Gardening Orchids Watering

How to Water an Orchid

Don’t just pour water into your orchid’s pot while it’s in a cachepot: that can lead to rot. Photo: plantinstructions.com

There’s nothing particularly complicated about watering an orchid … but people still get it wrong. They’re much more likely to overwater than underwater and the consequences are worse: overwatering can lead to rot.

Transparent orchid grow pot, shows thick green roots inside.
Orchids are mostly grown in a transparent grow pot with ample drainage, but set in a cachepot with no drainage at all. Photo: A. Laine, durhammastergardeners.com

The problem is that orchids these days are almost always sold double-potted: there is a “grow pot” (often transparent) with numerous drainage holes set inside a cachepot without drainage holes. This actually makes watering especially easy, but you have to first understand how double-potting works.

You cannot just pour water onto the growing mix and walk away thinking you’ve done your job. Since there is no drainage possible from a cachepot, any excess water will simply build up, leaving the plant soaking in water, an open invitation to rot (rot is caused by any one of a number of bacterial, fungal and fungal like organisms). 

Orchids in a sink
Let your orchid soak in water at the sink or in a bucket. Photo: antealtares, reddit.com

To water your orchid, remove the grow pot from the cachepot and set it to soak for 10, 20, 30 minutes, even an hour, in a sink or bucket of tepid water. That will allow the roots to absorb the moisture they need. Next, let the pot drain well. That will take time, even 10 minutes or so. Then drop it back into the cachepot. 

Congratulations! That’s how you water an orchid! And it couldn’t be simpler!

💡Helpful Hint: If possible, water your orchid in the morning. That way if you accidentally pour a little water on the leaves, it will have time to evaporate before nightfall. It’s best not leave water on orchid leaves at night… again, in order to prevent rot. 

How Often Should I Water?

If you mean at what frequency do you need to water your orchid, that’s a tougher question.

The same orchid may dry out quickly under some conditions, yet stay moist for weeks in others. And conditions in your home change according to the seasons, the size of the plant, the size of the pot, etc. Yet you never want your orchid to become more than slightly dry.

So just touch the growing medium. If it feels moist, don’t water. If it feels dry, do water.

Wow! That was simple!

Green moisture meter

If you feel you can’t trust your finger (although I don’t know why you wouldn’t), you could use a moisture meter, readily available online and in most garden centers. However, I find they tend to give false results after a year or so’s use, especially if the water you use is hard. If you find your moisture meter claiming the growing mix is dry when your finger tells you it is clearly moist, get a new meter … or simply use your finger!

Watering orchids: so easy once you understand it!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

2 comments on “How to Water an Orchid

  1. I just discovered your blog and appreciate the helpful information including your advice on watering orchids. Thanks! Do you have any advice regarding growing orchids in stone media? I live in a northern climate and my orchids are always indoors.

  2. It is frustrating to see so many moth orchids purchased weekly at the farmers market, knowing that almost all get discarded as they finish blooming. No one actually ‘grows’ them to bloom again. People really should enjoy cut flowers more.

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