Orchids are popularized as excellent flowering plants for beautifying limited indoor space. Learn how to look after indoor orchids, and you can easily maintain these right in your windowsill.
In addition to the priceless beauty of orchids, another attribute of these lovely flowering plants that interests hobbyists is ease in growing and maintaining them indoors. Yes, there are not many indoor plants that are as attractive and long-lasting as orchids.
The shelf life of orchid blooms ranges from 6 weeks to even 10 weeks. But, how to look after indoor orchids? Well, for getting the answer to this, you will need to learn the basic growth requirements for these epiphytic flowering plants.
Basic Growing Conditions of Orchids
Some varieties (from 25,000-30,000 species) perform much better in an indoor environment than others. Orchids for planting under home conditions are moth orchid (phalaenopsis), lady's slipper orchids and oncidium orchids.
They originate from the tropical regions, where the prevailing environmental factors closely resemble factors that are found indoors. Here is a brief guide about the growth conditions of orchid plants.
Temperature: The temperature should be usually warm ranging from 50° F to 85° F.
Aeration: Regular air circulation in the root zone is needed.
Humidity: High humidity (more than 60%) is a must.
Light: Filtered light is required during summer and bright light during winter.
Watering: Allow soil and roots to dry out between two watering sessions.
Fertilization: It should be done in late spring and during active growth season.
Re-flowering: It's possible under cool conditions and optimal light availability.
Indoor Orchid Care Instructions
A common mistake that new gardeners make in growing indoor orchids is using regular soil medium or garden soil. This is strictly not suggested as orchids are true epiphytes and their roots remain exposed to air in the original habitat.
The point is to grow them in soil-less potting mix containing tree bark, coconut shell and cork, which is especially prepared for orchids. You can get this type of potting medium in plant nursery centers. The following is a useful guide for looking after indoor orchids.
✦ An important factor that you should take into account for growing indoor orchids is exposing the plants tobright filtered light. In case of bright light problem, use a curtain to reduce light intensity. Otherwise, you can place them near east-facing or west-facing windows.
✦ If you notice yourorchids are not floweringdespite having lustrous green foliage, the problem may be due to inappropriate light exposure. Orchids maintained in very low light conditions bear dark green foliage, but they fail to bloom even in the peak flowering period.
✦ In another case, the plants that are exposed to harsh light intensity show dried leaf tips and borders. When kept in the same condition, immaturedrying of leavesis observed, thus reducing their growth, flowering and overall aesthetic value.
✦ The actualtemperature rangevaries from one indoor orchid cultivar to another. Say for example, some varieties of lady's slippers tolerate 65-85° F, while others grow well at a slightly lower temperature of about 55-65° F. So, you need to maintain the indoor temperature according to the selected hybrid.
✦ Theday and night temperaturefluctuation matters a lot in inducing your indoor orchids to bloom heavily. Ideally, temperature at nighttime should be 15 degrees lower than that of the day temperature in Fahrenheit scale. Failure to do so will negatively affect flower production.
✦ Many people are concerned with the problem oforchid leaves turning yellow. Well, this is a sign of growing them in very low temperatures. Eventually the yellow leaves will drop off at premature stage. To address this problem, remove affected leaves and increase temperature to the suitable range.
✦ As far aswatering frequencyis concerned, it depends upon the indoor environment and season. In growing season and during warm condition, irrigation should be done once in every 3-4 days. During the cold winter season, watering once in 1-2 weeks is sufficient to grow healthy indoor orchids.
✦ Watering is best done in the potting mix around the main stem. If too much water is provided in the growing points of the plants, or from where new leaves develop, it may causerotting of young foliage. So, to avoid this orchid problem, careful watering on the side of the pot should be done.
✦ Ensure that theroots are kept moistat all times. Nonetheless, allowing them to dry out once in a while does not cause any harm to the plants. Never make the roots sit in a pool of water, as it will suffocate the roots and affect plant growth.
✦ Caring for indoor orchids is not complete, unless you provideproper air circulationto the root system. By planting orchids in soil-less culture, half of the root rotting problem is solved. But, make sure that they are kept in well-ventilated rooms and watering is done correctly.
✦ In order to maintainhigh humidity level, all you need to do is place a tray filled with gravel beneath the potted orchids. Fill the tray with water on a regular basis. Also, consider using a regular misting bottle to mist orchid foliage. This gives an elevated humidity effect to these tropical plants.
✦ Coming tofertilization of orchids, skip fertilizer application in cold winter months. At this point of time, orchid plants grow slowly and are nearly dormant. Feed with half-strength liquid fertilizer or specially formulated orchid fertilizer during peak growth season, at least once in a month.
✦ Water droplets sitting in the foliage and flowers are main triggers for growth of pathogenic fungi. So, if you noticefungus in flowers, stop misting them. A simple way to get rid of fungal diseases is keeping the plant parts dry by aerating them properly.
✦ Most probably, flower buds will develop in late winter. After flower colors fade, you are expected to trim the flowering stalk at ½ inch from the base. This is to conserve energy and preparing the plants for next year's growth. Follow after bloom care for orchids and they will flower every year in winter.
✦ Last but not the least,re-pot indoor orchids, when roots overgrow the pot and you'll notice many new canes growing from the mother plants. Trim the roots gently, and place them in larger pots, filled with orchid potting media. The pots should have large drainage holes to avoid water accumulation later on.
In a nutshell, care for indoor orchids involves providing optimal light, temperature, humidity, moisture and nutrients. They grow luxuriantly and produce vibrant colored, spectacular, showy blooms with moderate level of care.
The simple tricks to care for indoor orchids revolve around providing growth factors that are closely similar to their native habitat.