Branching Out Into Orchids

By Laura Miller | March 14, 2021
Image by Lemieux
by Laura Miller
March 14, 2021

When I was far too young to remember such things, my mother grew orchids as houseplants. I’m not sure why she stopped. Perhaps, it was because having a third child and building a larger house to accommodate a growing family left little time for indoor gardening hobbies. But I don’t believe she ever lost her love of orchids.

You see, when I grew up and left my mother with an empty nest, I began to notice she would occasionally keep a blooming orchid sitting on the table in her sunroom. I wish I could go back to the time when she was more devoted to this hobby. I would very much enjoy seeing what type of orchids she once grew in her collection. 

Now that she is gone, just seeing a blooming orchid sitting on a store shelf reminds me of my mother. And I admit, I’ve been quite tempted to pick one up, but orchids are one flower I’ve never tried growing. Daunted by the special requirements of indoor orchid care, I was never quite sure I was up to the challenge. 

Indoor Orchid Care

Yet, I feel if I were to follow in her footsteps, I could honor her memory by growing orchids as houseplants. But what do I need to know and is my house suitable for growing orchids indoors? So many times in the past, I’ve impulsively purchased a plant without first understanding its care requirements. This time, I’ve decided to do my research before jumping in and here’s what I’ve learned:

Soil: In the wild, orchids don’t root in the ground. Instead, they attach themselves to the side of trees. Thus, an important aspect of growing orchids indoors is to use the proper growing medium. I can buy a commercial mix specially formulated for indoor orchid care or I can use one or more of these quick-draining materials:

  • Wood bark
  • Sphagnum peat moss
  • Perlite
  • Rock wool
  • Coconut coir
  • Stones

Water and Humidity: Many species of orchids grow in tropical forests, but not all. It’s important to recognize where a particular species originated in order to meet the plant’s moisture needs. That being said, only watering once every week or two is the most common recommendation for growing orchids indoors. Here are ways to improve humidity around the plant:

  • Set the orchid pot on a bed of wet pebbles, but don’t let the pot sit in water.
  • Mist the orchid daily.
  • Keep the orchid in a humid area of the house, such as a bathroom.

Light: Orchids prefer bright, indirect light. Too  much sunlight will burn the leaves, not enough and the plant won’t thrive. A southeast-facing window is often the ideal spot for growing orchids as houseplants and healthy-looking, medium green leaves indicate the plant is happy.

Temperature: Keeping a blooming orchid thriving doesn’t appear to be as difficult as I once thought. But I’ve come to discover that coaxing an orchid to rebloom can be challenging. Mimicking aspects of their natural environment usually works to encourage difficult bloomers to set buds. For orchids, this will mean dropping the nighttime ambient temperature by 10 degrees. 

It’s said that knowledge is power. And having delved into the requirements for indoor orchid care, I believe I’m up to this challenge. Now onto a little impulse buying!

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