How to care for an orchid

Keep your orchid thriving with these seven expert tips.
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Maybe a friend brought you a potted orchid as a gift, or perhaps you picked up a pretty phalaenopsis orchid at your local grocery store. If you are now wondering how to look after orchids because a little down the track, things are looking a bit grim, here’s help.

Orchid care is easy if you get a few things right. To extend the life of this pretty plant and dress up your kitchen bench or vanity, with a little care and maintenance, your orchid will be happy and thriving for several seasons. Here’s how to care for orchids.

1. Give them a good position

The best place to keep an orchid in your house is in a position with bright, filtered natural light. Direct sunlight is too harsh for the delicate blooms and the roots tend to dry out too quickly.

Pink orchid in marble bathroom
Good orchid care starts with indirect sunlight. (Photography: Claire McFerran)

2. The right temperature for orchid care

Think Goldilocks – “not too hot, not too cold” – the right temperature for an orchid sits at about 23 degrees Celsius to provide a temperate climate for your orchid to thrive and flower.

3. Air flow

Orchids need a nice soft air flow but not too much of a breeze, certainly no direct heating (particularly dry heat from a heater or air conditioner) but fresh warm air to keep the flowers intact.

How to care for your orchid
Keep orchids away from air-conditioning vents and breezes. (Photography: Simon Whitbread)

4. Trim spent flowers

Like any flowering plant, an orchid needs to regroup and recharge once it’s produced a flourish of blooms, so any spent flowers should be removed by snipping the stem just below where the last flower grew from. Take care to keep the little bump below as this ‘node’ will provide new growth.

5. The right amount of water

How often should you water your orchids? Give them a drink straight from the tap; a light water at room temperature once a week is all your orchid needs. Ideally, the mossy substance surrounding the orchid roots should not be allowed to become completely dry.

Water straight to the roots, avoiding the leaves and ensure good drainage so you don’t let it sit in water in the pot. A gentle poke to the root bed to ensure it remains damp is a good practice as you walk by.

The occasional mist with a water spray is also a nice touch to extend the life of the flowers. Orchids’ love of humidity makes them a fantastic indoor plant for a bathroom.

Pair of white orchid plants in a blue and white bathroom
White phalaenopsis (or moth orchids) are the perfect accessory for this classic, marble bathroom. (Photography: Lisa Cohen)

6. Feed and fertilise your orchid

Like all plants, orchids need fertiliser to help them grow as they use up all the surrounding nutrients in the soil. In this case, a specialised orchid mix consisting of bark and/or moss provides the right medium for good orchid care.

Liquid fertiliser to feed your orchid tends to work well with orchids but slow-release is fine too if you have your watering down pat.

7. Repot orchids occasionally

Once a year or every 18 months, give your orchid a little room to move around. Choose a pot that’s a little bigger and a fresh batch of orchid potting mix from your local nursery.

Be gentle with the roots as you move the plant across and leave a little room at the top of the pot for watering.

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