Orchids: An outstanding indoor plant

Blooming phalaenopsis on white background.

Last month we discussed unusual ways of growing indoor house plants in terrariums, dish gardens and string gardens but, in my opinion, there is no more beautiful indoor plant than the orchid.

I hear from many gardeners that they are scared to grow orchids but, in reality, they shouldn’t be. Orchids are long-lasting flowering plants that make great houseplants and they’re not that hard to grow.

First, let’s explain the various orchid types that you could grow indoors:

Phalaenopsis species: The moth orchid is really the most adapted for growing in your home. This orchid has long arching sprays of colorful flowers that begin ­flowering in winter or early spring and remain showy for several months. These require less light that some of the other orchids and flower in a variety of colors and patterns ranging from pink to white. Don’t be confused by the new “blue” Phalaenopsis orchid. It is not really blue but simply has blue dye in the ­rooting media that is taken up by the plant.

Cattleya species: Cattleyas are known for their use in corsages and for having a flower that can last from two to six weeks. They generally flower only once per year during the spring or fall. They require twice the amount of light of moth orchids to perform well in the home.

Dendrobium species: Dendrobium orchids produce long, graceful sprays of ­flowers that are typically white, ­lavender or a combination of the two ­during the fall and winter. Flowers may remain open three to four weeks.

Growing requirements

Most orchids require the same ­temperature range as other houseplants. Daytime highs in the 70s, and nighttime lows of 55-65 degrees will keep orchids growing perfectly happily. A bright window with indirect sunlight all day is ideal.

In terms of watering, once a week is about right for most orchids. Overwatering is by far the easiest way to kill an orchid, so only water orchids once the ­potting media has dried out slightly. Orchids are ­typically planted in a well-drained media, like a bark mixture, that allows water to easily drain away. For many ­gardeners, a few ice cubes placed on top of the bark media once a week does the job well for many orchids.

Re-blooming orchids

Probably the most difficult aspect of growing orchids is getting them to re-bloom. Providing orchids with warmer temperatures during the day and cooler temperatures at night (about a 10-15 degree difference is ideal) helps to simulate seasonal cues that the plant needs to start ­blooming again. If the temperature in your home stays relatively ­consistent, you will likely have difficulty in ­re-blooming orchids.

I typically put my orchids out on my deck for the summer in a bright, but still slightly shaded location, so that they naturally get that fluctuation of night and day temperatures. Then before the temperature dips below 40 degrees, I bring them inside for the winter. The pots I brought inside this October were loaded with flower spikes starting!

Some resources will also suggest that during the month that you’re ­trying to get the plant to re-bloom, you should restrict watering to just once every two weeks and allow the top 2 inches of growing medium to dry thoroughly before watering again.

Though a little extra ­manipulation is needed to get your orchids to rebloom, that moment of pure ­excitement when you realize a new flower is on its way is definitely worth it!