do in your home. Keep your plant in a location that ranges between 65 and 80° F.
Light: Place your mini in a bright location but avoid direct sunlight which may burn the leaves. Typically, southern or eastern facing windows are best.
Plant Food: Use a water soluble, balanced plant food designed for orchids. Follow the care instructions on the label.
Like their larger-sized cousins, mini phals will often bloom two to three times a year. We hope you enjoyed this mini tutorial. 😍
Happy Blooming from Better-Gro
It is such a joy to bring home a new orchid. They brighten up your home and garden, and some varieties stay in bloom for up to three months. Whether you have just a few plants or an extensive collection, here are several steps you should take when bringing home a new orchid from the garden center, grocery store or local orchid show.
Check the Moisture Level of the Potting Media
Stores do their best to properly care for plants, but under or over watering does occur. If the plant feels heavy from water and the potting media is cool to the touch, wait a few days before watering to allow the excess moisture to be absorbed. If the potting media is dry and/or the leaves look limp, give the plant a good watering, but make sure the water flows through and exits the pot.
Look for Bugs
Your new orchid may have left the greenhouse free from bugs, but once exposed to other plants in the store, some critters may decide to move to a new host plant. In addition to inspecting the plant in the store, it is a good idea to do an additional check at home. Some bugs are almost impossible to see with the naked eye, so a simple light rinse of the leaves with water will likely wash away the bugs. If you do happen to notice a small spot of scale or mealy bugs, you can eliminate these pests by wiping the leaves with a cotton ball soaked in 70% isopropyl alcohol.
If you have a collection of orchids, it’s best to keep your new orchid in a different location for at least a week. This separation will allow you to look for bugs, fungus or bacteria on the new plant before exposing your existing healthy plants to potential issues.
Remove Netting and Plastic Wraps
Growers will often use netting to prevent the potting media from spilling out. Be sure to remove the net or tape once you have brought your plant home to avoid new growth from getting trapped and damaged.
Additionally, if your plant has a thin colorful plastic or foil wrap surrounding the pot, it is best to remove these wraps. Orchids are epiphytic and their roots need air flow. These wraps limit that flow and trap water which could cause the plant to rot. If you want to use a decorative pot while your plant is in bloom, simply place the orchid's plastic or terracotta pot inside your preferred pot, making sure the water can drain.
Repot After the Blooms Have Dropped
Sphagnum moss is used by many growers to keep plants from drying out during shipping and while in the store. After your orchid has finished blooming, we recommend repotting your orchid in fresh potting mix. If you repot while your orchid is in bloom, the blossoms may prematurely drop.
We hope these simple suggestions will help you the next time you bring home your next orchid.
Happy Blooming from Better-Gro!
You’ve waited months and carefully nurtured your orchid. You protected your plant from the cold winter months and fertilized it with care. Like a proud parent, your excitement builds as the first spike begins to shoot out from the base of the plant. You pat yourself on the back when not just one bud forms, but multiple buds form along the spike. The anticipation builds only to end in disappointment as your tender buds shrivel before they reach maturity.
Thrips: Tiny Pests
Sadly, this misfortune can occur with first time orchid owners as well as experienced collectors. One likely culprit is a small insect called Thrips. Thrips commonly attack buds and new growth on many types of orchids including Vandas, Dendrobiums, Cattleyas, Phalaenopsis and Epidendrums.
Almost impossible to see with the naked eye, these tiny hemi-metabolic insects range in size from 1/16 to 3/8 inch and are characteristically cigar-shaped.
They also attack many other types of plants including edibles such as beans, carrots, squash and other flowering plants like gladioli and roses. Despite their tiny size, thrips can ruin your flowering season.
Pest problems do occasionally occur with orchids. Correctly identifying the source of the problem is key to understanding how to treat your orchids and eliminate the pest. In this video, we’ll show you examples of insect problems with orchids and discuss how to remedy the most common problems.
Thrips commonly feed in large groups. Most often, they attack buds and new growth, sucking the moisture out of these fragile parts. Blooms may shrivel and drop before opening.
Flowers that make it to maturity may be spotted, streaked, shriveled or discolored. If you suspect you have thrips, try gently blowing into an open flower and look for tiny green or white insects.
It is important to address thrips quickly. Besides damaging your buds and new growth, they may also help spread viruses throughout your collection due to their ability to quickly travel between plants.
Hopefully these tips will keep thrips from ruining your current and future buds and flowers.