So, you’ve bought yourself an orchid, now what? Your new phalaenopsis, or moth, orchid looks more like something you’d find in an exotic greenhouse rather than growing next to your kitchen sink. However, despite their elegant, delicate appearance, these orchids are actually quite easy to care for, even for those of us with a black thumb. Follow our tips to keep your moth orchid happy and healthy in your home:
Overwatering is probably the most common cause of early demise for indoor orchids. Unlike other houseplants, constant wetness will cause the roots of your orchid to rot and the entire plant to slowly die. Instead of watering your orchid on a set schedule, water based on the plant's needs.
But how do you know when your orchid needs water? That depends on the medium it is planted in. The most common mediums for moth orchids are either moss or bark. If your orchid is planted in moss, you’ll know it’s time to water when you can stick your finger an inch into the moss and it comes up dry. It will generally take between two to three weeks for the moss to get to this point. Conversely, orchids planted in bark will typically dry out in about 7 to 10 days.
When it’s time to water, place your orchid, pot and all, into your kitchen sink. Turn the tap on to let out a steady stream of room temperature water. Let the water run through the moss or bark for about 60 seconds and let drain in the sink for a couple of minutes. If any water gets on the leaf base or stem, dry it off gently with a paper towel. Make sure, whatever your orchid is potted in, that the water is able to drain out from the bottom and doesn’t sit around and rot those roots.
As important as it is to properly water your orchid, making sure it gets the proper light is equally as crucial. Your orchid wants to soak up just the right amount of sunlight without getting too hot. Especially in the sweltering Lowcountry summers, a west or south-facing window will likely let in too much heat and fry your delicate orchid. Instead, find a nice table or sill by an east facing window. If east facing windows are in short supply in your home, a southern facing window will suffice with a sheer curtain to help filter the light.
The normally olive green leaves of your moth orchid will help let you know if it’s getting the correct amount of light by changing color. Dark green leaves mean your plant needs some more rays. Red-tinted leaves are a sign your orchid might be getting a bit of sunburn.
Like us humans, orchids need a balanced diet in order to thrive. Even if you’re orchid has proper lighting and water, it will still lack all the nutrients it needs to do well. Feed your moth orchid a weak mixture of half orchid fertilizer, half water every one to two months. And, just like a normal watering, make sure you allow to fertilizer mixture to drain properly from the moss or bark your orchid is planted in.
Believe it or not, if you’ve followed to steps above, your orchid will still be happy and healthy after it finishes blooming! Even after the flowers on your moth orchid wilt, you can make sure they come back again the next year by pruning the spike (main stem) of the plant. Here is a very helpful video from the experts at American Orchid Society that explains where you should cut the spike on your orchid. Once cut, continue caring for your orchid as listed above for the rest of the year and wait for it’s next blooms come late winter!