Orchid Care and History

close up of a pink orchid for orchid fest

It’s all about orchids this month in the Hughes Conservatory so I thought I’d write a little bit about orchid care and their history.

The orchid family (Orchidaceae) contains over 20,000 species and is one of the largest flowering plant families! It includes favorites like Phaleonopsis and Cattleya orchids commonly seen in floral arrangements, to Vanilla which gives us the vanilla bean. While we commonly think of orchids as tropical plants, they are actually found on every continent (except Antarctica). Orchids are highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts alike with certain species and cultivars valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars (the Shenzhen Nongke Orchid sells for over $170,000).

While that might be out of your price range (it’s definitely out of mine!), orchids can be found at almost any garden center and are very popular in the winter. They are a great way to add a little color to your house in the winter, but sometimes they can be hard to keep alive. Here’s some tips for a healthy, thriving orchid:

  1. Planting media: orchids like very well drained soil and most orchid mixes are just coarse bark. Don’t smother your orchids roots as they like airflow over them. You can put a pebble tray underneath it to catch extra water and help increase humidity.
  2. Watering: DO NOT use ice cubes. I don’t like cold wet feet and neither do orchids. As tropical plants they don’t take too well to freezing cold water on their roots. In the summer, it’s easiest to put your plants in the sink and run lukewarm water over the base until the pot is heavy. Don’t water again until the pot feels light. It’s best to underwater instead of overwatering. In the winter, you only have to water about once a month and mist it every so often in between waterings.
  3. Temperature: these plants like it warm but not too hot. Your house temperature is ideal, but don’t leave it on a cold windowsill in the winter.
  4. Enjoy your colorful plant!