How to kill an orchid – an expert’s guide on what NOT to do

Where did the months of May and June go? Like so many in quarantine, my days turn into weeks and I’m not sure when to put the trash out.

This is a belated blog post that started years ago on a Mother’s Day. For whatever reason, grocery stores across the U.S. are over-run by orchids. My brother-in-law explained to me that once upon a time there was a margin in growing these finicky plants. Many nurseries invested in the equipment to growth them and succulents for additional revenue. Sadly, too many nurseries went this route and now there is too much supply to meet the demand, driving down the prices on orchids. Hence the inexpensive orchid that sons love to give their mothers for Mother’s Day.

My Mother-in-Law has now, maybe five orchids…they are all of the Phalaenopsis type. She’s not a green thumb so she took this plant, found an appropriate pot with soil and set it on her bay window. I got involved once this poor plant had only one leaf left and she got a second one the following year and I got one for my birthday. Sons!

I’m going to walk you through what we’ve learned and what I have learned about orchids. My husband just told me as I wrote this that they are “easy to grow” and you can “forget to water them.” No. And No. These are finicky plants but with the right routine they can thrive.


Orchids don't like wet feet

As you can tell from the above story, don’t get your new orchid and re-pot it into a indoor pot with soil. Don’t think you can even use a violet pot. Orchids are from the tropics and before being domesticated were arboreal, growing in the nooks and crannies of tree limbs in the rain forest canopy.

What they don’t like is to sit in water. They, atleast Phalaenopsis, is not a candidate for hydroponics or for soils that contain “water crystals”.

But, orchids DO like water! Just water that is slam-bam-thank you ma’am and doesn’t stick around.

  • When you get an orchid, take it out of the festive pot and check out what medium it is planted in
  • If it is flowering, make a plan and possibly re-pot it later into fast draining soils or soil alternatives
  • Mist your orchids frequently, especially during the winter when humidity is low
  • If you live in a swamp like we do in the DC metro, consider a shady outdoor spot for your orchids where they can enjoy the balmy, hot summers; my screened porch is perfect for my recovering orchids

Check the water need of your orchid

For the first year of having my Phalaenopsis, I watered my orchid weekly with a shot of kettle water. Yes, I seriously used a shot glass and bothered to make extra water for my orchid. The water here in my community is treated with bleach, among other things. Cooled kettle water is at room temperature and missing some of the fun additives we think its okay to ingest.


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