Considering Orchids?

Considering Orchids?

Yesterday's 60F weather gave me a real dose of spring fever.

At the barn where my horse lives all the aisle doors and stall windows were open and my boy was sporting equine signs of spring - covered in mud and shedding his winter coat. Here he is after some grooming.


However, that ridiculous rodent who lives at the other end of my state did see his shadow at the beginning of the month.  By the time I got back to my office, temperatures had dropped 5 degrees, reminding me that we aren't quite there yet. 

groundhog day

Today, we are expecting some snow. And the Philadelphia Flower Show which is normally held at the beginning of March, providing a hopeful sign that spring is just around the corner, is now scheduled for June. 

So what's a gardener to do? Some folks are starting seeds. Others are planning their new garden beds or collecting houseplants. But if you need more color in your indoor life, you can do what I did a few years ago and try Orchids. 

When I think of the Flower Show, I automatically think of Orchids. There are always beautiful arrangements on display and so many to choose from for sale. Here's a photo from one of the displays from a previous show.

orchids houseplants

Orchids were always something I had admired but had been afraid to try. I decided to do a little research and see if I could grow them. I mean, after all, there are literally thousands of different varieties. There's got to be one that's right for me.

As I did my research, it became clear that the key to success with orchids is the same as with any other plant. Right plant, right spot. I also found that while orchids have a reputation of being difficult to grow, some are easier than others. I found that there are 3 varieties that are the best for beginners to try. 

In general, all three like bright indirect sunlight.  Be careful of too much light in summer months as this can burn the leaves. If the leaves starting to turn brown, move the plants back from the window during the day.

While our normal household temperatures suit orchids, a drop of 10 degrees between morning and night will help them to bloom.

Below I listed the 3 varieties that are recommended for beginners to try, along with their light, temperature, and watering and feeding requirements.

Phalaenopsis sp. or Moth Orchids

Phalaenopsis moth orchid

Light: Low, medium, or bright light. North or East facing window is best

Temperature: 50-75F

Water:  Once per week or every other week

Feed: Monthly


Dendrobium sp. 


Light: Medium to bright light. South or West facing window is best

Temperature: 50-70F

Water:  Once per week or every other week

Feed: Monthly


Paphiopedilum sp. or Lady Slipper Orchids

Paphopedilium Lady Slipper Orchid


Light: Low, medium, or bright light. North or East facing window is best

Temperature: 50-70F

Water:  Once per week

Feed: Monthly in the spring and summer


Because orchids are subtropical to tropical plants, they like increased humidity. A minimum of 50-60% with 70-80% being ideal. Since most of our homes don't reach those levels and can be very dry, especially during the winter months, you will need  provide your orchids with additional humidity. You can mist them as shown below.

misting orchid

But the best way is to set the pot on a humidity tray. Fill a shallow try with pebbles and add water. Place the pot on the stones. The water will evaporate and provide the plant with much needed humidity. Make sure the pot is sitting in a saucer so the roots don't sit in water as they will rot.


watering orchid

When watering your orchid be sure that the water is at room temperature. If you have public water, consider buying distilled water or using rain water as public water can have chemicals in it.  Your pot should have holes and a base to catch any water that runs through. If you can, remove the pot from the saucer, place it in a sink and water your plant, allowing the water to run out of the pot. If you can't remove the sauce, water the plant in the sink and pour out any water that remains in the saucer. With many houseplants, we leave the water in the saucer so that the plant can take water as needed. Don't do this with orchids. Their roots should not sit in water or they will rot.


Use a water-soluble fertilizer recommended for orchids. 20-20-20 is best

Where to Buy

Sometimes you can find them in home improvement stores. And, of course, if you can shop small businesses in your area check out local greenhouses and garden centers.


Wherever you decided to shop. check the leaves carefully even if they look green and healthy. A few years back when I was checking out the selection at a home improvement store, the leaves looked green and healthy. But, when I looked closer, I saw these little oval shaped white things on the leaves. This could have been the start of a mold or more likely mealy bugs. Either way, don't take the chance.

orchids mealy bugs

Eventually I found my first orchid at a local Amish/Mennonite greenhouse. I was also able to find fertilizer and a tray and river stones to create the ideal home for my new plant. Here it is with snow in the background!


Hopefully, with the information above, you'll feel comfortable to try caring for your own orchids. Comment below and let us know about your experiences.



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