The word "orchid" evokes beauty and exoticism. Whether you received one as a gift or are eyeing an orchid for your home décor, these delicate and highly coveted ornamentals are surprisingly low maintenance. Growing healthy, flowering orchids may be easier than you think. Here are some Earth’s Ally tips to grow beautiful orchids yourself.
Orchids are tropical plants. In their natural habitats, they grow under trees and draw their moisture and nutrients from the air and rain. There are over 28,000 species and more than 100,000 hybrids. Orchids need relatively specific conditions, but the upkeep required is minimal. The truth is they are not difficult, just different.
For the novice grower, the Phalaenopsis or moth orchid is a good choice. They're easy to care for and come in many beautiful colors and patterns, with solid, speckled, and even striped varieties. Phalaenopsis grows well at normal room temperature and is happy in lower light. These orchids provide a beautiful splash of winter color, and the blooms last for months.
Choose an orchid that has buds, rather than one that is in full bloom at the garden center. Depending on the orchid, blooms can last for weeks or months. Then the orchid will rest before blooming again, once or twice a year.
Orchid pots should have multiple holes for optimal drainage. It's okay to use a decorative pot as an outer holder, placing your orchid in a clear plastic inner pot with good drainage.
Orchids don't like ordinary soil, it binds up their roots and kills the plant. Grow your orchid in an orchid-specific potting mix or sphagnum moss. Monitor the roots; these should be green. Trim away brown roots with sterilized pruners.
Be gentle with the root mass, and don't let it get pot bound. Repot your orchid every year or two, but only increase the pot size by 1-2 inches at a time. You'll need to replace the potting medium from time to time to examine the plant’s roots for disease and give your orchid fresh nutrients.
Your orchid needs water if the roots look silvery gray or if the potting medium is dry. Only water once or twice per week—don’t over-water. Some gardeners may recommend ice cubes as a way of watering your orchid to avoid root rot, but this is a mistake. Orchids are cold-sensitive, and ice can shock or even kill them. Use lukewarm water.
When using a plastic pot with ample drainage holes, you can water by placing the orchid pot in the sink with its base submerged in lukewarm water. Let the plant absorb water for an hour, then drain it and return the plant to its location. Never water your orchid from above or leave water sitting on the crown. Gently blot any water from the plant’s leaves and crown with a paper towel.
Use an organic water-soluble orchid nutrient formula to feed your plant. Feed mixed with water at half strength and full strength on alternate weeks. Use plain water every other week to flush out excess fertilizer.
Fertilize every 7-10 days when flowering, every two to four weeks when resting. Your orchid needs less water and fertilizer while resting but still requires semi-regular fertilization. When the flowers die back, trim the orchid just above the node. Cut off any dead stems, trimming them next to the plant base with a sterilized pruner.
Orchids are highly susceptible to fungal diseases because they prefer humid conditions. Inspect your orchid regularly for signs of pests and disease. Some of the best preventative measures you can take are to minimize moisture, both on the orchid leaves and in the potting mixture, provide good air circulation and spray a preventative fungicide treatment.
Earth’s Ally Disease Control is formulated with citric acid that not only prevents plant pathogens but is also gentle on plant tissue and an orchid’s flowers. When sprayed regularly as a preventative treatment, Earth’s Ally forms a protective barrier on the surface of the leaves that inhibit pathogen development.
Prevention is the best treatment because fungal disease spreads quickly. If your orchid is infected with a fungus, and you notice discolored leaves, spots or root rot, remove any heavily diseased leaves and isolate the unhealthy plant. Fungicide application is easy. Thoroughly saturate the stems and leaves with Earth’s Ally Disease Control. Allow to dry for a few hours, then pat away any excess solution pooled on the leaves. Repeat this process every week to control and prevent the disease from spreading.
Citric acid naturally has antifungal effects. There are many synthetic chemicals for the treatment of orchid diseases, but Earth’s Ally is a safer alternative for people, pets and the planet. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists citric acid as a minimum-rick pesticide, making it ideal for use around children and pets at home. Earth’s Ally carries a FIFRA 25(b) designation and the OMRI Listed® seal for use in organic gardening because we do not use harsh, synthetic chemicals.
With the right tools and knowledge, orchids are quite easy to care for and can bring an understated elegance to almost any bright corner of your home. If you have an orchid at home, we’d love to see your photos and hear how Earth’s Ally is working for you. Enter the monthly photo contest for a chance to win a free bottle of Earth’s Ally.