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Proper Watering Techniques for Orchid Care

By Staff Writer
Share to PinterestProper Watering Techniques for Orchid Care

Orchids are a favorite of many plant owners. Their unique looks, needs, and habits set them apart. But because they aren't the average houseplant, they can seem daunting.

One vital thing to figure out when caring for orchids is watering. Learning the simple signs to look for and proper techniques are key elements to success. Orchid care is an art and science, and knowing the right moves to make will keep your plant happy and healthy.


Understanding orchids and their watering needs

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Before getting into the specifics of watering, you have to know a bit about your orchid. It's not a typical houseplant, so its needs are special. Contrary to most plants, orchids are epiphytes, which means they cling to a host and take their water and nutrients from the air instead of the soil.

Watering an orchid requires a bit of experimentation on your part. Room-temperature water is a must: you'll shock the roots if the water's too cold. Many growers use tap water, yet if you're in an area that has a high concentration of chemicals, steer clear of the sink. Instead, go with rain or distilled water. As for the method of watering a potted orchid, it's up to you and your flower. Some growers choose to soak the entire pot. Others thoroughly run water through it, allowing it to drain, then repeat the cycle several times.


Know your potting medium

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Since orchids don't grow in soil, they need a host. Ideas include pebbles, coconut husks, perlite, and styrofoam. You can also find ready-made orchid mixes in stores.

Regardless of what you choose, make sure you understand your medium's ability to retain water. Do your research first. Read the packaging on store-bought types. If you're using your own medium, learn its behavior. Bark nuggets and moss, for example, hold more water than clay pellets or charcoal, which means your plant may need less frequent watering with the former option.


Pot size plays a part

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As a starting point, try watering your orchid once per week and adjust the cycle as needed. You already know that your medium is a factor, but so is the plant's pot size.

A typical orchid pot is four or six inches wide. In general, four-inch pots need water every five days, while six-inch pots should be watered every seven days. Again though, this is a trial-and-error process.


Reading your plant

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Know the type of plant you have. Orchids are considered succulents because they retain water in either their leaves or pseudobulbs, depending on the variety. If these areas are a little plump, your plant is happy.

When in doubt, don't water your orchid. Though there are a few exceptions, as a whole, it's better to underwater than overwater. Yellowing leaves, root rot, and fungus growth are some signs of too much water. Follow your plant's cues: it will tell you what it wants.


Use your senses

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After you water your orchids, it's okay for the roots to have a few drops of water on them, but you don't want stagnation at the bottom of the pot. Your plant needs to completely dry between waterings. This is where the medium comes into play.

If it feels crispy or arid, water your orchid. Also, get to know the pot's weight. Just by holding it, you'll eventually be able to tell if the roots need a drink.


Temperature and humidity

An environment with higher temperatures will usually require more watering. Humidity is also a factor, and orchids in a humid area won't need as much moisture. Plus, humidity can affect the potting medium's water retention.

A lot of orchid caregivers place their pots in a shallow tray of water and pebbles. This creates a constant humid state, which is favorable. Just ensure the roots aren't sitting in that water.


Timing is everything

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No matter where they grow, orchids typically like a morning drink. Watering them in the early afternoon is okay too, but skip the nighttime showers. Without the sun and its heat, water will stagnate, encouraging rot, bacteria, and fungal growth.

Your orchid prefers to be relatively dry as night falls, and this includes its leaves. If you accidentally get water on them, pat them dry immediately.


Hydroponic watering

It may seem bizarre for such a water-sensitive plant, but some people use hydroponics as a growing method. Keeping an orchid in a bowl of water is a surprisingly simple and successful way to give your flower life.

If you go this route, you'll have to experiment with what your plant prefers. Wet-dry cycles are an option, but some people find that total submersion works well. If you try the latter, make sure to switch out your water every week or two.


Watering mounted orchids

Some gardeners opt to mount their orchids on hosts like trees or boards. This method of growing requires alternate care. Outside, misting the roots occasionally will do the trick. Indoors, you may have to soak the mount in water up to three times per week. Depending on your home's humidity, air can quickly dry out the roots.


Don't be confused

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Potting, mounting, and hydroponics are drastically different ways to grow orchids. Add the complexity of varying types of plants, and it could lead to disaster. Don't confuse and overwhelm yourself. If you're new to growing, start small and slowly work your way up.

Understand each flower's individual needs before expanding your assortment. Mixing an orchid collection should be left to experienced growers with a confident knowledge of each plant's specific watering requirements. Taking the time to learn, study, and gradually increase your plants will result in a diverse and healthy orchid collection.


The velamen indicator for watering needs

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Orchids have a unique feature called velamen, a protective layer around their roots. This tissue acts as a moisture indicator. When dry, it's white or silvery, but after watering, it turns green. Observing the velamen's color can be a game-changer in orchid care. It's nature's way of telling you about the plant's hydration level. By understanding this subtle cue, you can ensure that your orchid gets water just when it needs it, preventing both over and under-watering.


The benefits of dunking orchids for thorough watering

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Orchids, unlike many other plants, benefit from a thorough soak. Imagine a tropical downpour drenching the forest floor; dunking mimics this natural occurrence. By submerging the pot, every root gets the moisture it craves. After the dunk, ensure you drain the excess water. This method not only hydrates but also washes away any accumulated salts or minerals, ensuring a healthier root system and a happier orchid.


Misting orchids: Why and how often?

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Orchids hail from humid environments, where moist air envelops them. While they drink from their roots, their leaves also absorb moisture from the air. Daily misting, especially in drier climates, replicates this humidity. However, timing is crucial. Morning misting ensures the leaves dry by evening, reducing fungal risks. Think of it as giving your orchid a refreshing morning dew experience.


The historical evolution of orchid care

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Orchids, once the pride of specialists and collectors, have journeyed into mainstream gardening, thanks to advancements in propagation and care. Delving into this history offers insights into their unique needs. From being showcased in elite gardens to gracing our living rooms, understanding orchids' past enriches our present care practices, ensuring these exotic blooms continue to captivate.


The risks of letting orchids sit in water

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Water is essential for orchids, but too much can be detrimental. Their roots are designed to breathe, and prolonged submersion can lead to root rot. Good drainage is paramount. While orchids love a good soak, they despise stagnation. Ensuring your pot drains well and avoiding waterlogged saucers can make the difference between a thriving orchid and a wilting one.



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