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Time to Water the Orchids


Over the years I’ve accumulated many indoor orchids, all of the phalaenopsis (moth) type. The first couple were bought, several others were gifted and several more were donated from people who didn’t have the time to look after them, or got bored waiting for them to flower again. They’re normally distributed throughout the house on a multitude of window sills and it’s only when they’re all brought together for watering that I appreciate just how many we seem to have ended up with.

Watering the Orchids

Orchids don’t tend to flower all in sync but out of all the orchids we have, only three are not in flower and then that’s only because they’re either recently split from their parent plant or are recovering from previous abuse (we also have some “rescue” orchids). All the other orchids are in full flower. Of course, this does mean that once they have finished there won’t be any flowers on any of the orchids for many months but in the mean time, I’m enjoying the display.

I have a theory as to why the orchids are all at the same flowering stage. I reckon it all stems from way back in February earlier this year, precisely on moving day; the day  we left out old house and relocated. All the orchids came with us in the back of the car (they were too delicate to go in the removals van). That day was miserable and wet and the shock of cold winter air that zipped through the orchids in the brief time they left the front door and got into the boot of the car reset and synchronised all their clocks so that later in the year, I would have a stunning display of orchid flowers.

Orchid with four flower spikes

One particularly impressive orchid was actually a gift from my cousin, this is the second time it has flowered and has managed four flower spikes for an impressive spectacle. Watering the orchids can be a bit of a chore with so many to do, but when they produce such a splendid display, I’m reminded of why I bother.

Orchid Pots and Compost

I have most orchids in transparent pots with lots of drainage holes and I put them inside transparent jugs. This lets light through to the fleshy roots and also helps maintain a more humid microclimate around the pot, keeping the roots moist and warm. Shortly after I receive an orchid I tend to re-pot it into a larger pot to give the roots some room or simply to refresh the orchid compost. I use the special orchid compost that is made up principally of bark chips. A good quality compost makes for a healthy growing medium and it shouldn’t be too expensive since it’s not used in bulk.

Orchid Watering and Care

The jugs also make the watering a little easier. I use tepid water as cold water straight from the cold tap will shock the roots. It’s ideal to use filtered rainwater but that’s a step too far for me at the moment. I gather all the orchids together, fill the jugs with tepid water and put a liquid orchid feed in. I feed more often during the summer and cut back in winter. I tend to use half-strength feed since there are so many orchids and it stops salts from quickly building up. The orchids are left soaking for about half an hour, then the water is emptied away and the pot left to drain of excess water. They’re then put back in their jugs and returned to a windowsill.

I water usually once a fortnight in summer and cut back to every three weeks or so in winter. Every few months, I will sluice tepid water through the pot to wash off any build up of salts and just to give the bark and roots a general rinse. If the leaves are looking particularly dusty, then I’ll give them a wash to clean them up. This is particularly important in the duller winter months when light levels are low.

Orchid Performance

The orchids I have regularly re-flower between leaf growth stages. A particularly happy orchid will grow leaves, roots and flowers all at the same time. I would say that the key to a jolly flowering orchid is to be consistent in watering, keep the leaves clean and ensure suitable placement away from searing sunlight, desiccating radiators and chilling draughts.

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Sunil Patel

I'm Sunil Patel, this is me. I created the Garden at 13 Broom Acres and I open it to visitors. I also bake and write blog posts giving a "behind the scenes" look into what it's like to maintain such a garden.

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lynngator 12/10/2014 - 9:33 pm

Sunil, I had several gorgeous orchids in Maryland that seemed to perform with little help from me. But here in the mountains my sunny windows are not sunny enough. My mini orchid has not bloomed in two years though the leaves and roots look healthy 🙁 Enjoyed seeing your collection!

Sunil 21/10/2014 - 11:34 am

Hi Lynn, I’m impressed by your patience! Two years without flowering is a long time to wait (though thinking about it, I have several plants that will take more that a few years before they start flowering). I guess you’ve tried both pampering and threatening it? I know you can get specialised feed for orchid flowers (as opposed to feed for leaves, roots, seasons and all sorts), perhaps that might encourage it? You could try giving it a short blast of cool air like all mine had when we moved, but be careful not to shock it to death!

Sarah Shoesmith 14/10/2014 - 9:57 pm

Well done – they look fabulous! If we were neighbours, you would have a whole lot more of them. I am useless with houseplants. I bought my brother an orchid once. It was beautiful. I carried it proudly to my car, settled it carefully into its seat and somehow managed to slam the door on it, severing the flowering stem, which fell unceremoniously onto the car park. I still gave the orchid to my brother, but I haven’t had the nerve to ask if he ever got it to flower again.

It’s lovely to see your orchid rescue centre doing so well.

Sunil 21/10/2014 - 11:39 am

Hi Sarah, I can just imagine the long, beautiful flower spike full of the most exquisite orchid flowers getting trapped in revolving doors, elevators and train doors. If this happened to me, I would probably cut the rest of the flower spike off and insert the severed flower spike into the orchid bark, making it look as though it was coming up from somewhere under the compost. Not sure how I would explain it when it came to deadheading the flowering spike though!

casa mariposa 16/10/2014 - 1:13 am

The only orchids I can grow are silk. They always bloom and never need to be watered. 🙂 Yours are gorgeous so just keep doing what you’re doing! It’s working wonderfully.

Sunil 21/10/2014 - 11:40 am

Hi Tammy, yours might never need to be watered, but I bet they need a good vac now and again! I’m not looking forward to when mine have all finished and I’ve got several months of leaves and waiting for the next round.

aberdeen gardening 19/10/2014 - 4:18 pm

Great success you have with the Orchids Sunil. We had the one, which usually flowered about this time of year. Last year as it was coming into bloom my arm caught it and of course it fell off the shelf snapping the stem that was about to bloom. When Myra came through to check on the commotion, she found me chastising the cat for being so clumsy, tut, tut.

Sunil 21/10/2014 - 11:43 am

Thanks, Alistair. It was very naughty of you to blame the cat! Lets hope Myra doesn’t read this post’s comments and wise-up to your shenanigans!

gardeninacity 21/10/2014 - 10:12 pm

I don’t even try to grow orchids, I need plants that can live with a lot of neglect. Yours are lovely, though.

Sunil 24/10/2014 - 8:00 pm

Hello Jason, I neglect mine most of the time apart from brief intervals every couple weeks to get them watered. Orchids seem to be one of the very few house plants I can grow, others don’t do so well; I’m not sure why.

Alain 23/10/2014 - 1:34 am

They are beautiful Sunil and obviously you provide them with exactly what they need!

Sunil 24/10/2014 - 8:02 pm

Hello Alain, thank you. Now that they’re flowering so well, I’m going to carry on doing what I am doing other it makes sense or not and hopefully, I’ll continue getting results like these.

Jean 26/10/2014 - 12:06 am

I’m very impressed by your beautiful collection of orchids, especially since I’m one of those people who has never managed to grow them successfully. You may even inspire me to try again at some point.

Sunil 27/10/2014 - 1:25 pm

Hi Jean, thank you. I think the key is consistency in environmental conditions and watering. Orchids seem to take a very long time to react to changes (such as drying up or getting too hot or cold). Once I settled them down in their new place and began to water them on a consistent cycle, then they really seemed to come into their own. I wish you luck with when you try again!


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