The Indoor Gardener’s Guide To Orchid Types And Care
Who doesn’t love an elegant orchid? Raise your hand if you’ve received one as a gift, marveled at its majestic flowers, and as soon as the petals dropped, thought it was time to let it go. You’re not alone! Orchids are perceived as fragile and disposable, but when the petals fall, it’s not the end of your plant. With a little TLC, a potted orchid can rebloom time and time again, providing you with years of joy.
If you want to learn how to keep your orchid plant alive and which orchids are easiest to grow at home, we’ve created this guide just for you.
What Is An Orchid?
An orchid is a type of flowering plant that is part of the Orchidaceae family—one of the largest families of flowering plants on Earth. There are over 27,000 orchid species in the wild, along with countless cultivated varieties. These majestic flowers symbolize love, beauty, unity, and fertility. They grow in nature on every continent of the world (except Antarctica) and can mostly be found in rainforests, although some are native to temperate regions.
While different orchid species have distinctive shapes and proportions, all orchid flowers are symmetrical. Some species of orchids only flower for a few hours, while the flowers of other species will last for months. Orchids fall into two categories of growth habit:
- Monopodial orchids have a single, upright stem, with leaves arranged opposite each other along the stem. The flowers are formed near the top of the plant, and the plant grows in height with age.
- Sympodial orchids grow horizontally, sending out new shoots from the base of the original stem. Leaves and flowers form at the end of the new shoots, also called “pseudobulbs.” Most orchids available to grow at home exhibit the sympodial growth habit.
How Often Do Orchids Bloom?
Most orchids are perennial in their native habitats, meaning they live perpetually, including the ones we highlight below. Most orchids bloom once a year, but some species can be enticed to rebloom continuously if your care routine is impeccable.
When you buy an orchid, you can expect a new round of blooms to develop about one year past the initial purchase date. The flowers of the commonly available Phalaenopsis orchids typically last between six and ten weeks before wilting.
Not every orchid is easy to grow and keep alive indoors, but here are a few of the most common orchid plants that are suitable for your indoor garden.
Easy Orchids to Grow Indoors
Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis)
The moth orchid is by far the most popular indoor orchid, found in garden centers and supermarkets all year round. They are very hardy plants, stay in bloom for a long time, and the flowers come in many different colors and patterns.
After the petals fall off, you can expect the plant to grow one or two new leaves before a bloom spike appears, which precedes a new flower. A Phalaenopsis orchid will thrive near a bright window and will rebloom throughout the year when it receives ample light and consistent watering.
Corsage Orchid (Cattleya)
Cattleya orchids have been called the queen of the orchids, being available in pretty much every color except true blue. They also tend to be more tolerant of temperature fluctuations and a missed watering than the moth orchid. They are often used for cut flowers, hence their common name of “corsage orchid.” These plants require a lot of light to thrive, and placement near an east-facing window where they can absorb the morning sun is ideal.
Orchids For The Experienced Indoor Gardener
Venus Slipper Orchid (Paphiopedilum)
One of many types of slipper orchids, Paphiopedilum orchids are truly unique with a slipper-shaped pouch and dramatically flaring side petals. They’re difficult to propagate and therefore harder to find, but their beautiful blooms make them a very rewarding challenge. They are very sensitive to dry air, so keeping up the humidity is key.
Dancing Lady Orchid (Oncidium)
Unlike the other orchids above, this Oncidium orchid plant likes to spread out with a plethora of small blooms. This beautiful orchid produces flowers in late summer or early fall, and its dozens of blooms can last for months. However, it does best in a terrarium with consistent temperatures and humidity above 40%, so it may not be well-suited for every home.
Orchid Care 101
Your orchid prefers bright indirect light, such as the light from an east-facing window. Don’t let your plant sit in direct sun, which can cause the delicate foliage and flowers to burn. But on the flip side, if your orchid does not get enough light, it will not thrive and re-bloom. Grow lights are beneficial in the winter to ensure the plant receives 10-15 hours of light daily.
Soil and drainage
Orchids require a special potting mix that is quick-draining, and most mixes are composed of bark and other loose fillers with sphagnum moss. It’s important that your orchid’s pot has a drainage hole to allow excess moisture to flow out of the bottom—otherwise, your plant may succumb to root rot. Orchids enjoy being pot-bound and only require repotting every 3-5 years.
Allow about 50% of the soil volume to dry out between waterings. Before watering, remember to remove the saucer from underneath the pot. Water your orchid until the water flows through the drainage hole. Place it back on the saucer, making sure it is free of any standing water. Your orchid does not like to sit in water, but do not let the potting mix dry out completely.
Temperature and humidity
Your orchid enjoys average room temperatures of 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the species. If possible, it’s best for temperatures at night to be 10°F lower than daytime temperatures. This best matches the plant’s natural environment and encourages it to re-bloom.
Some orchids can adapt to lower humidity levels, but all orchids appreciate added humidity by using a pebble tray or misting leaves regularly.
Feed your orchid with a fertilizer made specifically for orchids, diluted to half the recommended strength. Feed every time you water your plant during spring and summer, and feed every third watering during fall and winter. Before fertilizing, water thoroughly to rinse out any previously accumulated minerals and fertilizer salts.
Tips to aid in reblooming a Phalaenopsis
Flowers on a moth orchid can last as long as 6 to 10 weeks if the plant is kept in ideal conditions. After blooms are spent, you can cut off the flower spike as close to the leaves as possible. New flowers should appear between 3 and 9 months later.
Read our comprehensive troubleshooting guides to help remedy common issues people have with their orchids:
- Why are the flower buds on my orchid drying up or falling off without opening?
- Why won’t my orchid rebloom?
If you have any other questions about growing orchids indoors, we’re happy to help—reach out to our Grow-HowR Team!