This stunning houseplant can thrive for 15 years or more—provided you give it the TLC it requires.
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Although orchids have a reputation for being difficult to care for, with the right growing conditions these striking houseplants—which can survive for up to 15 years—easily thrive. There are about 25,000 species of orchids to choose from, but Melinda Myers, gardening expert and host of the Great Courses How to Grow Anything DVD series, says the easiest one to grow is the moth orchid Phalaenopsis. "This orchid is most adapted to indoor conditions," she says.

No matter which type of orchid you choose to bring home with you, there are a few steps you can take to provide this stunner with optimal growing conditions so it can flourish in your home or garden.

Closeup Of Purple Phalaenopsis Orchid In On White Table
Credit: Natalie Board / EyeEm / Getty Images

How to Care for an Indoor Orchid

When bringing an orchid into your home, it's important to consider its water, light, and soil requirements.

Water

Orchids should be hydrated with tepid water in the sink about once a week. "Run water over the roots and planting mix—wait and water again to make sure the roots and mix were well watered," Myers says. Allow the water to drain, and return it to its growing location. According to Myers, the roots will be dull silver or white to pale green when they have received sufficient water.

If your orchid is in a decorative container, make sure it has been thoroughly drained after watering it before putting it back in the container, says Bruce Rogers, orchid expert and author of The Orchid Whisperer, Expert Secrets for Growing Beautiful Orchids ($15.59, amazon.com). Also, after watering, make sure no water remains in the crown or the leaf joints of the plant," he says. Do this by turning your orchid to the side, which will drain water from the crown.

Light

How much light your orchid gets is also important. "Indirect light is best from an east- or west-facing window," Myers says. In order to determine whether your plant is getting too much or not enough light, look at the color and texture of its leaves. "Plants receiving enough sufficient light will have light green leaves. In low light, the leaves will be darker and stiffer. With very high light they develop a pink or reddish edge on the leaves," Myers says.

Once you've found a place with optimal light, also consider other factors that may be potentially harmful to your plant. "Although your new orchid looks stunning on the table behind the couch, there may be a heating vent under it that will cook it the first day," Rogers says. "Putting it on the entrance table by the front door could expose it to freezing cold weather and drafts during winter." 

Soil

Typically, orchids grow in a mix made of bark, beat, perlite, or similar materials. Myers says this mixture ensures good drainage.

Fertilizer

Orchids also require fertilization, which should occur during March through November when the plant is actively growing. "Use an orchid fertilizer and apply about once a month," Myers says. "Over-fertilization can result in lots of leaf growth and non-flowers."

How to Care for an Outdoor Orchid

If you plan to move your orchid outdoors for summer, Myers says it should be placed in an area with partial shade, like under a tree with dappled light or under a canopy or shade cloth. It should also be kept somewhere that protects it from wind or harsh weather conditions. Meyers also notes that orchids thrive in humid conditions, so if you don't live in an area that is often muggy, group your orchid with other outdoor plants to boost humidity.

You should also continue to fertilize and regularly water your orchid when it's outside. Keep in mind that orchids placed outdoors may require more water than houseplant iterations. Myers says to check the growing mix and water as needed. 

How to Care for an Orchid After It Blooms

Care requirements don't change once your orchid starts blooming: Keep it in a partially shaded area, water it once a week with tepid water, and fertilize it during growth months. The only thing you need to consider post-bloom now is how you want to manage your orchid. Myers says leaving the flower stalk intact will yield more flowers, however cutting it back to 1/2-inch above the leaves is best for the plant because it can restore used energy. This method, however, may delay a new cycle of blooms for a full year.

How to Keep Orchids Alive While You're on Vacation

When you travel, don't forget to make arrangements for someone to check in on and care for your orchid, Rogers says. If this isn't an option, you can place your plant in a bathtub on risers with water filled to just below the bottom of the pots, which will help increase humidity and lengthen the time between watering. "Orchids also love air circulation," Rogers says, so while you are away, you can try to place a fan closeby or ask a neighbor to give them fresh air during good weather.

How to Repot Your Orchid

Like other plants, orchids benefit from being repotted—and it's a necessary step if your plant becomes too big for its container or the roots begin to die. Myers says to repot your orchid after flowering, just as new leaves are forming.

  1. Take the orchid out of its old container and separate its roots from the old mix.
  2. Soak roots in water if some of the old planting mix won't separate.
  3. Hold the plant over the new pot, which should be just one pot size bigger than the existing vessel, and fill with fresh potting mix to cover the bottom roots.
  4. Water the repotted orchid and the surrounding mixture. 

You'll know it's time to repot your orchid when the roots have outgrown the pot or the growing mix has broken down. "If you have never done it, it can be intimidating the first time or two—but not only does it get easier, it can rejuvenate you as well as the plant," says David Horak, curator of the orchid collection at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. "Try to stick to a schedule of repotting at least every two to three years, or when the medium feels soggy or softer than it used to."

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