Orchids are not just for horticulturists and commercial greenhouse growers — many varieties grow well as houseplants and can live for between 10 and 15 years. Key to keeping your orchid alive and blooming at least annually is to provide the best possible growing environment and stick to a consistent care routine.
Phalaenopsis (moth orchids) are common and easy to find in retail outlets and greenhouses. This hardy orchid is a good choice for anyone who wants to stretch their green thumb to include an orchid or two in their houseplant collection. Other good choices for beginners include include Cattleya, Dendrobium and Oncidium. Most orchids are perennials that are hardy in their native tropical habitats, meaning that they will rebloom year after year. While more rare species are much sought after, those orchids are usually pricey, can be extremely fussy about growing conditions, and are best left to growers with plenty of experience.
Orchid flowers are the pièce de résistance. Blooms often mimic nature taking the shapes of birds and butterflies. Like most other plants, they go through a bloom cycle at least once a year with some species offering long-lasting flowers twice annually.
Orchids Are All About the Bloom
Professional growers, collectors and home growers, as well, invest in orchids for the extraordinary blooms. Once the petals fade and fall, what remains is often a mix of gangly roots, stems and leaves that aren't very attractive. Some varieties may even appear to be dying. They are still very much alive and simply entering into a rest period. Types with glossy, green, spathe type leaves offer more as houseplants although they are not especially interesting. The goal is to coax the plant back into rebloom.
Caring For Orchids in Bloom
If you've acquired an orchid covered in blooms, this indicates the plant is well-into the bloom cycle which begins with the appearance of a flowering spike, followed by buds and finally open flowers. Orchid blooms last a long time, usually from six to ten weeks. To maintain bloom for as long as possible, increase sunlight, fertilize weekly, avoid overwatering, and take care to keep the flowers dry.
It is important to maintain the right kind of light whether it is bright, indirect or filtered. However you can increase the amount your orchid is receiving by repositioning it in a sunny location for several hours during the day.
Most orchids send up long slender flower stalks that need support. Attractive wire supports and clips usually come with purchased orchids, but it's simple to make your own with a small wooden dowel and twine.
How to Get an Orchid to Rebloom
Eventually the flowers will fade and drop. The goal, now, is to begin coaxing the orchid into rebloom. Be patient. The plant will need a rest period and may go dormant for several months. Follow these basic care tips to keep your orchid healthy and thriving.
- Consider repotting the plant. While orchids rarely require potting up, repotting to refresh depleted growing media is necessary for nutritional support and should be done every one to two years.
- Create and maintain the orchid's natural habitat as closely as possible.
- Start or increase fertilizing on a set schedule when you see new growth.
- Increase and maintain an adequate watering schedule for your variety.
- Raise the humidity (40 to 70 percent is recommended.).
When to Expect the Next Bloom
Knowing when an orchid will naturally bloom can be a puzzle. Store-bought orchids have often been forced in a greenhouse and won't necessarily come back into bloom at the same time the following year.
Most, though, begin their growth cycle in summer with blooms following in fall, winter or spring. Look for the appearance of new leaves or accelerated growth which indicate the growth cycle is starting up.
Keep Your Orchid Healthy and Thriving
There are steps to keep an orchid thriving, giving you a chance to coax it back into bloom. You don't need a greenhouse or special equipment. They grow quite well as houseplants with adequate conditions: light, water, growing medium, temperature, humidity and fertilization. Orchids prefer consistency and perform best and live longest when you adhere to a regular schedule of watering and fertilizing specific to your orchid variety.