Potting and Fertilizing
Orchids are no more difficult to care for than ordinary houseplants. They require slightly different watering and fertilizing techniques, but with this easy guide you'll be growing beautiful orchids in your home in no time. Bonus: We name the easiest orchid varieties to care for to guarantee success.
Potting and Fertilizing Orchids
Why Potting Mix Is Important
It's impossible to properly discuss watering without considering rooting media. Orchids are commonly potted in one of two media: moss or bark. Both are perfectly good materials, but they require somewhat different care. Moss acts like a sponge, and it takes a lot longer to dry out. Thus, for orchids like Phalaenopsis and Cattleya that need to dry out thoroughly before watering, moss requires a longer wait before watering and is less forgiving of too-frequent watering. Bark, which holds little water, poses less risk for these orchids. The rule of thumb for these orchids is: Water the day before the medium is completely dry.
Lady slipper and nun's orchids enjoy conditions on the moist side and they'll do better if you don't let them go completely dry. Moss is a good choice for them, supplying adequate water for longer intervals between watering. Can these moisture lovers be grown in bark, too? Sure, if it's fine-textured. But be prepared to water more frequently.
Step 1: Remove dead roots when repotting an orchid.
Orchid media decomposes over time, especially bark. When this happens, the bark loses the fast-draining properties that many orchids prefer. That's why it's necessary to repot in new bark every year or two. It's a simple two-step process. Just remove the orchid from the old bark, which you can just throw on the compost pile. Clip off dead roots (which will be dark and shriveled, compared to the firm, fleshy, light-color healthy roots). Place the orchid back into the pot and refill it with new bark.
Step 2: Place the orchid into a slightly larger pot filled with fresh bark.
A common recommendation is fertilizing with quarter-strength, water-soluble fertilizer each time you water. That means whatever the fertilizer label says to mix into the water, use only one-fourth that amount, and add it every time you water. This constant "spoon-feeding" is good for plants and ensures you never have to worry about when you fertilized last.