• Showy Lady’s Slipper Orchids.

    Showy Lady’s Slipper Orchids. (Photo Courtesy of the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority)

With tens of thousands of different species growing on every continent except Antarctica, orchids make up one of the largest families of flowering plants.  Once a luxury for the wealthy, orchids now enjoy more widespread popularity. While each species is a little different, there are general guidelines that you can follow when caring for your beloved orchid. The following tips are from orchid specialist Marilyn H.S. Light.
 
How much light does an orchid need? 
Bright, filtered sunlight or wide spectrum fluorescent light is best for most kinds. 
 
What kind of temperature does an orchid like? 
Room temperature; warmer by day, cooler at night. Avoid exposure to cold or hot air drafts. 
 
How often should orchids be watered? 
Once or twice a week depending on how quickly the growing medium dries out. Water thoroughly, letting the water flow through the pot. Use deionized or rain water once a month to rinse away minerals. Avoid using hard well water. 
 
Should I use fertilizer? 
Use very dilute liquid flowering houseplant or orchid fertilizer with regular watering once every two weeks in summer, once a month in winter. Use one-quarter of the recommended strength. 
 
My house is dry in the winter. How can I maintain humidity? 
Pebble trays are not very effective. Leaves should be misted with deionized water using a sprayer several times daily. 
 
What happens when the flowers fade and the stalks yellow? 
The individual flowers and stalks can be removed using sterilized scissors or a sterile blade. Phalaenopsis orchids frequently rebloom from the old stem where it remains green. In this case, only remove upper parts that have yellowed or dried. 
 
When should the plant be repotted/divided? 
You should repot the plant once the potting medium has deteriorated, or about every 18 months to two years. Orchids can be divided at the same time if desired. 

Want to dig deeper into orchid culture? Join your local orchid society to learn more!

Additional Resources
Plant name search
World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
The International Hybrid Register
The Canadian Orchid Congress

Special thanks to the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority for their help with the story ‘The Orchid Fief’