Growing Orchids

Watering Orchids

The proper method and frequency for watering orchids is something that must be learned by doing. In their native habitat, some orchids go months between rains. In captivity, orchids usually get more water than they need.

In addition, different orchids have different watering requirements. Epiphytic orchids need less moisture than terrestrial orchids. Orchids with pseudobulbs can store moisture and usually need less water than orchids without pseudobulbs. Plants growing in plastic pots need less watering than those growing in clay pots or on a slab. Orchids growing in osmunda need less water than those growing in bark. Some orchids appreciate a good rest after flowering.

This cycnoches orchid resides in a clay pot, so may require more water than an orchid planted in another medium
This Cynoches orchid may require more
water because it is planted in a clay pot.

The booby trap for new growers occurs when the top of the mix feels dry, while the mix deeper in the pot is still quite wet. It is safer and easier to have all of your orchids growing in the same medium.

The amount of water depends on the condition of the plant, the size of the pot, and the kind of potting medium. When watering, water deeply and thoroughly. Let the mix then dry out enough so the roots can get air. Water should be low in minerals and 60 to 70°F, or above air temperature. Do not use water from an ion exchange softener. Water early enough in the day so that leaves and flowers can go to bed dry at night. Orchids need less water on dull, cloudy days than they do on bright, sunny days. When in doubt, don’t water.

In addition to the water given to orchids via their potting medium, orchids also have preferences about the amount of water in the air around them. Most orchids do best when the relative humidity is 40% to 60%. Relative humidity above 70% encourages soft, flabby growth and can cause susceptibility to infection. Relative humidity below 40% can sometimes slow an orchid's growth, weaken the plant, and result in scrawny flowers.

Humidity is easier to raise than to lower, so if orchids are in an overly humid area, moving them may be the best option. You can raise humidity by keeping a tray filled with gravel and water under the pots or by using a humidifier. Use a small fan when necessary to keep the air moving without drafts.

There are a variety of options available for potting orchids, but the procedure is different than that for many other plants. Visit the next page to learn more.

Check these resources to find more ideas and information on placing plants around your house:

  • Gardening: Whether it's vegetables, flowers, or foliage you're considering, the facts you'll need are here. Learn all the basics of successful gardening.
  • House Plants: Wondering what might look nice in your kitchen window? Find out which plants are happiest inside the house.