It’s true that, when orchids are in their ‘down time’, you just need to give them a rest. But there are a few store cupboard secrets that you can use to rejuvenate them if you feel that your orchid care hasn’t quite been up to par!
First of all, let’s have a look at some basic orchid care.
Orchid care tips
Orchids make a colourful houseplant, and can be positioned in any room of the house, but their preferred position is ‘bright indirect light’ – that means away from direct sunlight, but in a lit position (read more about the term here) – you can find these spots in many rooms of the home: living room, dining room or even the bathroom!
Generally, you should give orchids a couple of shot-glasses of water per week. That’s all they need! You often hear people talking about giving them an ice cube of water per week, but that often means the ‘equivalent of an ice cube’, not a chilly block of ice!
Orchids are tropical plants, and like to have a slightly moist environment around them too, so either spray with fresh water each day, or take your orchids into the shower with you once a week!
If you’ve forgotten to water your orchid for a long time, you can give it a good soak in a bowl of water for around two hours to make sure that the soil is full of moisture.
You can also water your orchid plant regularly by the immersion method, if you prefer- find more watering advice here.
You probably won’t need to repot your orchid that regularly. However, if you do get to the stage where it needs repotting, make sure you use a good quality orchid compost, and make sure the grey wiry roots are exposed (these often get mistaken for stems, but are actually ‘aerial roots’).
Once your orchids have finished blooming, they may need trimming, in order to initiative more flowers! When I went on ITV’s This Morning with Eamonn and Ruth, I was given an orchid that lived in the ITV offices, which looked pretty spent! But, it was in its ‘rejuvenation’ process.
Whoever had looked after the plant had cut the orchid stem down a little too far! That’s actually the way to stop your orchid flowering! Moth Orchids flower all the way up the stem, so if you want to achieve that full floral effect, you need to cut the stem just below the dead bloom and above the next node, so that a new bloom can begin to grow from that node. Just like magic!
After you’ve cut off the dead blooms, you can leave the plant to rest (you can even tuck it away in a different room if you feel that it looks unsightly).
Rejuvenation mix for sluggish orchids
- 1 part brewed black coffee
- 4 parts water
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar
Mix up this little potion, and then feed this to your plant once per month, in place of one usual watering session. Store in between feeds in a sealed container, and keep in the cupboard. This homemade fertiliser will give your orchid a kick of nitrogen, which will help encourage new growth.
Leaf shine booster
- Crush up some egg shells
- Boil them in water for half an hour
- Transfer the liquid to a spray bottle, then mist your leaves
This feed will give your orchid nice, shiny leaves, it’s packed with potassium, protein and calcium!
- Blend a banana skin until it becomes purée
- Pour on top of your orchid soil
Bananas have plenty of potassium, which can be used to help your plant take in more CO2, improve drought resistance and activate growth-related enzymes. Feed this purée to your orchid once every few weeks.
- Open up a used teabag
- Empty its contents onto the surface of the orchid’s soil
Do this once per week. This will generally help your orchid appear more shiny and healthy. Use natural teabags, and remember you won’t get quite the same effect from herbal!
- One part milk
- One part water
Milk provides your orchid with protein, and it’ll only need this around once a month. Either make up the mix, or swill water around a milk bottle just before you throw it away, and feed it to your hungry orchid friends!
Always test these homemade feeds in light doses at first. Sometimes your orchid may only need a little rest in order to bounce back into growth!
Homemade fertilisers provide the plants with nutrients they need to thrive, however, signs of over-fertilisation may include white crust on top of the bark in your pot, leaf tips dying off, or roots turning black. Dip and soak your orchid in its pot once a week in a sink of water to remove the buildup of salt from any type of fertilisers.
Which orchid should you buy?
Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis)
The Moth Orchid, or Phalaenopsis, is the most recognisable. You’ll see these in a lot of stores and homes. It’s available with patterns of spots or stripes – it’s even got some fragrant varieties as well, which are slowly making their way onto shelves in stores. They can cost anywhere between £5 and £50. Sometimes you’re getting an outer container, sometimes you’re not. It’s one of the easiest orchids to start with. If you’re really about to get into these type of orchids, check out expert Kevin Wigley’s advice here!
Bamboo Orchid (Dendrobium)
These are more luxurious orchids that you might spot in supermarkets and garden centres. They often have a fragrance, and they’re known as the ‘Bamboo Orchid’ because of the way they grow upwards.
Each flower on the Dendrobium last for two months or more, with the right care. Because of this luxury, these are slightly more expensive than your run-of-the-mill orchid, costing around £20 per plant.
You want to put it in a position of bright, indirect light, and simply water it once a week.
This is a really special plant, because it grows very simply in a glass vase! You can even take a Vanda Orchid out of its vase and place it in the shower, so that it can take in some of that fantastic mist and moisture.
What to do when you can’t seem to keep an Orchid alive!
If you’ve tried all of the above methods, but orchid care still isn’t going the right way for you, you could always go faux!
Faux plants have come a long way from the tell-tale designs of the 20th century! Some faux orchids are so true to life that even those who look after orchids will have a hard time identifying them from real ones!
Got any orchid care questions? Leave them in the comments box below!
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook. You can also listen to The Plant Based Podcast with Michael and co-host Ellen-Mary on iTunes, Spotify and Google.