Growing Indoors

The best reference for how to grow an orchid is to look at how it grows in its natural habitat. There is tremendous variation in the growing habits of different genera of orchids and there is also variation in the conditions of our homes where we hope to cultivate them.

The questions to ask yourself are:

  • What temperature range does it do best in?
  • What amount of light does it require?
  • Does it need especially high levels of humidity and air movement
  • What kind of watering and potting medium will it require?

Most orchids grow on high tree branches as epiphytes and thrive with lots of air movement. Some of the most popular orchid generas for growing indoors are Cattleya, Encyclia, Oncidium, Paphiopedilum, Pleurothallids, and Phalaenopsis – and there are more – which do not require especially high light, humidity, air movement or a drop in temperatures at night. It is just about impossible to satisfy the light-level needs of orchids such as Cymbidiums and Vandas indoors.

Temperature
Species classified as intermediate or warm growers will best match the temperature ranges of most homes, with lows in the 50’s˚F / 10’s˚C and averaging 60-80˚F / 15-26˚C.

Light
Light is the most important aspect to growing orchids in a home. Placement of plants is crucial to the success of indoor culture. East, west, and south-facing windows are fine, but pay close attention to the amount of light each window receives as the sun moves throughout the day and year. When direct sun is coming in it should be diffused and the heat should be kept under control. However, direct sun in the early morning or late afternoon is okay.

Plants should be placed as close to the window as possible; keep in mind there is considerably less light in the middle of a room. Most orchids require a certain amount of light to bloom. If your orchids are not blooming there is a good chance you are not getting enough light. Watch the color of the foliage; if after a month the foliage has become a darker shade of green, it may not be receiving enough light; if it becomes much lighter, it may be getting too much light.

Any natural sunlight that you can give the plants is extremely beneficial. However, supplementing low sunlight levels with artificial light can be easily accomplished. Grow-lights are specially formulated to give light similar to the spectrum of the sun.

Water & Humidity
The best way to tell when to water is by the weight of the pot. The pot will be heavy or light, depending on how dry the orchids’ potting mix is. Orchids should generally be watered the day before the mix will be completely dry. It is recommend to place the pot in the sink and run lots of water through it, letting the mix absorb water and drain at the same time. It is beneficial to wait twenty minutes or so and water thoroughly a second time (perhaps with fertilizer). Avoid watering too frequently and never leave the plant sitting in a saucer of water, as the roots may potentially rot. Most orchids will do well watered every one-to-two weeks. You may water more frequently in hot, dry weather, and less frequently in colder weather. Also, large plants in small pots dry out faster; plants overpotted or in old, decomposed bark stay wet longer. Orchids respond well to purified but not softened water, and they especially love rain water.

Fertilizer
A simple balanced fertilizer used all year around works fine. Add one teaspoon to one gallon of water with a fertilizer such as a 7-9-5, or 1/2 teaspoon to one gallon of water for a more concentrated fertilizer such as a 20-20-20. Try to use fertilized water for every watering. Occasionally leach the accumulated salts out of your orchid by watering copiously with unfertilized water.

About

Welcome to Jardim Therapy my blog about orchids and Brazil. Here you will find a few useful references, and some tip & tricks, along with posting of my own personal experience. I absolutely love orchids, and I want to help everyone interested in learning about these unique plants.

As guests of Jardim Therapy you are welcome to browse the home page, post comments, and access the archives. You can also send me a message if you have any questions.

Enjoy!

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