Growing Orchids Indoors

When growing orchids indoors, the secret to success is to match your orchid's care with its native habitat.

Shed some light

One of the biggest challenges of growing orchids indoors is providing enough light. Most orchids grow best with bright, indirect light. However, lady slippers and coelogynes prefer less.

Put your orchids where they'll get plenty of light, but out of direct sun, which can cause brown scorch marks on leaves. If you don't have a spot near a window, artificial lighting works beautifully.

Fluorescent grow lights are energy-efficient and stay cooler so that lights can be placed close to the plants without harming them. Use 1 warm white tube and 1 cool white tube under a reflector. Place orchids about 8 inches (20 cm) beneath the light for 14-16 hours a day. Darkness is also vital for plant growth so this gives your orchids at least 8 hours of total darkness a day. Orchids need a rest, too.

Orchids love humidity

growing orchids indoors, phalaenopsis

Many popular orchids are content with relative humidity levels around 40-60%. Some like a lot more. So unless you live in the tropics, your plants will likely need a little help from you.

Be aware that central heating can cause dry air. If the humidity drops indoors, use a humidity tray or room humidifier to increase the moisture in the air. Grouping plants also helps to maintain the humidity around them.

Feed your orchids

Orchid potting mix is typically made of fir bark or sphagnum moss and does not contain nutrients that most all-purpose potting mixes do.

You need to fertilize your orchids regularly while they're growing to keep them healthy and give them the nutrients they need to promote blooming.

The orchid fertilizer, shown at right, contains a high-phosphorous 6-30-30 formula. It's easy to use -- just add it to water to give your orchids more blooming power.

Wondering whether to repot?

Orchid potting medium (which is made up of fir bark and/or sphagnum moss) breaks down after a couple years and becomes too compact in the container.

It's a good idea to replace it because compact medium doesn't allow the roots to get air and can cause root rot.

The best time to repot your orchid is when new growth begins, but never while it's blooming.

Green Thumb Tip

Free-flowing air is key in preventing orchids from catching a fungal disease.

Put them in a spot where they'll enjoy plenty of air circulation. Fans are fine, but keep orchids away from heat or AC vents.