How to Water an Orchid

Standard

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!

8 Ways to Kill an Orchid

Standard

20161202a

Overwatered and insufficiently illuminated, this orchid won’t survive much longer.

Orchids often flower on and on for months. Worse yet, they tend to bloom again when treated too well. That is sooo boring!

Fortunately, it’s possible to kill an orchid fairly easily if you put just a little effort into it. Here’s how!

1. Water it with ice cubes

This is the method advocated by sneaky orchid growers who want to you to kill your orchid so you’ll buy a new one… and it really works! Not only are orchids tropical plants that hate the cold, but an ice cube doesn’t provide enough water, so the plant is always stressed by a constant lack of moisture. This is an excellent method for sadistic people because the plant dies very slowly.

2. Let the roots soak in water

20161202b

The rotting roots of an orchid left sitting in water. Bravo! You’re getting close!

It’s so easy to do! Nowadays, orchids are often sold in transparent pots placed in a cache-pot, that is, a container without a drainage hole. What a great idea for killing orchids! All you have to do is to pour water abundantly on the roots without ever checking to see whether they’re soaking in water afterwards. Above all, never empty the cache-pot 15 to 20 minutes after you’ve watered, otherwise your orchid might last for years!

3. Water every day

Don’t wait until the soil is dry to the touch before watering: that would be giving the orchid what it wants! Instead, water every time you walk by, killing it with kindness!

4.Place it near a radiator in winter and do nothing to increase the ambient humidity!

20161202c

Avoid humidity trays: orchids like them way too much!

It is well known that orchids love humid air and that our homes are super dry in winter. So avoid bending to the whims of your orchid by applying techniques that would increase the ambient humidity. Instead, avoid humidifiers and humidity trays. Better yet, place yours directly in front of a hot radiator. That will kill it in no time!

5. Place it in a dark corner

Sunlight is to orchids as food is to people: their unique source of energy. And what better way to kill either than to starve them! Place yours at the back of the room, in a windowless bathroom, behind curtains, or beside the window rather than directly in front of it. Better yet, set it in a dark corner for months, then move it suddenly, in the middle of summer, directly in front of the sunniest window of the house. It will literally burn! (Hi hi hi!) Especially avoid brightly lit spots that get an hour or so of direct sunlight in the morning: your orchid could live for years there! Yuck!

6. Fertilize it massively

20161202d

Pour on the fertilizer!

It’s well known that orchids need less minerals for their survival than most other plants and that reducing their diet of fertilizer to a quarter or eighth of the recommended dose can keep them alive forever. So go ahead! Double, triple or quadruple the recommended amount of fertilizer. After all, if a little is good, more must be better, right? And apply it often! There is no better way to kill a defenseless orchid than overfertilizing!

7. Either don’t repot or repot at the wrong season

Why repot when, after 2 or 3 years, your orchid’s potting mix begins to turn soft and mushy and retain too much water? After all, you are so close to hour goal of killing it! If you decide to repot it in spite of my recommendation, do so while the plant is in full bloom or, better yet, in December or January when it’s pretty much dormant. With a little luck, the shock will do it in! The worst thing to do is to repot it in a well-aerated growing mix created expressly for orchids. Instead, just dig up some dirt from your garden and use that: it will be everything orchids hate: dense, compact and full of doubtful microbes.

20161202e-anglais8. Never ask an expert or consult a website or book dedicated to orchids when you have questions or doubts

These sources seem dedicated to prolonging the life of orchids. What a crazy idea! Never pay any attention to anything they recommend and your orchid will croak much faster!


There you go! With a little deliberate neglect, anyone can kill an orchid. Try it and you’ll see!20161202a