Frequently Asked Questions
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question in our orchids forum
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able to offer some information for you.
- My orchid grows but doesn't bloom.
- Orchids expend a great deal of energy to flower. Conditions
must be just right for them to bloom. Check on light levels, water frequency,
- How do I know if my orchid is getting enough light to bloom?
- Most orchids bloom once a year. If yours does not bloom,
first look at the leaves. Dark green leaves can indicate that the plant
is receiving insufficient light. Healthy leaves receiving enough light
are usually a light green color.
- When do I need to repot my orchid?
- When the potting media starts to decompose, you should
repot it. You can tell it is decomposing by digging out a piece of wet
bark and squeezing it between your fingers. If it stays whole, the
media is not broken down. If it squishes or breaks up, it's time to
repot. Pots that do not drain water well need to be repotted
- Can I use a time-release fertilizer for my orchids?
- Yes. Time release fertilizers are great if you are
forgetful about fertilizing or do not have the time. Follow the
instructions on the fertilizer label. Most last 3-4 months, but some
may last 2 seasons. Apply a dose at the beginning of spring, and if
necessary repeat in summer.
- Do orchids need to be pruned to shape them?
- No, except for any dead leaves, flowers, and roots. These
should be cut off with a sterile scissors. Use a bleach solution or
rubbing alcohol to sterilize scissors.
- What kind of orchid do I have?
- There are approximately 30,000 species of orchids, and tens
of thousands more human-made hybrids. To figure out what kind of orchid
you have, take a close look at both the flowers and the leaves. The
shape of the flower is often the most helpful information.
- What if I can't identify my orchid?
- If you cannot identify what kind of orchid you have, and
therefore cannot figure out the correct light, water, and temperature
levels, start with these basic tips.
Choosing the Right Orchid
- What kind of orchid should I buy?
- Know what conditions you can provide, don't buy rare
orchids unless you know how to take care of them, and always buy from
reputable stores or dealers. Never buy a plant taken from the wild or
take from the wild yourself.
- What should I look for when I buy an orchid?
- Leaves and roots should be firm and clean looking. Do not
worry if some roots are sticking out of the pot. Flowers that are just
starting to open will last longer than ones that are already open.
- I am an over-waterer. Are there orchids that I can grow?
- Yes. Some orchids, such as Masdevallias,
need water every day. Make sure that all orchids, even these kinds that
like daily water, drain thoroughly and never sit in water.
- If I live in a cold climate, how can I grow orchids?
- Orchids grow most everywhere on the planet, even north of
the Arctic Circle and atop cold mountains. Masdevallias,
are some of the kinds that require cool temperatures. Some Paphiopedilums
also need cool temperatures.
- Which orchids have a scent?
- Many orchids, including some Cattleyas,
have scents. Some may have scents only during part of the day or night.
Smell the orchid when you are buying it to determine if it has a scent
that you like.
Common Orchid Problems
- The flowers fell off my orchid - is the plant dead?
- No, it has simply finished blooming. It will now store
energy until it can bloom again. Some orchids can bloom more than once
- What are signs of disease to watch for?
- Deformed leaves or flowers can indicate disease. Black
spots on leaves may indicate a problem.
- My plant is growing crooked. Is that a problem?
- No. Orchids grown in a greenhouse grow straight up because
all their light comes from overhead, and they grow towards it. An
orchid grown indoors grows toward the nearest light source, whether
that is a window or light bulb. This actually reflects how many orchids
grow in the wild, where they are often shaded by a tree or a hill, and
grow crooked toward the light. You can turn your orchid every few days
to keep it growing straighter. When it starts to grow a flower spike,
however, you should stop turning it or it may drop its flowers.
- My orchid's roots are sticking out of the pot. Is that a
- No. Most orchids grow as epiphytes, or air plants. Their
roots attach to trees, but they are not parasites. They hang on to the
trees for support while they absorb rainwater and gather nutrients.
Roots may have moss or debris on them, but they are otherwise exposed
to the open air. So as long as the humidity is high, the roots will be
perfectly happy sticking out.
- Why are orchids grown in bark or moss?
- Because they are air plants, orchids need air movement
around their roots. Soil is dense, and does not permit enough oxygen to
get to roots. Bark and moss allow air movement.
- Are there any orchids that grow in potting soil?
- Yes. Although most orchids are air plants, some are
that root in soil. Some terrestrials grow in marshy conditions or on
stream banks. Most orchids sold are epiphytes, not terrestrials.
Pleiones and Bletillas are examples of orchids that grow in soil.
- How do orchids attach to trees? How do they get into the
trees in the first place?
- Orchid roots anchor to bark or rocks while they are
growing. Orchid seeds are miniscule, and blow in the wind like dust.
Seeds start growing when they land on trees or rocks in the right
- If orchids grow in wet places, why can't they handle water
collecting around the roots or on the leaves?
- This may seem like a contradiction, but even orchids that
grow in wet, humid rainforests need to dry out to prevent bacteria and
mold from causing rot. In the wild, plants usually grow at an angle so
that water quickly drains. Growing as air plants on tree trunks and
branches, their roots stay above puddles on the ground.