Orchids 101

Orchids 101

A few years ago, during a particularly dreary PA winter, I really got the 'orchid bug' and decided to get one for my office. It really brightened up my space and made me smile and dream of spring gardening. Since then, I have moved to a new building and at least one of my windows gets too much sunlight in the summer for my orchids.

While I'm figuring things out, I'm again looking out at a dreary winter landscape. I thought it might be a good time to share my insights from when I decided to teach myself about orchids, so if you've got a case of the winter blahs maybe it's time for you to jump in and try growing orchids yourself.

And if you already have orchids, maybe treat yourself to a new one.

Read on to find out more about growing Orchids!

Orchids 101

Another winter storm this past weekend has me cursing that groundhog at the other end of my state. Funny Facebook memes about him help but I am really yearning for spring.

groundhog day

The good news is that the Philadelphia Flower Show is back to its regular schedule of being held at the beginning of March. I'm not sure if I'll be able to attend but it's always a real inspiration.

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 last year.

orchids houseplants

Add to this the fact that every time I go into our local Lowe's there are orchids on display and now I've been bitten by the 'orchid bug.'


Orchids are always something I have admired but have been afraid to try. So 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

Time to Buy

So now that I had all of this information and I had decided where my orchid would live ( a Northerly facing window in my office), I went shopping. The easiest place for me to stop was my local home improvement store. While not always the best place to get plants, I had had some luck in the past.


There was quite a selection and, at first glance, most of the leaves looked green and healthy. However, when I look 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, I was not going to take a chance.

orchids mealy bugs

So I decided to call a few garden centers that were a bit farther away. Everyone else must have been bitten by the indoor gardening bug too, because every place I called was out of stock. 

However, my perseverance paid off and I found a few at of our local Amish/Mennonite greenhouses. 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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