Orchid Care

Receive an orchid plant for Valentine's Day? Here's how to keep it healthy.

December 9, 2010

Orchids will not grow in garden soil. Instead, use Douglas fir bark, mixing 2 parts bark to 1 part perlite. Use fine-grade bark for paphiopedilums, and medium grade for the others. Buy bark where you buy your orchids — at greenhouses and well-stocked garden centers or through mail order orchid catalogs. For best growth and bloom, repot once a year since fir bark breaks down and orchids need a loose, fast-draining medium.

Thorough watering once a week is enough except for large or very small plants. Household humidity that's comfortable to you (40-60 percent) is fine for orchids. (A humidifier will be good for you and your plants!) Or set the pots on pebble-filled trays and add water to the trays to increase humidity around your plants. Make sure the water doesn't reach the top of the pebbles.


Feed orchids twice a month with a balanced organic fertilizer, and give a nitrogen supplement such as fish emulsion at each feeding.

Pests and Diseases
Orchids are remarkably problem-free. Use insecticidal soap to control the most common pests: mealybugs, scale, and spider mites. If a plant shows signs of disease, isolate it, remove affected parts with a sharp, flame-sterilized knife, and watch for recurrences.

Next Up From Rodale's Organic Life

Where Backyard Birds Go During Winter
Fix up your yard to be hospitable to year-round avian visitors.
What The Heck Does Well-Drained Soil Actually Mean?
We get to the bottom of this common gardening term.
STOP: Before You Toss That Cracked Garden Hose—Fix It
Even large holes can be repaired without a lot of expense.