5 ways to keep your orchid alive

October 7, 2015 | By | Comments (15)
(Jena Ardell / Getty Images}

Jena Ardell / Getty Images

With flowers that look like butterflies and last for months at a time, Phalaelnopsis, or moth orchids, are a gorgeous indoor plants. Keep them happy and you’ll have blooms year after year. 

Variegated phalaenopsis orchid flowers (Rosemary Calvert / Getty Images)

Variegated Phalaenopsis flowers (Rosemary Calvert / Getty Images)

1. Let there be (bright, indirect) light!

An east-facing window that gets morning light is ideal. South- or west-facing windows work, too, but be sure your orchid is shielded from the brightest (and harshest) of afternoon sun with a sheer curtain. The leaves should be a bright shade of olive green. Darker leaves means the plant is not getting enough light; red-tinged leaves mean there’s too much exposure to light.

(OZ_Media / Getty Images)

OZ_Media / Getty Images

2. Not too hot, not too cold

Phalaelnopsis are happy in the same temps we are: above 60º at night and between 70º and 80º during the day. Remember: Temperatures on a windowsill are colder or hotter than the rest of your house, and fluctuating temperatures can cause buds to drop off right before they open (causing a huge bummer). Pay close attention that your Phalaelnopsis is out of the way of any drafts.

(Stockphotopluak / Getty Images)

Stockphotopluak / Getty Images

3. Cut spent blooms

When flowers fade, you have two choices: Cut the spike down to the leaves and the plant will grow a strong stem with even larger flowers within a year. Or you can cut stem just above the first node (it looks like a bump) below the lowest faded bloom. Often the remaining stem will produce another round of flowers within 8 to 12 weeks.

(Grigory Fedyukovich / Getty Images)

Grigory Fedyukovich / Getty Images

4. Remember food and water

A once-weekly lukewarm watering is usually enough for Phalaelnopsis. You might need to be a little more frequent in summer, and less so in winter. When in doubt, give it another day.

With a narrow-nose watering can, irrigate just inside the pot rim, under the plant leaves. It’s key that the crown (the center of the plant) remains dry. Use a paper towel to blot any excess water to avoid crown rot. Make sure the pot has drainage and excess water can run out, and that the container doesn’t sit in a saucer full of water.

Feed weekly with a light fertilizer (a teaspoon of 20-20-20 liquid fertilizer to a gallon of water—remember, I’m fine using fertilizers indoors). Once a month, skip the fertilizer and use clean water to flush any excess salts.

(Linda Burgess / Getty Images)

(Linda Burgess / Getty Images)

5. Repot on occasion

No potting soil allowed! When bark chips have decayed (usually between 1 and 3 years), water your Phalaenopsis, jiggle it out of the pot, and wash the old bark from the roots, snipping off any dried or mushy roots with clean clippers. Repot in moistened, medium-grade bark so the base of the bottom leaves sits above the bark and 1/2 an inch below the pot rim.




  1. sophia city

    Nice Blog..

    These 5 ways Really helpful in the time of re-potting an Orchids,I always use new Orchid Pots at the time of re-potting which helps in growing my orchids rapidly.

    You may like it..

    August 10, 2017 at 10:53 pm
  2. Sophia City

    nice blog..
    thanks a lot ..
    yes we have to follow some steps to alive our orchids . we can also used best Orchid Pots for our orchids which help in alive..
    you may like it..

    May 29, 2017 at 4:36 am
  3. Billie Sheads

    I have a phal 5hat has produced a bloom spike. The spike has reached 5 inches long but has remained that size for 6 months with no change. The plant is in beautiful condition. Why won’t the bloom spike grow and bloom?

    April 6, 2017 at 8:57 pm
  4. Michell

    Very helpful.Thanks

    November 12, 2016 at 9:39 am
  5. Helena bruno

    What it means when the leaves becames vert softs ( not hards)?
    Thanks for your attention

    November 8, 2016 at 3:08 am
  6. Kris

    My orchid and my friend’s went “stick” i.e., stem turned brown after the flowers fell off. No action since. Leaves look healthy at the base and are slowly growing more. What to do?

    November 7, 2016 at 9:11 pm
  7. Kathy

    I cut the flower stem down and never got another one in years….only get nice leaves. Also I am wondering what to do with those roots hanging out my pot?

    October 11, 2016 at 8:31 am
  8. Christina

    What do you do with the things that I’m guessing are roots? They kinda look like worms coming up from the bottom?

    October 9, 2016 at 1:16 pm
  9. Marian Casse

    great post….I have two orchids both seem to be doing good. I guess I do need to fertilize tho.

    October 9, 2016 at 8:52 am
  10. Jo

    I think I have been watering too often. I have not used any fertilizer, and there is no drainage in the pot. There are three stems. The big green leaves at the bottom have fallen off, and just about all the flowers. I watered every third day, most of the time putting a cube of ice on each side under the bottom leaves. They did great for first two months.The orchids were shipped to me and full
    of blooms and buds; I don’t want to kill it, but may be too late. Thanks for this post Johanna.

    July 17, 2016 at 5:46 pm
  11. Graeme

    The stock photos of the orchids are beautiful. Perhaps your piece would add more value to readers if you could show more pictures, or create a link to another page, that show the difference in the shades of green you speak of from over/underexposure to light.

    Same with the section on what it should look like inside the pot before and after the re-potting.

    Showing beautiful orchids will help sell new plants. Showing an orchid owner how to care for them, and what the good and the bad conditions look like, will make orchid owners better orchid owners! Thanks for the article.

    December 23, 2015 at 11:15 am
  12. Everything you always wanted to know about houseplants* | A blog by Sunset

    […] houseplants for low light 10 indestructible houseplants 22 amazingly easy orchids (plus how to keep orchids alive) 13 ways to design with houseplants 10 ways to decorate with air plants (and how to keep air […]

    December 22, 2015 at 12:30 pm
  13. 6 simple tricks to keep your air plant alive | A blog by Sunset

    […] soil, absorbing water and nutrients through scales on their leaves. But just like succulents, and orchids, some people have trouble keeping them alive. I know because y’all tell me. I also know […]

    October 21, 2015 at 11:30 am
  14. Johanna Silver

    Margo — Just wait. I’ve got one on air plants, too 😉

    October 8, 2015 at 9:56 am
  15. Margo True

    Such a helpful post, Johanna! Thank you.

    October 7, 2015 at 11:20 pm

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