Orchids grow in all types of habitats around the world except for in the extreme cold. The richest concentration of different varieties is found in the Himalayan Mountains in Nepal. While the tropics contain the largest majority of orchids, Oceania, Europe and temperate Asia contain 40 to 70 genera, while North America contains 20 to 60.
The rule of thumb for growing an orchid indoors is to mimic its natural environment. It is extremely important to know the natural habitat of the one that you purchase. An orchid that grows in a bog in Ohio will have completely different growing requirements than the epiphytes found in the tropics.
For the majority of indoor orchids, an east or west facing window that provides bright, indirect sunlight is best. Most varieties can only handle a maximum of one hour of sunlight per day. If too much direct sun is provided, the leaves will turn yellow. To compensate, more moisture and air circulation are required.
Indoor gardeners should be careful not to provide too much heat during the winter months, particularly in the evening. If the temperature is too high, the orchids’ rate of transpiration during the evening will be elevated, using up more energy than the plant produces during the day. Overheating during winter nights is a sure-fire way to kill an orchid.
Most orchids prefer to have turbulent air about the roots, meaning that soil should be loose, well-drained and not compacted. If there is insufficient air at the roots, the growing medium will begin to rot due to excess moisture, leading to fungal growth and diseases. If the orchid is an epiphyte that naturally grows on tree trunks or rocks, no soil is needed.
High humidity is the normal condition for orchids that naturally grow in the tropical rainforest, so if your orchid stems from there, frequent misting is advised. To increase evaporation near your orchids, you could line a shallow tray with stones and fill the spaces with water.
Orchids like to be drenched and then not watered again until they have almost completely dried out. You will know that it is time to water again if you stick your finger in the soil and the top 1/2 inch to 1 inch is completely dry. A general guideline is to water them once per week during the summer and once per month during the winter. Knowing your orchid’s natural habitat will help you to determine the correct frequency of watering. If your orchid is naturally found in a marsh or bog, frequent watering may be required.
Indoor orchids should only be fertilized during the active growing season of the summer months, not during the winter dormant period. A weak solution of a powder or liquid fertilizer may be given every two weeks.
One of the biggest mistakes that people make is treat the indoor orchid as if it is a precious piece of porcelain. Many people worry and obsess about the amount of water to give and the light requirements. If the orchid is not doing well in one location, try another. By just following the above simple rules, an orchid can last a lifetime.
What’s the longest one of your orchids has lasted? Leave a comment below and tell us about it.
For more information about growing orchids, check out these orchid care laws.