Orchids have a reputation as being finicky. Far from being picky and delicate, though, they simply have different needs from most other houseplants. Once you understand those needs, they become as easy to grow as a pot full of pothos!
The website Beautiful Orchids has some excellent tips on growing these beautiful flowers.
Their notes are below:
GOOD LIGHT vs. BAD LIGHT
Light is a key factor in growing healthy orchids. Direct sunlight may cause plants to burn, and too little light will prevent plants from flowering. An ideal location is behind curtains or window blinds. If you receive your plant by mail, expose it to light gradually in stages over a period of several weeks.
Leaf color is a good indicator of the amount of light a plant is receiving. Orchids should have bright green, healthy leaves. Dark green leaves indicate that a plant is getting insufficient light, and yellowish-green or red leaves indicate that a plant is getting too much light. If you suspect a plant is exposed to too much light, feel the leaves. If they feel noticeably warmer than the surrounding air, move the plant to a location with less intense brightness.
Low light, Warm growing orchids enjoy a north or an east, protected west or shaded south windows of the home. Standard household temperatures are adequate. Orchids that are classified as low light, warm growing are: Paphiopedilum or Lady Slipper, Phalaenopsis and Oncidium.
Moderate to high light, Warm growing orchids. These orchids like a lot of light and warm household temperatures. They thrive in a west or south window. From early May to late September, you should watch light levels in south windows to avoid burning; you may have to move your orchid away from the window or place them behind a sheer curtain to decrease light intensity. These orchids like to dry between watering. Orchids that are classified as moderate to high ligh are: Cattleya, Dendrobium, and Vanda.
ORCHIDS LOVE HUMIDITY
The ideal daytime humidity for orchids is 50% to 70%. During the summer, when the days are warm and dry, humidity can be increased by placing plants in a shallow dish or tray containing pebbles and water. Be sure to keep the water just below the tops of the pebbles. Never let water touch the bottom of the pot; capillary action will expose the roots to too much water, causing them to deteriorate. To maintain the quality of water in the tray, remove the pebbles every 2 or 3 months and wash them in a weak bleach solution to remove accumulated salts and algae. Do not add bleach or algaecide to water in the tray when it is in use. You can also group your plants together in a single evaporation tray to create a humid microclimate and an attractive display. Just don’t place them so close together that air circulation is restricted.
AS A GENERAL RULE: Again, it must be stressed that both temperature and light should be taken into consideration when deciding to increase humidity. Any form of watering, damping down or spraying should not be performed in the late afternoon or evening. Although some growers obtain good results with this method, Beautiful Orchids recommends that beginners avoid the practice. The falling temperatures toward the end of the day can cause unnecessary condensation if highly humid conditions are induced; plants will then become covered with a film of water droplets, which can lead to rotting.
THE IDEAL TEMPERATURE
To produce beautiful, long-lasting blooms, orchids must produce energy in the form of carbohydrates during the day when the temperature is high and store that energy at night when the temperature drops. This temperature fluctuation is necessary for orchids to bloom. Without a day-night fluctuation of 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit, the plants will grow plenty of healthy foliage but may stubbornly refuse to flower. A night temperature of 60-62 degrees F is ideal for optimum growth, but temperatures as low as 55 degrees F will not harm your plant. Daytime temperatures should range between 70 and 80 degrees F. Temperatures as high as 90-95 degrees F for short periods will cause no harm, however, as long as proper humidity and air circulation are maintained.
AIR MOVEMENT: VENTILATION
In the wild, gentle continual breezes along the leafy canopy of the rain forest are vital for the survival of orchids and other air plants. Air movement acts as preventive medicine for orchids. It helps evaporate stagnant water, trapped during watering, where fungi and bacteria breed. Without ventilation or fresh circulating air, orchids eventually die from rot, lack of a continual carbon dioxide source, or infection. Ventilation also helps orchids tolerate intense light without getting burnt leaves.
You can easily improve air movement in your home so orchids grow happily. During the summer, when temperatures are high, open windows to allow fresh air to come inside. And when wintertime comes, you can use an ordinary oscillating fan to mimic the gentle breezes in the leafy canopy of a tropical forest. It is important to occasionally change the direction of the airflow so the area does not dry out.
WATERING YOUR ORCHID
Always water early in the day so that your orchids dry out by nighttime. The proper frequency of watering will depend on the climatic conditions where you live. In general, water once a week during the winter and twice a week when the weather turns warm and dry. The size of your orchid container also helps determine how often you need to water, regardless of climate conditions. Typically, a 6-inch pot needs water every 7 days and a 4-inch pot needs water every 5 to 6 days.
The type of potting medium being used can also affect your plant’s water requirements. Bark has a tendency to dry out more rapidly than sphagnum moss, for instance. It is important to remember, however, that even when the surface of your pot is dry, the root area may remain moist. Poke your finger or a regular wooden pencil an inch into the pot; if it feels moist to the touch or if the pencil looks moist, do not add additional water. The potting medium should always be damp, but not soggy