Caring For Your Valentine’s Day Orchids

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Vibrant pink Valentine's Day orchid in bloom, with unopened buds against a lush green backdrop.

Orchids are beautiful flowers with elegant, colorful blossoms. However, they have a reputation as a bit of a difficult plant to grow indoors, with highly specific needs. While we don’t think Phalaenopsis orchids necessarily deserve this ‘challenging’ label, we understand you might need a trusty guide to make sure your orchids flourish.

Here at Gardener’s Yards, our experts have compiled a step-by-step guide to orchid care. We’ll explain how to keep your plants happy, including how to water them, fertilize them, and more. We’ll take a look at Phalaenopsis orchids – one of our experts’ personal favorites for their relatively easy care routines – for some more specific tips. We’ll also look at general orchid care more broadly.

How To Care for Orchids

Indoor orchid care can be challenging for a number of reasons. Technically, there are over 880 different types of orchids and 22,000 separate species. As a result, it’s one of the most diverse flowering plants.

In the wild, orchid plants grow in the tropics as epiphytes, or ‘air plants.’ They hang onto trees for support. Some species are lithophytes, which means they grow on rocks. This natural habitat means it’s difficult to care for an orchid plant in your own home, which is a very different kind of environment. If you know what type of orchid you have, you’ll need to do some more specific research to avoid any mistakes. For now, we’ll cover a fan favorite – the Phalaenopsis variety – alongside some more general tips on how to care for orchids that work for most varieties.

Phalaenopsis Orchids

Phalaenopsis orchids, often dubbed the ‘beginner’s orchid’, bring an exotic flair to your home with minimal fuss. They’re known for vibrant colors, ranging from pure whites to deep, rich purples. What delights Phalaenopsis owners are the contrasting speckles and streaks that make each bloom a unique masterpiece.

They’re native to tropical parts of Asia but are popular additions to homes worldwide, symbolizing love, affection, purity, and strength. What endears them to so many plant owners is their resilience and ease of care. 

Thriving in moderate conditions, with indirect light and occasional watering, they debunk the myth that orchids are high-maintenance. As you’ll see, though, you do still need to take into account their tropical tendencies in your plant care.

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or new to the plant parenting world, a Phalaenopsis orchid can add a splash of color and a sense of achievement to any room in your home.

How To Pot Your Orchids

Firstly, you need to know how to pot your orchids. To care for Phalaenopsis orchids and other orchid varieties effectively, it’s crucial to mimic their natural tropical environment. 

Their natural habitat means that most orchid roots are not used to being in pots. As a result, you might find that the roots of your Phalaenopsis orchid plants find their way out of the pot from time to time. Nevertheless, a pot can help your orchid plant by holding moisture around the root.

You might judge other house plants’ health by their leaves and flowers. However, healthy roots are the best indicator of a thriving Phalaenopsis orchid plant. So, try to pot your orchids in the smallest pot that will fit the roots while they establish themselves. A clear plastic pot can help you see when to water it, while white pots can help with photosynthesis.

Make sure your pot has drainage holes at the bottom so you don’t smother the roots. 

Our potting advice here applies to all orchids universally – root care is the key to thriving orchids. 

The Best Potting Mix for Orchids

Getting the potting mix right is one of the most crucial orchid-growing tips. Most orchids require sphagnum moss or bark chips. Both of these work as an orchid mix, but they need different care. For example, moss requires less watering than bark chips. 

Typically, quick-draining bark can be better for orchid species like the moth orchid, which should dry out between watering. Phalaenopsis orchids fall into this category. This type of mix facilitates the drying out period between waterings, which is crucial for their health. The quick-draining bark mimics the natural drying cycle they would experience in their native habitat.

Meanwhile, other species like nun’s orchid or lady’s slipper prefer damper environments. In these cases, moss is the better choice.

In other words, you need to select a potting mix based on the specific species you have. Opting for organic soil ensures a natural choice for your plants.

Either way, the potting materials will eventually start to decompose. Make sure you repot your orchids every 1-2 years to ensure the drainage is still good and to prevent root rot.

How To Water Phalaenopsis Orchids

Over-watering is where many orchid owners go wrong. It’s important to pay close attention to indoor orchids to water them properly. Don’t just water them every other day or once a week. Instead, see how much water orchids use in different environments; your orchid might use a different amount based on the light, humidity, and potting mix.

The potting mix can heavily affect your watering schedule. For example, moss holds water for a while, but bark dries quickly. Remember, your Phalaenopsis orchids will do better with bark.

So, that means you should water your Phalaenopsis orchids just before they go dry. This holds for most orchid species, but especially for Phalaenopsis orchids. Stick your finger about an inch into the pot; if it feels dry, it’s time to water.

Again, this is where clear pots come in handy. With bark and moss, you’ll see condensation on the pot when the potting mix is moist. When there’s no condensation, your orchid needs a drink.

Valentine's Day orchid, heart-shaped petals symbolize love, in full bloom.

Expert Tips for Watering Orchids

Orchids are, as you probably already know, unique plants. As a result, you can water them slightly differently from other indoor flowers. 

You might have heard that you can water orchids by placing three ice cubes on top of the pot and allowing them to melt into the potting mix. However, this can be harmful to the plant. We don’t advise this for Phalaenopsis orchids since the cold water can damage the roots. Remember, most orchids are tropical flowers, so those freezing temperatures aren’t the best for them.

Instead, try watering your Phalaenopsis orchid by soaking them for 5-10 minutes in a large bucket. This method is great if your orchid is drinking a lot of water and you feel it’s getting dehydrated. Simply fill a bucket or basin with water so that the level comes up just below the lip of your orchid pot. You can actually do this in your sink at home. Then, leave the pot to gather water for up to 10 minutes.

Remember, you’ll need to drain it afterwards. So, drain the water, and allow your Phalaenopsis to sit and drain out any excess water for a further 5 minutes before putting it back in its place. This watering routine works for all orchid types.

Fertilizing Orchids

According to the American Orchid Society (AOS), you should consider regularly feeding your plants with orchid fertilizers. Since orchids are sensitive, these fertilizers should contain no urea.

You can use a quarter-strength (1/4 of the amount recommended on the label) of water-soluble fertilizer every time you water the orchid.

Here are some specific tips for fertilizing Phalaenopsis orchids:

  • It’s always better to under-fertilize than over-fertilize, so leave it out if you’re not sure.
  • Make sure the potting mix is damp before fertilizing. Otherwise, you can burn the orchid’s roots.
  • Add your fertilizer directly to the soaking water during your water routine.
  • Make sure you always fertilize when the flower falls off, and it’s time to start growing a new bloom. At this stage, your orchid needs more energy to bloom, so the roots and leaves will absorb the fertilizer to ensure your plant is healthy.
  • At other stages of the life cycle, fertilizing is less important.
Vibrant purple Valentine's Day orchids with a butterfly perched on one of the flowers against a blurred blue and purple background.

How Much Light Do Orchids Need?

Orchids like sunlight, but there are some species that will tolerate lower light levels. These orchids thrive better indoors. Either way, try to choose east-facing windows where the orchid gets plenty of light without it becoming too hot. Notably, too much light and heat from a south-facing window can damage the orchid. Phalaenopsis orchids are susceptible to this direct sunlight which can scorch its leaves. 

If you only have a west-facing window or a south-facing one as your option, try to use sheer curtains to block some of the light. Or, place your orchid a few feet away from the window. Meanwhile, a north-facing window often doesn’t provide sufficient light.

The Right Humidity Level for Phalaenopsis Orchids

Since Phalaenopsis orchids are tropical plants, they like a humid environment. Don’t worry–you don’t need to recreate a rainforest in your front room! Instead, make sure you mist them daily to give them some humidity. Alternatively, place them on a moist gravel bed or pebble tray, ensuring the pot sits on top of the rocks and is not nestled into them. 

Generally speaking, this advice works for any orchid species native to tropical areas.

The Right Temperature for Orchids

The species you own dictates the right temperature for orchid care. Phalaenopsis orchids enjoy daytime temperatures of 75-85˚F.

Many orchid varieties are seasonal, which means they are sensitive to temperature changes. As the temperature drops during fall and increases in spring, they know when it’s time to bloom. However, most homeowners keep their homes at a fairly stable temperature year-round, which can make it difficult for moth orchid varieties like the Phalaenopsis. 

To get the temperature right for your specific orchid species, you’ll need to do some quick research as some orchid types can be particular and there is a range. Then, make small adjustments to ensure that it gets the right temperature year-round.

How To Repot an Orchid

As we mentioned above, you may need to repot your Phalaenopsis orchid as the potting medium decomposes. You may also need to do this if it has outgrown its pot. Orchid repotting can feel intimidating because you don’t want to harm the plant, but it’s usually a fairly simple process.

  1. Lift the plant out of its pot; if it’s pot-bound, you may need to carefully cut the pot open. Clean off any old compost.
  2. Examine the root ball. Use secateurs to trim off any dead or damaged roots.
  3. If the roots have not fully filled the pot, you can reuse it. Clean it carefully using soapy water. Then, return the orchid to the pot and pour orchid compost between the roots to fill any spaces.
  4. If the orchid was pot-bound, move it into a larger one. Place the plant in the center, then fill the pot around the root ball with orchid compost.

Caring for Sick Phalaenopsis Orchids

Orchid care might seem complicated, but it can be fairly easy to look after them. That said, there are times when your orchid may get sick. There are a variety of potential problems, from root rot or dead roots caused by over-watering to wilting from inadequate light.

You’ll often notice the symptoms first. This can be yellowing leaves, petal blight, or other visible issues. However, you then need to find the source of the problem. Often, with phalaenopsis orchids and most other varieties, the problem leads back to bad roots. It’s important to protect your orchid’s roots at all times with good air circulation, enough humidity, and the right size pot.

Another problem you might encounter is insects. Infected plants can become infested with bugs or fungi. Phalaenopsis orchids are particularly susceptible to these fungal diseases. Try to prevent this by spraying your plants monthly with a natural anti-fungal spray or pesticide. For example, you can spray them with a cinnamon infusion. Try using a floral spray for a delightful fragrance.

If any of your plants become infected, remove them from the area before the infestation reaches your other plants.

Usually, you can rescue a sick or infected orchid if you spot the problem in time. You don’t have to be a gardening expert, either; just keep an eye on your flowers and act quickly if there’s a problem.

Blue orchids in full bloom, showcasing their stunning hues amidst lush green foliage.

How To Preserve Orchids

If you received your Phalaenopsis orchids as a gift, you might want to preserve them forever. You can preserve Phalaenopsis orchids and many other varieties easily by following these simple steps.

  1. Select your orchid blossoms for drying. Harvest them at midday at the peak of their growing season for the best results.
  2. Pour about an inch of silica gel into an airtight container.
  3. Cut all but one inch of the flower stalk using sharp pruning shears. Place the blossom in the gel, then gently pour more over the top.
  4. Seal the container and leave it for two days. If the shape has hardened, you can hang them.
  5. Wrap a wire around the stem and the base of the blossom securely, then tie it upside down with space for air circulation.
  6. In a cool, dry, well-ventilated room, the orchids will dry in the space of about two weeks to a month. They may shrink during this time.

When your orchids are fully dry, you can remove them from the hanger and arrange them however you wish.

Final Thoughts: How To Take Care of Orchids

For many people, orchid care is an intimidating prospect because most orchids can be sensitive. Hopefully, this guide has helped you understand how to take care of orchids properly. Thankfully, if you’ve opted for Phalaenopsis orchids, you have one of the least fussy varieties.  As long as you pay attention to your plants, growing orchids doesn’t have to be a difficult task.

Do you want to become a gardening expert? Make sure you check out our other blogs.

FAQ

Our most frequently asked questions on orchid care.

What do you do with an orchid after the blooms fall off?

Part of orchid care is knowing what to do when the blooms fall off. Make sure you cut back the flower spike just above the node (the bump on the stem). If you don’t do this, you might find that your orchid stops blooming.

How do you get an orchid to bloom again?

While organic pest control methods may require mWhen your orchid loses its bloom, you need to be patient. Healthy orchids re-bloom again when the time comes. In the meantime, make sure you fertilize your orchid every other week, increase the light, and find a nice, airy spot for it.ore patience and diligence, they can be just as effective in managing pest populations. By promoting a balanced ecosystem, you can reduce pest infestations naturally.

How do you take care of potted orchids?

It’s relatively easy to take care of an indoor orchid when you know what to look for. Make sure you pay attention to the water, humidity, temperature, and fertilizer needs of your plant. If you pot it in the right growing medium and take care of the roots, your orchid will thrive.

How do you keep an orchid alive indoors?

Orchids are tropical plants, so they require humidity. You can keep your orchid alive by misting it regularly with boiled (and cooled) water or rainwater. Keep in mind, though, that just because they like humidity doesn’t mean you should over-water them.

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