I’ve noticed that in recent years orchids have become a favored floral gift to give to others. It makes sense as they are fairly inexpensive and the blooms can last 4-6 weeks under the right conditions.
The problem is, once the blooms die, people consider the plant to be “dead”. It isn’t. It is just dormant so far as blooming is concerned. So long as the leaves continue to look green and healthy, the plant itself is alive. But, without the right conditions, you won’t get it to rebloom.
I’ve mentioned before that since being in my current apartment with a westward-facing balcony window, I’ve had major success in reblooming orchids. People happily gave me their “dead” plants in hopes I’d return a blooming plant to them somewhere down the line, and that has often been the case.
So, here is my NON-EXPERT tutorial for anyone who wants to attempt it themselves and get more life and enjoyment out of that initial orchid plant. There are lots of online tutorials that get very involved in ‘never do this’ and ‘you must do this’. My take is more ‘the lazy person’s way of reblooming orchids’, since I certainly don’t put a lot of effort into it.
- Orchids are air plants. That means they don’t want a lot of water and certainly don’t want to have their roots swimming in it. The main problem people have is overwatering. If there is appreciable humidity in the air, orchids will pull some from there if they need it. I once ended up being gone for 4 weeks and left my orchids on the bathroom counter. I watered them, then set several containers full of water around them. Thus they had shade and humidity. They all survived just fine not being watered during that time. In fact, orchids seem to tolerate too little water far better than they do too much water. So, DON’T overwater.
I’ve seen it mentioned to only water every 7-10 days. I would say you could probably even go 10-14 days unless where you live is very dry. But the best way to know is to stick your finger in the soil. If it’s damp – don’t water. If it’s dry, put a little water on it. You can add more if necessary, but it’s hard to remove. Most of the containers orchids are sold in do not have drain holes so it is very easy for water to sit in them without your realizing it (hence the finger in the soil test). Only give them a splash (e.g. 1/8 cup). Like I said, you can add more if it seems very dry and the finger-in-the-soil test confirms a need).
FYI, water is for the plant, not the blooms. Getting water on the blooms will just make them die faster.
- The other thing orchids need in order to rebloom is light. But they don’t want the sun beating down on them. Most guides mention “indirect” light, which can be difficult to interpret. I pretty much aim to keep the vertical blinds open during daylight hours except when the sun is beating in through the window and directly hitting the plants. When I’m home, the blinds are open til noon or later, then closed as the sun begins its descent in the west and comes in through my west-facing balcony window. On workdays, I mostly close the blinds but leave a sliver to let some light in. Doing so takes longer to rebloom the orchids but is safer.
They tell you that if the leaves are dark green, then the plant isn’t getting enough light. But ‘dark green’ is a little subjective. ‘Yellow’ means the leaf is dying/dead, so that’s the other extreme. (Though leaves do occasionally die, turn yellow and fall off in the normal life cycle – just not ALL the leaves.) Try to get a middle shade of green – not an extreme in either direction.
Preferred temperature around the orchid is between 65-80, but they do like cooler, at least the phalaenopsis orchids do. So do what you can in your circumstances to keep them more on the cool side. Where I live sometimes it gets up to 80-90 indoors and it hasn’t killed anything so long as the sun isn’t beating on them.
- Guides will tell you all kinds of do’s and don’ts. Likely there is a good reason for those warnings, but common sense has to prevail. Orchid roots go wild and grow out of the pot. They can get quite long. (see picture above – plant on the left) They don’t really advise cutting healthy roots, but when they’re near to wrapping around my leg, I’ll do it anyway.
So far, I haven’t had any problems as I try to only cut back as much as necessary. I got to the point where my choice was either cutting things back or throwing the plant out because it was out of hand. Since I hadn’t paid for the orchids and wasn’t spending a lot of money on them, I wasn’t worried about tossing a plant out if it died after I cut back the roots.
- Orchids will tend to grow a “stalk” over the years as they rebloom. They periodically lose leaves or roots and then send out new ones and each time it goes upward. A few of my plants were getting too unwieldy and tall, so I finally tried breaking off the seemingly dead and unnecessary bottom of the stalk and that has worked fine so far. But, again, I’m not out a lot of money if it had failed. (also the picture above, plant on the left – the leaves should be down closer to the top of the container, but the stalk has progressively moved them upward)
- They tell you to repot orchids every 1-2 years but I have not really done that. However, some of the containers I have them in were rather small so I got something larger and more soil to move them to a pot where they fit better. I also put small stones or marbles in the bottom of the pot to leave more room for “air”, especially if the pot has no drain hole in it. The soil itself is mostly there just to hold the plant in place, but orchids will tend to lean, so I have accumulated a wide assortment of sticks to use to help position them upright. I also have quite a few of those little butterfly clips to help anchor the bloom spike to a stick to keep it from falling down. Most of the sticks and clips came with the original orchids I was given, but in a pinch I have used twist ties in place of clips. Many of the sticks that come with the original plant are meant to be decorative (e.g. bamboo), but most any stick will do if you don’t care about aesthetics.
- When orchids bloom, they send up a bloom spike that usually has several buds on it toward the top. Once the blooms finally die, they will shrivel up and fall off the spike. When all have done so, the spike itself will start to turn brown and shrivel. Cut it off as close to the base of the plant as you can and throw it away. It’s useless. In order to bloom again, the orchid will have to send up a new bloom spike for that to happen. (note the VERY long bloom spike for the plant on the left in the picture)
And that’s kind of it. I do have orchid food that I maybe splash on them every few months in lieu of the regular watering, but a lot of the time I forget and it hasn’t yet been a problem. The kind I have is granulated and dissolves in a lot of water, so I saved a juice container for mixing it in.
But if it comes to tossing the plant or trying to rebloom it, you might as well try to rebloom it for further enjoyment. Otherwise, settle for a green plant.
I’m happy to try to answer questions, but remember – I’m not an expert.