With their exquisite and spectacular blooms, orchids make beautiful houseplants. Despite their exotic looks, they can be simple to look after, as long as you understand the conditions in which they thrive.
Watch Alan Titchmarsh’s video guide to looking after orchids.
Orchids that naturally grow on trees are known as epiphytes. These are often sold in transparent pots so light can reach their roots, or are mounted on bark sheets or driftwood. Those that grow on the ground in soil are known as terrestrial orchids and sometimes require wetter compost than epiphytic orchids.
Many orchids are endangered, so always purchase plants from reputable suppliers to ensure they haven’t been taken from the wild. The following 10 varieties should all be readily available and are well worth growing.
Cattleya ‘Green Mist’
Cattleyas are epiphytes and enjoy warm, humid conditions, with some air movement. Water them when the growing medium is dry. A new flower spike grows from a dormant bud each year. Cut this back to the stem after flowering.
Crimson and cream bloom of orchid Cattleya ‘Green Mist’
Dendrobium ‘Thailand Black’
The stunning flowers of dendrobiums can last for about six weeks. Keep plants in warm conditions (min 13°C) and water when the growing medium is becoming dry. Dendrobiums can reproduce by forming baby plantlets called keikis.
Deep-pink orchid Dendrobium ‘Thailand Black’
Dendrobium thyrsiflorum is an epiphyte that produces blooms once a year from each flowering stem. Water it with rainwater and liquid fertiliser when its growing medium becomes dry during summer and mist the foliage frequently. Water less in winter.
Gold and lemon blooms of Dendrobium thyrsiflorum
Disa aurata (golden disa)
Keep Disa aurata (golden disa) on a cool, bright windowsill, out of the sun. Disas are terrestrial orchids that grow with their roots permanently in wet soil. Keen growers sometimes use an aquarium pump to circulate water continually around the roots.
Red-speckled, bright-yellow flowers of the golden disa orchid
This red disa, Disa uniflora, is the emblem of South Africa’s Western Cape. Like the golden disa, it needs permanently wet conditions and benefits from watering with a weak fertiliser solution. Occasionally, pink or yellow flowers develop.
Orange-red blooms of the red disa orchid
Phalaenopsis ‘Golden Beauty’
Grow Phalaenopsis ‘Golden Beauty’ in a warm room with low light and high humidity. Plants are usually sold growing in bark compost in clear plastic pots, so the green roots can photosynthesise. Don’t be tempted to repot, as these conditions are perfect.
Yellow and pink bloom of moth orchid ‘Golden Beauty’
Phalaenopsis ‘Mini Mark’
With tiny flowers only 2.5cm wide, Phalaenopsis ‘Mini Mark’ is a beautiful little moth orchid should be grown in the same conditions as ‘Golden Beauty’ (above). Like larger-flowered varieties, it can keep its blooms for about eight weeks.
Magenta and gold speckled, small white flowers of moth orchid ‘Mini Mark’
With plentiful, long-lasting, scented flowers, epiphyte Prosthechea prismatocarpa grows on trees in the mountains of Central America. It likes bright light, but not direct sun. Let the growing medium dry slightly between waterings and water less in winter.
Orchid Prosthechea prismatocarpa: elongate, pale-green petals with bronze bars
Vanda ‘Rothschildiana Pink’
Vandas have very long roots and are often grown in baskets so the roots can hang down. They need warm and bright, but not sunny, conditions. If the plant gets too tall, you can cut off the top plus a few roots and replant it. The variety shown here is ‘Rothschildiana Pink’.
Large pink and white bloom of orchid Vanda ‘Rothschildiana Pink’