How to care for orchids

How to care for orchids

Find out how to care for your orchid in our detailed guide.

Orchids are popular houseplants and make a beautiful addition to houseplant displays. Moth orchids (Phalaenopsis) are the most common type of orchid grown in the UK. Flowering over a long period, they’re available in an increasingly wide range of flower colours.

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The popularity of moth orchids has led to other types of orchids becoming more readily available to grow as houseplants. These include Dendrobium orchids, Paphiopedilum orchids, Oncidium orchids, Vanda orchids and Cambria hybrid orchids. These are all easy to grow in most homes, producing dramatic displays of exotic blooms.

More on growing orchids:

Follow our essential orchid care tips, to ensure your orchids flower and thrive for many years.


Grow orchids in bright light

Orchid care: scorch damage on an orchid leaf
Orchid care: scorch damage on an orchid leaf

Most orchids require bright light but indirect sunlight. However some orchids, such as Vanda orchids, require full sun – always check the label before buying orchids. For moth orchids and others that need bright but indirect light, an east- or west-facing windowsill is perfect. Too much light can scorch the leaves. If your orchid gets scorched, don’t detach the damaged leaves unless the plant has several additional healthy leaves.


Mist orchid foliage

Orchid care: mist orchid foliage
Orchid care: mist orchid foliage

Most orchid houseplants come from humid, tropical regions, so do best in a humid atmosphere. In most centrally heated homes the air is dry, so mist the foliage every two to three days using tepid water, but avoid spraying the flowers, as the petals can be marked by water.


How to water orchids

Orchid care - checking a moth orchid to see if it needs watering
Orchid care – checking a moth orchid to see if it needs watering

Overwatering is the most common way to kill orchids. To avoid giving your plant too much water, always lift the pot first to check if it feels heavy – water only when it feels light. Showy Vanda orchids, which are often grown in glass vases without compost, require a specific watering regime: fill the vase with water daily in summer, then empty it after half an hour.

To water moth orchids correctly, look at its roots. Don’t water if these are green but wait until they look silvery, instead. Feed with orchid fertiliser from spring until autumn.


Encourage moth orchids to flower again

Orchid care encouraging a moth orchid to flower again
Orchid care encouraging a moth orchid to flower again

With moth orchids, once all the flowers have fallen, cut off the stem just above a visible joint (node). This may stimulate the production of another flower stem, which you should clip to a support. If no shoot appears and original stem turns straw-coloured, then remove it at the base. Most other orchids won’t flower twice on the same stem, so cut off spent stems immediately.


Potting on

Orchid care - repotting a moth orchid
Orchid care – repotting a moth orchid

Unlike most other pot plants, orchids don’t need regular re-potting and often thrive when root-bound. However, after two or three years it’s worth taking them out of their pots and removing as much of the compost as possible. Replant in the same pot with fresh orchid compost or choose a slightly larger pot if the plant won’t fit.


Treat orchid pests

mealybugs-on-orchid-foliage-2
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The most common orchid pests are scale insects and mealybugs. Signs of infestation include stickiness on the leaves or nearby surfaces, or black sooty mould. Scale insects can be found on the leaf surfaces (above and below) and flower stalks, while mealybugs prefer new leaves. It’s easy to remove pests by hand, using a soapy sponge to clean the leaves. Alternatively, spray with an insecticide.