Orchids have developed a reputation for being difficult plants to keep happy at home. They look stunning when you first buy them but tend to slump after a few weeks. Sound familiar?
It’s a common story, but it’s one that doesn’t need to have an unhappy ending. Here’s my guide to keeping orchids alive and thriving at your house.
Orchids are beautiful plants to have around the home because they’re living flower arrangements.
A bunch of flowers will last a week or two at best, but orchids can hold their flower for anywhere from one to five months and will produce flowers every year – given the right conditions.
The secret to keeping orchids happy and rebounding with new flowers each year is a matter of selecting the type of orchid that’s right for your home and, after that, keeping up a simple routine of plant care.
Cymbidium orchids are a great option to begin with. They’re easy-to-care-for, hardy and popular with home gardeners for the array of colours they offer: From deep chocolate through to snow whites, yellows, golds and all shades of reds and greens.
If you’re looking for a bit more of a challenge, then choose a phalaenopsis orchid. These classic flowers with long, graceful stems are instantly recognisable.
They’re sometimes referred to as ‘moth’ or ‘butterfly’ orchids, or by their nickname ‘phal’ for short. In non-tropical areas of Australia, these orchids will need to be grown indoors.
With some basic gardening knowledge and a few simple steps, you’ll be able to keep both types of orchids healthy, happy and flowering each year. Here’s how:
1. Choose easy-care orchids
Start your orchid collection with easy-care orchids such as cymbidiums, or phalaenopsis orchids if you’re after the next level of challenge.
2. Find the right location for your orchid
Cymbidium orchards need to be placed in a protected position. The perfect environment is warm, airy and bright.
Move the orchids throughout the seasons to ensure they’re not exposed to frost or extreme heat.
Phalaenopsis orchids do well indoors, away from direct sunlight. Try placing them onto a plant stand, or a shelf close to a window, with a curtain to filter direct rays.
3. How to water your orchid
The key to watering orchids is to keep up a consistent level of moisture. This means changing routines for the different seasons in Australia.
Water your plants more regularly in summer, when the weather is hot, and reduce watering at the onset of the cooler months.
Water only when the top layer of the potting medium feels dry. Overwatering is the number one killer of plants, including orchids, so go easy!
4. Giving your orchid the nutrients it needs
Orchids will be healthier, and more likely to flower every year, if they’re well fed. You can provide them the nutrients they need via a regular dose of orchid fertiliser, available from your local plant nursery.
Feed cymbidiums once a fortnight in spring and summer and about once a month in autumn and winter. Phalaenopsis orchids benefit from a diluted, weekly feed.
5. New flowers, new pots
A little bit of fussing helps to keep orchids happy. Your plant will benefit from having the flower spikes cut back once flowering is over each year.
For cymbidiums, cut the flower spikes at their base. For phalaenopsis orchids, leave the spike to die back, and then cut back to the node (the ‘bumps’ below flowering points) on the stem, so that new flowers can branch out from the existing stem.
Also, repot your plants about every two years when the potting medium begins to look tired.
A little confidence goes a long way when it comes to orchids!
If you follow a few simple rules, these plants will produce beautiful flowers for years to come.