How should I water my orchid?
So someone has given you a beautiful orchid or you picked up one from your local grocery, what now?!
I normally wait for my new orchid to (almost) completely dry out before watering it for the first time. I do this because most of the orchids I receive have been overwatered before I got them. One of the major damaging things you can do to an orchid is over water it. You can actually kill it by overwatering it (it will get Root Rot). I explain this further below.
Note: You do want to make sure that there IS a drainage hole at the bottom of your pot. Click this link if there is not because your orchid will die with no drainage!!
How should I water my orchid?
I have consulted MANY growers/suppliers and orchid lovers on this!! The best way (that I have found) to water an orchid (indoors) is the following;
- Bring it to your kitchen sink
- Let faucet water “freely” run through the pot into the sink. Make sure you “flood” it enough so that water runs through the pot flowing out the drainage holes in the bottom.
- Leave it for a few minutes and then repeat (click here for tips on fertilization). I use diluted fertilizer that is mixed with water – so I first water and then pour the fertilizer through it.
- Take a paper towel/napkin and gently dab any extra water that has pooled in the leaf base.
Note: If your orchid is in a decorative pot with an inner plastic pot. Take it out of the decorative pot and follow the steps above. Then wait to put the plastic pot back in the decorative pot – let it stand out for a few hours before putting it back in. This insures all extra water has drained out and doesn't pool at the bottom of the plant.
If you water your orchids this way, the water will run through the orchid and the orchid can absorb what it needs while the rest of the water flows out. NEVER….NEVER…..NEVER let water pool at the bottom of your pots and never let it sit in water (as a normal houseplant would). Most normal houseplant like to have some standing water around them. Orchids, however, are different from normal house plants in that they will experiece “root rot” if left in standing water. Root rot is literally when the base of the orchid starts rotting which spreads to the roots and then the leaves. It is very hard to manage but my link on it shows how to battle it once it starts.
Root Rot is what kills most orchids and is why watering correctly is so important. It is also the most common mistake new orchid owners do. Don't feel bad if you have discovered that you are watering wrong because it is so common. Most people see their orchid suffering and assume it needs more water – just like you would with a normal house plant.
How much should I water my orchid?
You want to wait to water your orchid until it has sufficiently dried out. Most of my orchids get watered every 10 – 25 days depending on when they dry out (what season it is), between waterings. I keep notes on my orchids to keep track of when they were last watered and some need watering more then others. Despite what many websites say, there is NO set schedule for watering your orchids. If you live in Arizona as opposed to Florida your plants will dry out at different speeds. Also what type of mix you use will dry out at different speeds. You eventually will “know” your own orchids and you will learn when they need watering.
How can I tell when my orchids need watering?
You can check to see if your orchid needs watering by pushing a pencil/wooden chopstick (or your finger) down in the soil and seeing if it absorbs a bit of water, if not, it's time to water. I don't use the pencil method because my orchids have been potted in clear pots and I use premium sphagnum moss. I can see when they need watering by looking at their roots (which turn a silvery green when in need of water) and when the moss gets “crunchy” to the touch. As shown below, the orchid on the right needs to be watered. The roots are dry, silvery and not bright green. The one on the left has been freshly watered and the roots are bright green.
Most orchids come in a pot that you are unable to see the roots and are potted in a bark mixture (which makes it hard to see if there is moisture left near the roots) – so that is why the pencil idea works. If you are lucky enough to get an orchid that has a clear pot then you can see if the mix is dry or wet and if the roots are dried out. I suggest eventually repotting them in clear pots as shown in this entry.
Orchid Watering MYTHS
I have found all of these myths on orchid care cards I received with orchids I bought from local stores.
1. Use ice cubes to water your orchids. MYTH. I know that on a lot of those “orchid care cards” it says to put two or three ice cubes in the orchid once a week. This is crazy! First of all, the cold water will shock them, remember these are tropical plants that are used to living off trees in a very warm and humid environment! Now I know a lot of people who do this and it does not kill an orchid (orchids are very hardy) but a lot of these same people have had problems with their orchids re-blooming. I wonder if the shock of the cold contributes to this?
2. Water your orchids every 4 – 5 days (or whatever). MYTH. Orchids dry out differently so you can't have a set method of watering them. You have to watch and see when they need water. You will have a set method once they are your own but that will depend on your climate and your mix. They will tell you.
3. Lots of people treat orchids like normal houseplants. I can't tell you how many times I have seen someone's orchids sitting in water. Most times it's when people have watered their orchid, in it's pot, and the the outer pot has no drainage and upon lifting it out it is sitting in pooled water. YIKES! These orchids will die because their roots will rot in these conditions.
Hope that helps,
Feel free to leave comments or questions.