The goal of keeping orchids as houseplants may be to enjoy the flowers, but don’t neglect the care of your plants after they have bloomed too.
While an orchid doesn’t need a lot of special attention after flowering, there are a few tips that can help keep your plants healthy and providing lovely color for many years.
How Often Do Orchids Bloom?
We should start off by establishing how often you can expect flowers from a standard orchid. A healthy orchid is not a one-and-done flowering show. They have an annual blooming cycle and will flower once a year, providing you give them the proper care (before and after).
Some of the newer hybrids are more enthusiastic and can flower more frequently. If you are lucky, you might even get an orchid that blooms almost continually. Otherwise, just expect a floral showing once a year.
Since it can take the right conditions to trigger flowering, you might not see a blossom precisely at the same time each year. Until you get the hang of things, it may even be once every 2 years.
How to Make Orchids Flower
Before you can worry about how to care for an orchid after flowering, you need to know how to adjust your treatment of them to get them blooming in the first place.
During the non-blooming periods, standard orchid care involves the same type of environment as many other houseplants. Cool to warm temperatures in the room, indirect light and moderate humidity levels.
Watering is a little trickier because orchids are naturally epiphytes, meaning they grow without soil and their roots exposed to the air. They will not survive in the usual potting soil you have for your other plants. It must be very high-draining with shredded bark, sphagnum moss, perlite and other similar materials that allow for a lot of air spaces around the roots. When their growing medium is dry, they need a good soaking and they are left to dry out again.
The trick to get them flowering is to make changes in the environment to trigger their seasonal cycle. The main change you need to make is in the temperature, providing a sizable drop between day and night. Each variety will have its own specific needs in terms of actual degrees, but on average you’ll need to create a drop of at least 10 degrees overnight.
Some orchids need more of a dip, like Dancing Lady orchids (Oncidium) that do best going from 80F during the day to 60F at night. The point isn’t precisely the exact temperatures, but the change itself.
One thing to note is that orchids really don’t need fertilizer. It can be the standard habit of gardeners to give a plant a bit of a boost with fertilizer to encourage a lot of flowering, but epiphyites are not like other plants. They naturally get no nutrients from their roots because they are usually exposed to the air anyway. Adding fertilizer just throws the chemistry of their water off and won’t help with blooming.
How Long Do the Flowers Last?
For all your effort, orchids do give a decent return on your investment. Not all varieties are the same, and flower lifespan also depends on how well you are taking care of your plants. Some orchids have flowers that will start die back after 2 to 3 weeks, but some have more stamina and keep going for up to 3 months (or longer).
Dedrobium orchids are known to last for several months and they are an easy variety for the novice indoor gardener to master. For another common option, go with the popular Phalaenopsis orchids. The flowers don’t last as long individually but the plants will put out new blossoms on the same flower spike, creating a longer flower cycle overall.
Orchid Care After Blooming
Your plant has given its performance, and has finally dropped its colorful petals. What kind of care do you need to offer so your orchid stays healthy until the next flowering?
The first thing you need to attend to is the now-dying flower spike. Some varieties of Phalaenopsis will flower more than once on the same stem, but generally once the flowers die off, the stem will die as well. In other words, a stem only blooms the one time. To prevent the dead spike from attracting mold, you need to carefully slice it away from the plant at the base with a very sharp knife or razor. Add a little fungicide to the open wound to be on the safe side.
Now is also the time to think about repotting your orchid. This can seem odd to even an experienced indoor gardener because orchids aren’t repotted because they have outgrown their container, which is what you typically watch for. It is often an annual task for orchids because of their unique growing medium, no matter how big the plant has gotten.
As already mentioned, orchids aren’t grown in soil. Their pots are filled with fast draining moss, bark and other such materials. Over time, these materials will start to break down, and the air spaces will shrink when the substrate settles and packs down.
Gently remove your orchid from its pot, and free the roots from as much old material as possible. Fill up a container with a fresh mixture that is suitable for your type of orchid and replant your flower. If it needs more space, you can choose a bigger pot. Otherwise, it’s fine to just use the same one again. Just give it a washing out to eliminate the spread of any mildew or mold to the fresh growing materials.
Now you’re back to your usual orchid care routine for the rest of the year until its time to prompt another flowering period.
Easiest Orchids to Grow
If you are starting to worry about all these care instructions, you might be a little concerned that you are getting in over your head. While some orchids, can be somewhat of a challenge, there are many kinds that are no harder than other houseplants to grow. That is where you can start. Two easy varieties have already been mentioned, and there are a couple more you can look into.
Phalaenopsis orchids, also known as moth or butterfly orchids, are at the top of our list. After that, you’ll find the easiest care if you have Dendrobium, Brassavola (Lady of the Night), Oncidium (Dancing Lady) or Paphiopedilium (Lady Slipper).
While each of these flowers does have its own unique type of care, they all follow the basic rules for growing orchids and are the most likely to reward you with plenty of flowers.