How to Care for Orchids and Get More Blooms

Lynn Coulter
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cattleya orchid

Did you use our flowchart to find the orchid that’s right for you? If not, check it out before you buy. Some of these exotic beauties need more attention than others, but many are as easy to grow as ordinary houseplants.

Orchids will thrive and bloom when you choose plants that like the growing conditions in your home. Use our list, below, to find your best match. Then click the links below to purchase online, or visit your local Home Depot Garden Center. Many carry a variety of orchids in different sizes and colors.

Phalaenopsis

Pronounced “fayl-eh-NOP-sis,” these plants are nicknamed the moth orchid because the flowers look like moths in flight. Phalaenopsis are a great choice for beginners and grow happily in bright, indirect light. The plants like daytime temperatures from 70 to 82 degrees F.

phalaenopsis orchidA moth orchid growing in bark needs watering about once a week; if it’s in moss, wait until the top feels dry. Like most orchids, these plants need good air circulation and plenty of humidity.

To raise the humidity around any orchid, sit the pot on some pebbles in a tray filled with a little water. Just don’t let the plant touch the water, to avoid root rot.

Phalaenopsis blooms appear from winter to early spring and can last 2 to 4 months. Coax them to re-bloom by using a balanced orchid fertilizer as the label recommends.

Cattleya

Cattleya orchids (KAT-lee-ah), pictured at the top of this page, prefer bright, indirect light and temperatures from 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night and 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. Direct sun can burn their leaves. They need high humidity and good air circulation and should be allowed to dry out between waterings.

Encourage re-blooming by feeding with a high-nitrogen fertilizer if your plant is growing in fir bark. Otherwise, use a balanced orchid fertilizer.

Oncidium

When oncidiums (on-SID-ee-ums) sway in the breeze, you’ll see why the flowers are called “dancing ladies.” The blossoms look like dancers in skirts. The plants are easy for beginners to grow and tolerate a wide range of conditions.

oncidium orchid

Give oncidiums bright, diffused light and temperatures from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. When you water, pour until water drains out of the bottom of the pot, and wait until about half the growing mix is dry before watering again. It’s better to underwater than to overdo it.

When your oncidium is actively growing, feed with a balanced orchid fertilizer to encourage more flowers.

Dendrobium

Orchids in the dendrobium (den-DROH-bee-um) genus have different needs, but most grow well in bright, indirect light and rooms that range from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. during the day and 55 to 60 degrees F. at night. Dendrobiums are often grown in small pots, with their tall, slender stems clipped to supports. They flower more when they’re somewhat pot-bound, but their small pots may need watering twice a week.

dendrobium orchid

Like other orchids, give dendrobiums good air circulation and high humidity.

When the flowers fade, cut the stalks to the spot where they grew out of the pseudobulb (the fattened part of the plant, which stores water). Don’t cut the tall stems; that’s where new flower stems will grow. Fertilize with a balanced orchid fertilizer, and the bloom cycle should start over in about a year.

Cymbidium

For sprays of colorful flowers that last and last, grow cymbidiums (sim-BID-ee-ums). They prefer filtered sunlight, and you’ll know they’re getting the right amount if their leaves are a bright, yellowish-green.

Cymbidiums can summer outdoors in dappled shade, but bring them in before frost. They can’t tolerate temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Keep your cymbidium evenly moist, but not soggy, and feed with a high-nitrogen fertilizer while it’s actively growing, or from about March to October. Cut back on watering during the winter.

cymbidium orchids

Cymbidiums like daytime temperatures of 65 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. and nighttime temperatures of 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Reducing water in the winter, along with cooler temperatures, will stimulate them to re-bloom. Watch for the showy flowers to appear in late winter.

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