Absolute Beginners VERY BASIC Orchids Tips & How to
So I've recently come to the realization that I'm not _that person_ at the office.... the one who sees random orchids around and feels _compelled_ to help and/or rescue them. So to spare everyone, I thought I'd get a little of that out of my system by making a very basic orchid office FAQ / tips post, mainly centred on the most popular office plant, Phalaenopsis hybrids.
Questions answered below:
- What kind of orchid do I have?
- I think it needs more water, maybe?
- How to water an orchid.
- Did I kill this moss?
- Why is my orchid so droopy?
- Why should I repot my orchid?
- Can I repot my orchid with regular dirt?
- How do I repot?
What kind of orchid do I have?
99% of beginners will likely have a Phalaenopsis hybrid orchid. How can you tell if that's what you have? If it has big showy abundant flowers, it's probably a Phalaenopsis hybrid. (Non hybrids are a lot smaller and much less showy).
I think it needs more water, maybe?
Phalaenopsis like to be watered once or twice a week, but they like to dry out for at least a day. If it's day 5 and your orchid is still moist, don't water more than once a week.
How to water a phalaenopsis:
Your orchid needs to be watered and then have the water drain out. Usually that means a pot with at least holes in the bottom. If your pot doesn't have holes in the bottom (a lot of them don't) then you MUST tip your orchid sideways at the sink and let all the extra water drain out.
Water your orchid getting water on the roots. Water each side of the leaves, taking EXTRA CARE not to get water on the leaves. Usually that means I'm putting the tap on warm and gentle, on two sides of the pot, on each side of the crown (leaves).
If you get water on the leaves, dry them lightly with a piece of paper towel. If you get water in the crown (very easy to do) tip your orchid sideways to let the water drain out, then dap with a paper towel and/or put in front of a fan for 10 or 20 minutes. It's very easy for phalaenopsis hybrids to get root or crown rot, which is often fatal, so avoiding water on the leaves is important.
Give your orchid enough water that water drips out of the bottom holes. If you have a clear pot, you'll see your orchid roots will turn green. When they become thirsty they turn silver.
Did I kill this moss? I suck.
No, if there's moss in your orchid pot, 99% of the time flower shops and grocery stores pack Phalaenopsis hybrids with 100% sphagnum moss which is supposed to be dead. It would be more usual for your moss to be alive.
Why is my orchid so droopy?
You can usually tell a happy orchid because one of the things it has is level or upright leaves. If your orchid has droopy leaves it's either sun deprived or dehydrated. Some tips for figuring out which:
Is it in an office with no windows or daylight? It's probably sun deprived. Phalaenopsis really don't need much light at all, but they definitely need more light than lucky bamboo. Try to allow your plant to get an hour or two of indirect or weak sunlight a day, or even borrow a co-workers cubicle on the weekend. ;-)
Now if you're sure it's getting enough sunlight, and the leaves are droopy (but not burnt) then your orchid is probably dehydrated. It's probably not 'sick' but its definitely not happy. Orchid dehydration can happen for a lot of reasons, but mainly two:
- You need to water it a little more. Usually once a week is good, though I have found my particular office can be especially dry, so sometimes twice a week is better.
- If your orchid is in pure spagnum moss and a pot without air holes, then it may be that your orchid has roots that aren't getting enough air and it would benefit from a repotting. (There are lots of great repotting tutorials on youtube, or see my youtube video at the bottom of the page.)
These non-repotted orchids came to my office, until I later took pity on them (the office got too cold and too slow humidity, and they needed a repotting.)
Why should I repot my Phalaenopsis?
If your orchid is in bark chips or bark chips mixed with moss and you're a beginner, you probably don't need to repot it if it's also in a container with air (holes) and if everything smells ok (nothing smells weird.)
If your orchid came in 100% moss, then it's probably a good idea to repot your orchid.. Usually it's a good idea to wait until your orchid is almost done blooming before you repot because often repotting can cause "bud-blasting" whereby the blooms die off. This doesn't mean the plant is sick, just that it's a bit stressed from the move. So if everything's normal, you should wait.
As soon as it's ready, you should repot with an orchid mix from any do-it-yourself shop or flower shop, a mix with chunky bark chips. Because Phalaenopsis have thick roots and were meant to live on trees, they actually like to have air circulating around their roots. Bark chips allow more air than pure moss, which retains more water. Repotting to a pot with air holes on the side will also help your plant roots have more air, which will help it be happier and become more likely to re-bloom next year.
Can I use regular dirt when repotting my orchid?
No, please don't. The dirt is too fine and will suffocate your orchids roots. As mentioned above, orchids like air around their roots so they prefer something chunky rather than fine.
How do I repot?
Here's a good link I found for repotting instructions:
Here is one orchid I found in a dark cubicle corner & the repotting I did.
Repotting a Phal with some dead roots. This Phalaenopsis was in 100% sphagnum moss in a pot without air, and consequently had quite a bit of rotted roots. It also didn't get any natural sun and was a little dehydrated and damaged. So I loosened and removed the moss, then using a sterilized scissors, cut away all of the dead roots (thin, papery roots), leaving the roots that are still green and replaced the media with an orchid bark mix and a small amount of moss mixed in.
Here's my quick video link on youtube. There are so many great resources on youtube for orchid beginners!
If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask me below.