Have you been eyeing those orchids at the front of the grocery store wondering, those would be lovely but how much work is it? Will I kill it? I’m no green thumb grower here.
Well worry not. Orchids are one of the easiest plants you can grow indoors. They are great for lower light conditions.
Now, getting them to flower again and keeping them alive takes some work. They are so easy going you can forget them for weeks at a time and that would likely kill them.
So read on for full instructions and video on how to care for orchids indoors, how to get them to flower again, and how to propagate more of your favorite flowers.
How to Grow an Orchid Indoors (for Beginners)
For a quick overview watch this 6 minute video from P Allen Smith on growing orchids indoors:
Choosing an Orchid Type
There are over 35,000 species of orchids. So many options, so little house space!
So how do you choose? Use our quick guide below to help you sift through the most common options and needs.
Easiest to Grow: Moth Orchids
Dark Houses: Jewel Orchids
Cool Houses: Cymbidium
Warm Houses: Moth Orchids
Orchids typically grow off the ground in the understory of a jungle forest. They don’t like too much light, too much water, or extreme temperatures. Keep that in mind as we next explore what kind of lighting, temperature, humidity, watering, and fertilizer to provide (hint: not too much of anything).
Give Indirect Sunlight
Where should I put my orchid in my house?
Orchids like indirect sunlight. This is why they are great for darker houses. They still need light though, especially for flowering! Place them in any north facing window. Keep them away from south facing windows unless it’s blocked outside partially by trees.
Imagine your orchid living in the understory of a jungle. Are they getting just the right amount of dappled sunlight? That’s what you want.
Is it taking forever for them to bloom again? Then put them in a location that adds more light.
We’ll cover what to do with window drafts in winter in the temperature section below.
Goldilocks Temperature – Not Too Hot, Not Too Cold
Orchids are jungle dwellers. They like it warmer but they don’t do well in deserts. Keep them away from hot, direct sunlight. Also, keep them away from wintry drafty windows.
Any house that maintains a temperature from 65 – 75 Degrees F and feels comfortable to you will be fine for your orchid. Just keep in mind that temperatures next to windows can be much colder or hotter than the rest of the house. Place your plant accordingly.
Give them Some Humidity
Jungle plants like humidity. You don’t need to maintain 95% humidity but keep an eye on your plants and if possible check the humidity next to them.
Air conditioning pulls humidity out of the air. You may live in Florida but if you crank the AC you could be starving your plants of the humidity they like. The same is true for cranking the heat, especially if you provide heat via fireplaces or propane heaters. Keep orchids away from radiant heaters.
Another trick to helping orchids is to group them together and water weekly. Grouping plants together helps them create a mini-ecosystem with higher humidity around them.
Next we’ll cover how much and how little you need to water.
Water Once a Week – Not too Much!
Orchids require watering once a week. 3-4 ice cubes per plant is enough. One plant is roughly defined as what would fit in the original pot you bought the orchid in (small 5 inch pot). If you combine 2 or 3 plants into a larger pot then add more ice cubes accordingly.
The danger with orchids is overwatering them. They grow in low water conditions (off the ground) and are able to supply some of their water needs from humidity in the air.
The easiest way to water is by setting a weekly alarm and/or just watering the same day at the same time each week. Just about all smart phones let you set an alarm with a name (“Water Orchids”). Let the machines do the remembering. Your job is to enjoy your orchid flowers!
How often do you water an indoor orchid plant?
Water your orchid once a week using 3-4 ice cubes per plant. Assume a plant is the same small size you can buy in the grocery store initially (small 5 inch diameter pot).
Should I water my orchid with ice cubes?
Absolutely. It’s more fun and it’s easier to control the dose by watering your orchids with 3-4 ice cubes per week.
Skip Fertilizing, for now
Orchids need virtually no fertilizer just as they require very little water. We recommend not fertilizing until after at your orchids flower for the second time. Even then water down the fertilizer twice as much or more as directed and give.
Orchids grow above the ground in swamps and don’t usually have access to all the nutrients in the ground. They’ve learned to live without it. Only add fertilizer if you see their growth slowing after 2-4 years.
The mulch that comes with your plants will slowly break down over time adding nutrients for your orchids. You may never need to add anything beyond that.
Flowering Takes Patience
How do you get an orchid to bloom again?
Your orchids will absolutely bloom again. All you need to do is follow the steps above then wait. First, it will take a long time for the original blooms to go away. Then it will take months of seemingly no action.
Eventually after 6 months to a year you’ll see new leaves and new branches on the flower stems.
That’s the sign that it’s about ready to bloom again.
If it’s been 12 months you don’t see any new growth worry not. You just need to add a little more light. You’ll have to experiment to find the right window or simply add more light via artificial lights on a timer.
Everytime I’ve added more light to hopeless orchids they bloomed again.
And there’s something highly rewarding about waiting so long for the second bloom. It’s always more flowers than the first time and it’s so gratifying to wait that long.
You can quickly make your orchids even more beautiful by swapping out a few pieces and combining 2 or more together into a larger pot. Watch the end of the video above to see a sample.
First, swap out the green or brown sticks that came with the plant with Kiwi Vine. Kiwi vine gives a natural look that’ll make it feel more like the jungle.
Next, use wire wrapped jute to hold the orchid stems against the new kiwi vine. Your orchids need this support or the weight of their flowers could bend them and damage the stems.
Another option is to combine a few plants into a larger, decorative pot. You could also just move your orchid from it’s existing pot into a new one that matches your house better.
To repot pull the orchid out of it’s existing pot. Place the root mass in a zip loc back or similar. This will prevent it from drying out between weekly waterings. Add bark and moss around the root ball to pack it in and keep it secure. Then add decorative moss on top for a natural look.
Scroll below for example moss, kiwi vine, and jute wire.
How to Grow an Orchid from Cuttings
Want more orchids? Simply follow these steps to make more and more of your favorite flowers:
- Choose an orchid you’d like to grow from cuttings
- Wait for it’s flowers to die off
- Cut a 1 foot section from the flower stem using sharp scissors that have been dipped in rubbing alcohol to prevent infection (of the plant).
- Cut that 1 foot section into 2-3 sections. Each section should have at least 4 flower nodes (places where a flower was growing).
- Prepare a rooting tray with some of your extra moss. A cleaned cookie tray with a layer of moss will work. Sterilize it all with rubbing alcohol first and let it fully air out for a few days.
- Soak the moss in water until fully wet then let it fully drain.
- Place the stem cuttings on the moss and mist with a spray bottle.
- Cover the whole tray with one layer of plastic wrap to keep in the humidity. Don’t seal it. Just lay it gently on top.
- Keep the temperature at 75 – 85 Degrees F. A seedling mat heater can help.
- Mist regularly but don’t overwater.
- Every 2 weeks add a tiny bit of nitrogen based fertilizer to the mist. Always follow this with a light mist of clean water. Ideally have 2 bottles – one with fertilizer and one for normal misting.
- Wait for rootlets to grow.
- Once rootlets appear cut the stems between each set of rootlets. Use sterilized shears for this (again with rubbing alcohol).
- Place each rootlet cutting in a small 2″ pot. Planting media should be small bark, sphagnum moss, or volcanic rock. Wet the media separately and drain it before adding to the pot with the rootlet.
- Place the rootlet pots in a bright window. Use a light curtain to make the sunlight indirect and keep the temperate mild from 68 – 75 Degrees F.
- Use a small humidifier to keep humidity high near the plants.
- Water 1-2 times a week by adding water till it drains from the bottom of the pots. Don’t let them get water logged.
- Follow the re-potting instructions above after enough leaves form and the plants look crowded.
Usually we’d suggest a variety of lights, pots, and tools but you don’t really need them.
Your main equipment includes:
- Patience (reflowering takes a year or more)
- Consistency (water once a week the same day, same time – forget and you’ll dry out your flowers)
- Light (a little sunlight from a window) and
- Love (talk to your plant, it’s good for you – studies have shown caring for plants and gardening improve health, physical strength, flexibility, cognitive ability, and socialization.)
If you liked the tips from the re-potting section you can buy kiwi vines, wire wrapped jute and moss from Amazon:
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