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Horticulture Committee

Caring for Orchids

Caring for Orchids

In general, orchids prefer to be moist; however, they don’t like to be drenched, and many varieties prefer to dry out between waterings. The best method for most orchids is to water them in your sink with the sprayer until the water runs freely out of the bottom; after water finishes draining, put back in its decorative container or on a saucer. NEVER let them sit in water; the roots will quickly begin to rot and you will expose your plant to excessive salts and all manner of pathogens and disease causing organisms.
The main thing when considering watering frequency, is the type of container your orchid lives in, plastic or clay. Clay pots are porous and breath, so the plant dries out evenly and quickly, therefore requiring more frequent watering. Once a week is probably going to be fine.
Orchids thrive in plastic pots just as well as clay ones. These require less watering because the plant dries from the top down, so when you feel it is dry, it could very well be quite moist an inch down. In plastic, every 10 days and up to two weeks between watering works well. If your pot has a big enough hole on the bottom, stick your finger in to see if it’s dry before watering.
The temperature in your home is a huge consideration as well as the humidity. Many homes have forced hot air heating systems, which makes for a dry environment. If your home is dry, the easiest way to humidify your orchids is simply to put them on a grated humidity tray, or a bed of rocks in water. NEVER let your pot be even a little submerged in water, unless it is decorative with no hole.

Some signs of dehydration or overwatering;
• Limp, desiccated leaves
• Pleated leaves
• Yellow, wilted bottom leaves
• Droopy soft and puckered leaves
• Bud Blast- where buds fall off instead of blossoming
• Sign of overwatering only - swollen leaves that feel foamy and not firm; bruise when gently pressed

The best time to water your orchids is early in the morning or afternoon; not in the evening, as the plant will not have enough time to dry out sufficiently enough and you will be inviting in disease.

Orchids prefer bright light but not direct sun. East and South facing rooms are best, but any room that affords bright light will do. If you keep in a room facing South or West, try to have it inside the room rather than at a window, or any spot where it will not receive direct sun all day. Orchids are epiphytic. In their natural environment, they live in tropical climates, attaching themselves to tree trunks where they are protected by the tree’s shade.
Fertilizing- Your orchids will do best with an orchid fertilizer, but any will do. They should only be fertilized when they are not in bloom. Fertilize every other week to once a month at most. It is also best to not fertilize a completely dry plant, as you could burn the roots. Less is more with orchids, but they will do better if you feed them.
Cleaning- Cleaning your orchids is very easy! Take equal amounts of lemon juice and water, dip a cotton ball or pad and gently wipe off any unsightly water spots and dirt. Only clean the top of the leaves, never the underside. It is best not to use oils and such to clean or shine as they attract dust and you’ll be cleaning more often. Also, some types of oil disallow the leaves to breath properly.

Repotting your orchids:
• Use a basic repotting mix; for common Phalaenopsis, a New Zealand or Chilean moss - no Canadian Moss!
• I use; you can go directly to their website or better yet, order from them through Amazon for faster and free shipping
• Purchase and/or board your orchids at Silva’s Orchids in Neptune City, NJ –
• Purchase online – Odom’s Orchids –
• Remove old medium
• It’s not necessary to cut off dead roots like many resources suggest - I still usually do. If unsure about what to cut, just leave it
• Pack the moss in the center between the roots then on either side, and twist the roots and moss in
• I have a little 2-minute video of Dave Horak, who is an orchid expert working at Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, demonstrating repotting that I will be happy to send you - email me at

Other repotting tips:
Assume your orchid has not been super well cared for before you purchased and repot after the flowers fall off
• Don’t wait for the last flower to die off, or keep the spike when the flowers are all wilted and papery; just cut it off so it can work on producing a new leaf and eventually a new spike
• Leave an inch of the spike, rather than all the way down as most resources suggest
• Contrary to what you read you can repot when it’s just produced a new spike but it isn't recommended because of the risk of breaking it off
• Container should be snug but not tight; and not too large, they like to be contained
• Best time to repot is when you see signs of new leaf growth
• Old medium should be changed at least every 1.5 to two years, even if the orchid looks good and the pot is big enough. The medium breaks down and the roots don’t get the nutrients they need

Getting your Orchid ready for Exhibiting
1. Clean your orchid – see instructions above
2. Use a natural looking support for your spike; a green stick that becomes camouflaged, or a wooden bamboo type. Try not to use metal.
3. Use moss or something similar, to cover up any wire holding the spike to its support.
4. Have regular cinnamon powder available and a cotton swab. Cut off any brown tips on your leaves, following the natural shape as closely as possible. Immediately dip the swab into the cinnamon and wipe onto the fresh cut. This will seal and disinfect the cut and it will heal nicely. Do this the night before so that any dryness that might still occur will not be evident yet. On the morning of exhibiting, gently wipe off any cinnamon left behind. Do not do this right after applying it, as the plant needs time for the cinnamon to heal its leaves.
5. This method for healing a fresh cut on a leaf can be used on most any plant.

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