Orchid Care after Blooming: A Complete Guide
Orchids are interesting because of how they look, how they smell, and how they grow. But people who like houseplants have come to think of them as a bit of a pain.
Some types of flowering plants do need special care, but others are easy to take care of at home and don’t need a portable greenhouse or expensive LED grow lights. Here, orchid lovers who have cared for a total of hundreds of plants share their best advice for getting these beautiful plants to bloom over and over again.
Different kinds of orchids
There are more than 25,000 different kinds of wild orchids and even more plant hybrids. Part of their appeal is how different they are. Rafael Furtado, who grows orchids as a hobby, tells mbg, “There are so many different kinds of orchids that you could grow them your whole life and still not see them all.”
But just because there are a lot of orchids doesn’t mean that a beginner should try to grow them all. Furtado says, “Just because it has a pretty flower doesn’t mean it’s right for you.”
If you’re new to orchids, the Phalaenopsis, or moth orchid, is probably the best type for you. Kelly McCracken of High Desert Orchids says that these orchids can bloom in most homes because the shape of their petals looks like moth wings.
Phalaenopsis can be found in most plant shops and online stores. They are often the least expensive orchids you can buy. The flowers are bright and last a long time. Pets can also enjoy them.
What the flower stands for
Orchids have been given special meanings by different cultures over time. Ancient Greeks saw them as signs of fertility, and Asian culture and feng shui have thought of them as lucky for a long time. Even today, giving an orchid as a gift is still thought to be a sign of love and luck, and each color of bloom is thought to have its own special meaning.
Furtado says in a home collection that orchids can help us slow down and be more mindful, patient, and caring: “I always say that orchids grow you, not the other way around.”
How to look after the plant
Let’s talk about what an orchid needs to do well in your home. These tips are for orchids like Phalaenopsis that don’t need as much care. Plants that are more unique or rare need special care.
The first thing to do: Orchids won’t grow in the same soil you use for all your other plants. They won’t grow in soil at all, in fact.
Most orchids are epiphytes, which means they grow on the surface of trees or rocks and get their food from the air and rainwater. We need to make these conditions at home with potting materials that let air in, like bark, lava rocks, or sphagnum moss.
Terry Richardson of The Black Thumb, an orchid collector, says that your habits as a plant parent can help you decide which one is best for you. People who travel a lot might choose sphagnum moss because it keeps water longer. People who tend to overwater, on the other hand, would do better with lava rock because it dries out faster.
Once you have chosen your medium, Furtado suggests planting your orchid in a terracotta clay pot because it is porous and will let a lot of air get to the roots of your orchid.
“A lot of newbies overwater their orchids,” says Furtado. “Orchids hate it when they get too much water.” Make sure to only water your orchid when the soil in its pot feels dry or its roots look white and dried out. This means that the plant needs water. Once the plant gets water, those roots will come back to life and turn green.
Depending on your climate, you probably won’t need to water more than once a week in the spring and summer, and even less in the winter and fall.
You can water your plants in two ways: You can water your orchid from below by putting a tray of water under it and letting the plant soak up what it needs. Or, soak it in the sink for a while and let the extra water drain out the bottom. It’s important to let water run through your plant to get rid of any salts in the pot, which are harmful to orchids.
No matter which method you choose, use water that is at room temperature. The old wives’ tale that says you should put an ice cube in your orchids? It’s not true at all, and the cold will only shock the plants.
Orchids need bright, but not direct, light. Your plant should be happy if you put it near an east-facing window that gets strong morning sun. McCracken says that if you live in a dark house or apartment, you can also put your orchid under an LED light bar, and it should be fine.
Different types of orchids need temperatures that range from 50 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, but Phalaenopsis, which are easier to care for, tend to do well in normal home temperatures between 50 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Many orchids like the moist, humid air of a tropical rain forest, so the average home will be too dry for them. You can make the air around your plant more moist by putting it near a humidifier, putting it on a rock tray that you fill with water, or misting its stem, leaves, and any aerial roots you see from time to time.
“Orchids need a lot of air circulation,” says Furtado. Again, these are plants that get their nutrients from the air around them, so it’s not a bad idea to put them next to a fan or an open window that gets some breeze. This will also help your plant dry out between waterings and cut down on the chances of mold or root rot.
You can help your orchid grow and bloom by giving it fertilizer. McCracken says that most orchids will do well with a fertilizer that has a good mix of nutrients (i.e., 13-11-11).
If you take good care of it, a typical moth orchid will bloom about once a year. Richardson says that exposing your plants to temperatures that are much colder at night than they are during the day (but still between 50 and 85 degrees) can help speed up the blooming process a bit. If not, you’ll have to be patient and let the orchid do what it needs to do.
When it does give you a bright, beautiful flower, try not to stress out the plant. “While the orchid is in bloom, you really want to try to keep it in the same conditions for as long as you can,” he says. This will help the flowering cycle last as long as possible. If you do, the plant could keep blooming for up to six months. After that, its flowers will die and fall off, leaving only a thin stem.
Even though it doesn’t look like much, it’s still a good idea to keep it. “Those flowers will come back in time if you take care of your plant,” says Richardson. He has had a lot of success rescuing orchids from trash cans and getting them to bloom again.
Most orchids will do better if they are replanted every 12 to 18 months in a slightly bigger pot with new soil. Keep an eye out for these signs that your orchid needs a bigger space, and don’t move it until after it has bloomed.
Things to remember
Phew, did you get all that? Before you start caring for your orchid, here are a few last-minute things to remember:
Mealybugs and aphids can get into your orchid plant, so it’s important to keep an eye on it and look for signs of these pests every day. If you see pests, wipe the area with neem oil or another insecticide as soon as you can. “Always, you need to be very proactive. Being on top of things is how you end up with really good plants “says Furtado.
If you take care of your orchid plant, it can last for years or even decades, so don’t worry when the flowers fall off. It’s not dead; this is just a part of its life cycle.
Orchids are not plants that you can just plant and forget about. There is always more to learn about them. Because of this, Furtado says that caring for orchids should be a lifelong learning experience. It might take you years to get your first flower to bloom, but it will be well worth it. He says, “It can take a long time and a lot of patience, but it’s worth it.”
The main point
Taking care of orchids at home takes a little bit of knowledge, but it’s possible once you know the basics. And because there are so many different colors and shapes, growing these plants is a great way to show off your green thumb.
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