How to take care of orchids

Most potential problems with growing orchids can be solved with a little information on how to take care of them. Here are 6 little bits of information.
How To

Caring for orchids

Here are six essential guidelines to care for orchids:

Orchid compost

Using an orchid compost will help drain water properly after watering.

Don’t over-water

If orchids become wet for too long, the roots are liable to rot.


Orchids planted outside will need specialist compost to help with drainage.

Avoid draught

Orchids do not perform well in draughty conditions.

Temperature for orchids

Cold conditions will slow their growth and cause flower buds to die.

Light for orchids

Light requirements for orchid depend on the variety, shade will be needed to protect any new growth from severe sunlight.

How often should I water orchids?

Correct watering is the key to successfully growing an orchid. Orchids should be watered frequently so they will not dry out, but the compost should never be saturated.  Watering once or twice a week is ideal. On hotter days you may need to water every day. Gently touch the soil to ensure it is lightly moist.

Orchids have a resting period when growth is halted temporarily.  The period may extend from weeks to several months depending on the variety. If plants lose their leaves during this period, do not water them until new growth appears. Orchids that retain their leaves during resting can be watered a little.

When should I fertilise orchids?

Orchids will need feeding with liquid fertiliser to give them the nutrients they need for successful development. These can be added during watering. Add fertiliser every three weeks during Spring, Summer and Autumn. During the Winter, only add fertiliser every six weeks. Take care to pour the liquid fertiliser directly into the soil and not onto the leaves as it will damage them.

How do you prune an orchid?

Prune an orchid after its flowering period. Look for any unhealthy areas of the plant (e.g. stems that have turned a brown / yellow colour). Use a sharp knife and remove any dead leaves, roots any unhealthy stems. Pruning cuts should be diagonal. If cutting away the stem, prune about an inch from the base. If you are trimming healthy stems, cut the stem just above the notch where the first flower has bloomed.

Propagating an orchid

There are many ways to propagate an orchid, using stem cuttings, division and adventitious growths.

Can I propagate an orchid using division?

You can divide orchids to make new plants. If a plant is too big for its container, remove the orchid and divide the plant by separating it into 2 sections. Ensure each of the sections has 3 or more pseudo-bulbs, if there are back bulbs on the plant, remove these as the firm ones can be kept and replanted to develop as new plants. Take each divided plant section and remove any dead pieces then plant into a suitable sized pot with compost.

Can I grow orchids using adventitious growths from the stems?

Small plantlets can develop from the nodes on orchid stems, these plantlets will develop aerial roots. You can make a cuttings from this by cutting the plantlet carefully away from the main plant. This plant can be potted up in a small pot, ensuring the roots are positioned a little below the surface of the compost.

How can I grow orchids from stem cuttings?

Cut a stem off the plant at the base then divide the stem into lengths of approximately 6 to 7cm cutting in between leaf nodes. Lay the cuttings on top of some moist sphagnum moss in a tray and store in a humid climate. Small plants will develop after a few weeks which can then be potted on.

How do I repot an orchid?

Orchids will need to be repotted as soon as the plant has filled the existing container it is in. The orchid needs to be repotted into a container that is one or two times larger than the existing container, try not to disturb the roots of the plants too much. To improve drainage, you can add crocks to the bottom of the pot. Use a fairly dry compost to place around the roots of the plant in the new pot then water the repotted plant well. Some orchids need a form of support. These stems need extra help to support their many flowers, you can use small canes tied to the stem as support.