Orchid Health: Light Requirements

How much light/sun does my orchid need?

Updated 12/10/17

Orchids have a wide variety of light needs depending on their species. Understanding the appropriate amount of light for your orchid is essential to their health. Inadequate light is one of the major reasons that orchids do not bloom. Orchids require different light then normal house plants. They do not require the kind of bright direct sunshine that let’s say a tomato plant does.

Too little light can make their leaves turn a dark green color which is not good, their leaves should be a light to medium green color. The picture on the left shows a healthy orchid leaf. The one on the right shows an orchid with too little sun.

Too much light can scorch or “sunburn” their leaves (as shown below). A good way to tell if your orchid is getting too much light is to touch their leaves and feel for heat. If your orchid leaves feel hot they need to be moved to shadier spot.
Orchid light requirements range from “low light” to “high light.” I briefly described the difference below.
  • Low Light = two hours of indirect sunlight per day. These plants can be grown indoors under indirect light or outdoors under shade.
  • Medium Light = four hours of indirect sunlight per day preferably either outside or by a moderately sunny windows or under lights would be suitable.
  • High Light = six hours of indirect sunlight per day preferably in bright, sunny window or outdoors would be ideal for these plants.

“High light” level orchids enjoy being outside in the summer (with dappled shade). This is the easiest way, to give them enough light to bloom. If you are keeping your “high light” orchids indoors, you may find that they will not bloom reliably without some sort of supplemental light unless they are in a very bright sun room or greenhouse. I have been told that fluorescent bulbs (with broad spectrum bulbs) work well with these types of orchids, as well as High Intensity Discharge (HID) lights…shown below. Remember, as stated in my previous post that in nature orchids get natural light cues, so you will need to keep them on a schedule as the days get longer and then get shorter.


“Low light” and “Medium light” orchids will not be happy far from a light source but are easy to grow in a filtered sunny widow. My Phalaenopsis orchids are low to medium light orchids and they do very well in my window seat (shown below).

Below you will find the light requirements recommended by the American Orchid Society. You can figure out what orchid you have by looking at your plant’s label and determine what genus it is (which is the first name on the tag). How much light your plant will require will depend on the type of orchid it is.
  • Cattleya –Medium to High
  • Cymbidium –Medium to High
  • Dendrobium –Medium to High
  • Masdevallia –Low to Medium
  • Miltonia –Medium
  • Odontoglossum –Medium
  • Oncidium –Medium to High
  • Paphiopedilum –Low to Medium
  • Phalaenopsis –Low to Medium
  • Vanda –Medium to High

Note on leaves:

Hope that helps,


Feel free to leave comments or questions here and you can always email me at myfirstorchid@gmail.com with pictures of your orchid.

72 Comments on “Orchid Health: Light Requirements

  1. I was away last week and my husband put our orchid in direct sun for the week, thinking he was helping, now all the leaves were yellow and came off and one of the two stems are completely yellow. Any chance it can come back or it it gone? 😭

  2. Hi Hanna, thank you for sharing your wonderful knowledge. I have six orchids (5 are in 3″ pots, one in a 5″ pot), almost all of them rescues from friends. They seem to be doing okay (not had them long enough to worry about reblooming yet). I have them in front of a west-south-west window where the California sun can get pretty intense in the afternoon. I keep my bamboo shades closed once the sun is shining on the orchids, but am wondering if they get enough light. So my question is, would sheer or lace curtains be enough/better protection? Moving them is not an option other than moving them away from the window altogether. Many thanks, Lauren.

    • Hi,

      Great job rescuing them! My attitude about light is if they are getting hot to the touch then it’s too much light. If sheer curtain would produce shady light then go for it. You can tell pretty quickly if they are getting sunburned because their leaves get splotchy yellow circles/ovals on them.


  3. I have had an orchid constantly in bloom for 3 years .it has reflow erred from every nodule on the stems! Is this unusual and have you any advice for when the blooms eventually die?

  4. Why has all my leaves on my orchid turned yellow. Is it dying because it was left in a cold house for 11 days?

  5. Hello!!!
    I am the proud new owner of my 1st orchids.
    I chose an oncidium twinkle. A beautiful phal. And one lovely paphiopedilum!
    The 2 later need low- medium light I’ve read…and oncidiums are medium- high?

    Question: I live in Ohio now. It seems dreary a lot. But the spot I picked for the phal and paph is right next to the sliding glass door —east facing. Just vertical blinds there. When open its bright to me…but is it bright enough? Should I get supplemental light above them in the form of an LED or CFL grow lights?

    ( plan to put the oncidium in the east windowsill…looks dreary now in winter too…so same question as above)

    Thank you sooooo much for any input!

  6. If some leaves and the odd bloom have a visible “split” in them, does my plant have a fungus? The leaves are quite dark so I started putting her in good morning light by the window, and now the back of her flowers are green too? Any help you can give would be awesome

    • Hi,

      Sometimes split leaves are caused by damage before you got the plant and have no physical harm to the continual growth of them then looking off.

      I have a few that have split leaves. I leave them alone unless I start seeing yellow or have rotting spots.

      You can see fungus. It looks gross.


  7. Hello. At the beginning of August I purchased 10 orchids on a sale from home depot. I have placed 6 in very big and bright windows – southern exposure. 3 of them get direct sunlight for probably 6 hours. The other 3 for about 4 hours. The last 4, are in low dark, no direct sunshine spot. I find that the ones in the most son are losing their flowers. The other 3 that are in direct sunlight, but less, also lost a lot of flowers, but not as many. I thought that that it is just their time, since they have been blooming for at least months now. However, the ones which are in the low light, are as nice as when I picked them up in August. The big windows do have a filter on them, and they are not hot to the touch. The leaves look healthy, cool to the touch. New leaves keep growing. I will send you some pictures to your email. I love having them in the large window. However, now I don’t know if too much light is killing them, or if it is just part of the cycle.

  8. My stems on my mini orchid are turning yellow/pink I thought it might be a lack of sun so I places it in a sunny spot and its getting worse. The stems are hard and lacking in moisture, I would love for it to grow, but it is not. If you could give me some advice as to help my poor orchid that would be wonderful. I think it needs to be repotted but I’m afraid if I repot it now it will go into shock but I really dont know

  9. My daughter bought a orchid, and her hubby said it needed more light because the flower died. She put it out only to leave it for a little bit on porch and it got too much sun. The leaves are burned, it has about 4 on each side but not all turned white. Can those be removed or just wait to see if they come off by their self? Can it be saved? 😦

  10. Hi!
    I have my orchid for almost a year. It bloomed twice- the first time when i got it-September, and the second on April. A month ago I accidentally tore off one of the roots, and afterwards the bottom leave started to turn yellow, and finally fell apart, and now, another bottom leave turn yellow-starting from the edges.
    Do you think I killed it?
    For the protocol, i cut the stalk after the blossom because its turn brown, so now it has just one stalk. (May)
    And another question… the temperature in the room can be 30 celcius for some hours, could it effect?

    Thank you very much!

  11. I wondering if I keep my phal on the kitchen table that it will be enough light. I do not have a windowsill, but the room gets plenty of indirect light since it has a large sliding glass doors. Just nervous, because I don’t want to kill it and haven’t had it long enough to notice if the leaves are too dark.


    • Hi,

      It just need shady sun. So it needs to be close enough to a window that some sun hits it.

      Make sure it’s potted in a pot with a drainage hole and only water it when it’s super dry.


      • Ok thanks. I think I’m just going to have to keep a close watch. I think all of my windowsills get too much sun. About how long does it take to start noticing the color change? Day, weeks, hours… ?

  12. What a great site this is, just what I need as am over fussing first time orchid owner!

    I have two Phalenopsis, and they have been in bloom since January. The flowers on both are just beginning to drop, so would this mean they are both entering a resting period? They are kept together on an east facing windowsill, it isn’t filtered light at all, so is this ok for them? One of them has had one leaf turn yellow and I have removed it, I was wondering if that was due to too much sunlight. As I keep reading conflicting advice I had moved them away, but seeing your orchids flourishing on an east facing windowsill, I’ll move them back again!

    I’m watering with tepid rainwater which they seem happy with, and I feed every couple of weeks with a proprietary orchid feed suitable for orchids in bloom which they have every couple of weeks. I also have some mist which contains feed as well, do they really need this too? I don’t want to kill them with too much feed!

    Thanks for your help!

    • Hi,

      Orchid blooms falling off and moving on to the next cycle pretty quickly after you got them is normal…


      Now that the blooms are gone you want to cut the stem back to the base bc when it grows a new stem it will be from an entirely different spot.


      The bottom leaves turning yellow can be normal…


      Was it a bottom leaf?

      Basically with the sun light issue you just don’t want them in direct hot sun all day or the leaves will get burnt.

      I am not a fan of misting in general and especially misting fertilizer on leaves and any part of the actual orchid bc it can burn it. I pour my fertilizer through the mix.



      • Thanks so much Hannah, that’s really helpful. Both have lost all their flowers now and I have cut the stems as you suggest. When might I expect to see new shoots? I’m in the UK by the way 🙂

      • Typically once a year but if you got a new orchid that may have been forced into bloom from a nursery they it may take longer and or shorter amount of time. Typically Phalaenopsis orchids bloom in the Fall.


      • And, having looked elsewhere on your site, have discovered that one already has a tiny new shoot 🙂

      • The one with the new leaf is doing really well, but the other doesn’t look so good. I had to remove a top leaf which was yellowed, but nothing is growing in its place, there is just a black space, it isn’t mushy just dry. But the roots all look healthy it just doesn’t appear to be doing anything!

      • Thanks Hannah, yes it does have a drainage hole. I’ll get some hydrogen peroxide as Physan has been banned in the UK! Should it then eventually produce a new shoot? What sort of timescale, roughly?

      • It typically blooms once a year and in the fall. You will have to wait and see what it’s natural cycle is.


  13. I took down some of the shades on my window, and turns out window light overheats my Phal. 😦 Had to move it away.
    And I have another Phal by the same window and it’s fine without the shades
    I guess orchid light requirement vary even within the same species?


    • Trudy,

      I would love to help! Wrinkly leaves could happen for a lot of reasons.

      How long have you had it?

      How do water it how much and how often?

      Is it potted in a pot with a drainage hole?

      Is it near natural sunlight?

      Let me know,


      • I have had Orchid a year in Feb. Water from the top. it is when the soil is dry so not sure how many times. It is potted in a pot with drainage hole. It is not near natural sunlight but not in the dark. Trudy

      • Hmmmm…. Can you send me a picture at myfirstorchid@gmail.com? If not we can try to figure it out here.

        Most people overwater orchids – this can cause the leaves to wrinkle. There are so many reasons it can do this.

        Let me know about the pic


  14. My orchid lost its yellowed bottom leaf but the next 3 leaves are turning yellow. What to do?

    • Hi,

      Is it by any chance potted in pot without a drainage hole? Some have inner plastic pots with drainage and outer decorative pots without drainage.


      • Thanks… just found it. Yes, it is a phaelenopsis potted as you describe in a plastic pot with drainage holes that is inside a crockery pot without holes. The inner pot sits a couple of inches above the bottom of the outer pot. I should mention too that this is a large plant that I’ve had since last Nov. and it has been in bloom almost continually since then until the past month.

      • Wow that is a long time for it to be in bloom!

        Well the yellowing leaves are probably do to it’s pot situation. As shown here… https://myfirstorchid.wordpress.com/2012/02/11/orchid-disaster/

        I would potentially repot it in a pot with complete drainage or remove it from the outer crockery pot without holes. It can’t not be placed back in the outer pot. It needs to completely dry out and then be watered like this…


        Does that help?


      • Thanks. I’ve taken it out of the outer pot to dry but I see the roots are white, suggesting they need water, not green as pictured. I’m thinking of repotting it in moss rather than the bark it came in.

  15. Hi Hannah I have 3 phal..orchids and I get them where they have 3 blooms and like 5 buds, but when I bring them home the blooms seems to last like 2 weeks then they fall off. Why does this happen.

    • Nellie,

      Most likely your orchid was in bloom for awhile before you got it. When we buy them from a shop or order them…they originally bloomed in a greenhouse (most likely) and then were sent to the store and then waited there for a bit before you picked them up.

      Orchids drop their blooms after a couple of months. Most orchids bloom once per year, for an extended period of time. The natural blooming cycle for a Phalaenopsis orchid is only a few months. The flowers are falling off because they are done blooming. Also at this time the bloom stems dies back as well.

      If this is your only concern then your orchid is fine. It’s not dying… it just preparing for next years flowers by growing new roots and leaves once all the flowers have dropped and the stems have died back.

      When you get your orchids on your own cycle and the bloom again it should last much longer then two weeks! So that is something to look forward to.


      • Should I cut the stem back it only has 2 and half inches that is brown and the rest is green. At the end of the stem it looks like if there’s another bud that wants to come . You have been a great help. Thank you

      • Nellie,

        Hi again 🙂

        You don’t want to cut the stem back if it looks like a bud will open.

        You want to wait to cut all the stems back until there is no trace of any flowers left.

        This is because it won’t bloom again for a year so you really want to enjoy the blooms for as long as you can.


      • Thank you so much for your expertise. Great help

      • Hi Hannah very concerned about my phal. Orchid all the leave frm the bottom fell off they were all green is it dead. Please help

    • Hi Hannah,

      I have a Blue Phal. Orchid. It is supposed to be under low light. It was shipped to me on Tuesday. The flowers are now wilting. It seemed like the moss was dry so I slightly watered it. It is also sitting at my office and we have bright lights. Should I take it home away from this lighting? Is this affecting the orchid?

  16. I don’t know if this belongs on this blog or not, but one of my orchid leaves are buried in the pot under three roots! There was no potting medium there. I know if I repot it I’ll make sure the leaf comes up, but I am worried about crown rot.

    • John,

      I would not worry about crown rot right now…just make sure when you go to repot it that you place the base of the flowers at the lip of the pot so they are above the mix.


      • OK. I suppose and hope the leaf won’t yellow by then.

      • John,

        You said the leaf is buried under the roots but at the same time you said there was no medium?

        Either way you said you hope it doesn’t turn yellow before you repot it. If it does turn yellow this is not a problem…it will just fall off.


      • I sometimes check on that leaf for 2 mins., about once per 2 days. That’s about 1 min. of direct light per day. It looks like it’s getting sunburn. It has black spots but they are dry. I can touch the leaf between roots. Can an orchid leaf get sunburn like that?

      • Google sunburned orchid leaves and see if the picture match. I don’t think it could get sunburned with only 1 minutes of direct sunlight unless your window is somehow amplifying the suns rays.

  17. Thanks Hannah!
    I kind of think you could do a blog on aerial roots?

  18. My orchid has medium dark leaves… Not as dark as the not-enough-light example, but not as nice as the healthy leaf. If I give it more light the leaves just turn more and more red! The plant is growing more buds with already five blooms. I don’t know what to do!

    • John,

      Well your orchid seems pretty healthy if its producing all those blooms. I would just give it dapple light near a window and don’t move it around a lot. Just keep it in one place and let it rest. It may take awhile before you have your orchid on your schedule and it gets use to your place.


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