How to grow orchids

how to care for orchids
How to care for orchidsMaryviolet - Getty Images

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With unique displays in a range of bright and appealing colours, orchids are one of the most popular houseplants around.

One reason for their popularity is the fact that the flowers can last for months at a time, providing ongoing beauty even in the winter months. And on top of that, they can re-bloom repeatedly with the right treatment, lasting for years and years.

However, orchids aren’t the easiest of houseplants to care for. There’s plenty of ways to mistreat them, from overwatering to insufficient light, which can wilt the flowers and lead to damage. If you want to get the best display from your orchid and keep it happy and healthy, we’ve rounded up our top tips here.

Water requirements

Orchids do need regular watering, but perhaps not as much as you’d think. In fact, a lot of first time owners can overwater their orchids without realising.

Most orchids are native to tropical rainforests, so they’re designed to thrive a humid, hot climate with sudden rainfall. The right amount of water needed depends on the time of year and the room temperature. For instance, in the heat of summer, watering once, or even twice a week may be necessary, while in the cooler temperatures of winter, once every two weeks might be enough. For general guidance, watering once a week is good practice.

Before you do, always check the condition of the potting mix to make sure it’s sufficiently dried out. If you feel the top inch with your finger, it should feel bone dry. If your orchid is in a transparent plastic pot, as most are, you can also see if there’s obvious signs of moisture in there. The roots inside the pot can help guide you when water is needed; if they're bright green, they're still hydrated, but if there's a silvery tint to them, they need watering.

how to care for orchids
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Apply tepid water to your orchid until it runs through the pot and out of the drainage holes. You don’t want your orchid to sit in the water and stay wet for too long; this encourages root rot. Because of this it's a good to empty out the saucer your orchid sits in if it collects a lot of water.

Another option is to water your orchids by soaking them. Simply fill a sink with tepid water, sit your orchids in there (making sure the water level’s not higher than the top of the pot) and leave to soak for 10-15 minutes. You may need to weigh down smaller orchids at first so they don’t tip over. Then take your orchids out and leave them to drain and dry.

Remember to add plant food to the water as often as needed to encourage further growth. It’s good practice to do this through the spring and summer. Follow the dosage instructions on pack. Misting your orchids regularly in the heat of summer can help them thrive too.

Light requirements

Orchids need sufficient light to survive, but they don’t like to sit in direct sunlight for too long. Otherwise the light can end up scorching the leaves and flowers. Your orchid should be placed in bright, indirect sunlight for best growing conditions. An east-facing windowsill could work because the sun only hits in the morning.

It's a good idea to train any new flower spikes with a stake and clips to keep these upright, otherwise these will lean towards the light. Wait until the spike is at least 6 inches long and then work a stake into the roots, taking care not to damage them. Secure the spike at the first node and then at every couple of inches thereafter. Stop once your orchid blooms.

Do not place your orchid anywhere where the temperature fluctuates too dramatically. So avoid anywhere there’s a draft or a heat source nearby. Try to keep the conditions consistent where possible.

Pests and disease

There are all kinds of pests and disease that can travel in on an unknowing orchid. Fail to act quickly and these can spread to the rest of your indoor garden. That’s why we recommend quarantining new plants for at least a month before introducing them to other plants.

Orchids can fall victim to all kinds of pests, each of which will require specialist treatment. Fungus gnats are small flies which tend to hover around the potting mix surface. Yellow sticky cards can trap any adults, while water treatment tablets or powder can kill any larvae.

how to care for orchids
Maryviolet - Getty Images

Mealybugs tend to sit on and under new leaves near to the stem. These white, rounded bugs will leave a white fluffy residue around the leaves. They can be removed manually with soapy water and a sponge or paper towels. Or you can use an organic spray, such as KinderPet Natural Organic Plant Spray. This type of spray will work on other kinds of pests as well, such as spider mites and aphids.

Orchid diseases can vary widely too, but the most common are fungal-related as a result of overwatering. In these cases, general tips include repotting the orchid to give it fresh potting mix (see tips below), and removing any infected or damaged areas using a sterilised blade. Apply a suitable fungicide as necessary too, such as EcoValley Natural Plant Mould and Mildew Remover Spray. Identify the specific disease to find the best treatments.

Do not trim the infected orchid and then move onto other houseplants, otherwise you could spread the disease. Sterilise the blade first.


Repotting is an important part of caring for your orchid. Not only does it give it more space to grow (if needed), it provides access to much-needed nutrients in the fresh potting mix. You should ideally repot your orchid every couple of years, or when you notice the roots struggling for space. Do not repot while the flowers are in bloom, or the shock can wilt them prematurely. Wait until these have dropped naturally. Fresh growth during the springtime is also a good time to repot.

Buy a suitable orchid potting mix such as Westland Orchid Potting Compost Mix and fill the new pot around ¼ full – you can skip this if you’re sticking to the same container. Then carefully tease your orchid free from its pot (you can soak the roots for 5 minutes beforehand to help or even cut the pot open in extreme circumstances).

how to care for orchids
Maryviolet - Getty Images

Let the excess potting mix fall free and remove the rest gently by hand, taking care around the roots. Cut away any dead or damaged roots, then rinse and place your orchid in its new home, untangling the roots for better placement before filling it with fresh potting mix. Then tap the mix into place. Your orchid will be vulnerable from the shock afterwards so avoid overwatering.

If you’re repotting a diseased orchid, don’t forget to sterilise the old container if you plan to reuse it. Wash it with soapy water, then after rinsing, soak in one part bleach to nine parts water for 10 minutes.

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