How To... Care for an Orchid

Lately, every window of every flower shop we pass seems to have a stunning display of blooming orchids. Despite our fear of killing the notoriously finicky plants, their beauty finally won us over and we brought one home. We found that perhaps their difficult reputation isn't so warranted after all... We got our Phalaenopsis from Plant It Earth on Divisidero, and the staff there was very helpful in giving us the lowdown on what our new plant would require. Of course all species of orchids are different, but here's some general advice for the easier to grow indoor types, such as Lady's Slippers, Cattleya, and Moth (Phalaenopsis and Doritis) Orchids.
  • Light In general, orchids thrive on bright, indirect light. At home, the best position for the plants would be near an East, West, or shaded South-facing window. If the foliage becomes dark green and limp (leaves should stand semi-erect), this is a good indication the plant isn't receiving enough light.
  • Temperature Mature orchids like a fluctuation of about 15 degrees between night and day, with nights around 60-65º F and days in the 75-85º F range.
  • Water Plants should seldom dry out between watering. Check often to see if the soil is damp, and water about twice a week.
  • Fertilize A growing orchid requires a mix of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, provided by regular fertilizing. Go for a balanced version (a fertilizer with "10-10-10" or some other similar ratio on the front) and use a weak dose with water about once a week.
  • Potting In general, orchids do best when their roots are confined in a tight container. Repot once every year or two when soil has almost completely broken down, using a well-drained but water-retaining mix. Do so in the Spring, after the main flowering season has ended.

Any orchid lovers out there who'd like to share some tips? We'd love to hear.

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