How to care for orchids

Orchids are a low-maintenance flower that can be grown indoors or outside in a protected location. And, with a little care, they'll provide you with lots of colour.

Choose the right pot

When most orchids are purchased, they look great but can be presented in the wrong conditions for long-term growth. Often they are potted in plastic and packed with moss around their roots. Orchids need fresh air to grow and if their roots are always moist, they can suffer from root rot. The frequency of watering will depend on the climatic conditions, location of the orchid and the growing media.

Orchids can grow in all types of pots; clay, plastic and ornamental in all shapes and sizes. But be aware, the pot you choose will determine how frequently you need to water your orchid.

If transferred to a larger pot, orchids will concentrate on root growth at the expense of foliage so you may not see any bloom for months. A good tip is to never re-pot a blooming orchid as it will stress the plant and cause it to lose its bloom.

Location and light for your orchid

Orchids should never live near cold drafts or heating vents. Your bloom will last longer if you can provide a mild, humid environment. As most homes have a dry heat, you could place your orchid near a humidifier or in your bathroom.

The amount of light your orchid gets is very important to its overall health and wellbeing. Direct sunlight may cause your orchid to burn and too little light will prevent flowering. The ideal place for your orchid is behind curtains or window blinds so it can receive about six hours of light per day.

Orchid potting mix

Orchids don’t have the same type of roots as other houseplants, so they need their own type of soil or potting mix to assist them in drainage and aeration.

Popular potting mixes for orchids include ingredients such as sphagnum moss, perlite or fir moss. As every orchid likes a different set of conditions, try creating your own mixture of potting mixes for best results.

Watering orchids

Be careful not to overwater orchids or leave them to sit in a waterlogged pot. This will deprive the roots of oxygen and cause the plant to suffocate and rot. Water your orchid once a week and then allow it to dry out a little before watering again. Less water is definitely more when dealing with orchids.

Pruning orchids

Only the commonly available Phalaenopsis (moth orchid) will re-bloom from old spikes once the flowers have fallen off. Trim the stem about an inch away from the main stalk to ensure you get a second bloom within the year. If there is anywhere on the stalk that has turned yellow or brown, you’ll need to cut the stalk back completely to where it begins on the plant to ensure it grows back healthily again.

If your orchid leaves have blackened, use a sterile knife or blade to cut them off to prevent further contamination of other leaves.

The best way to prune young orchids is to trim their stalk all the way back to the base of the plant. It will help them grow back with stronger roots, bigger leaves and larger blooms.

Fertilising orchids

Orchids don’t require a lot of fertiliser and too much can be detrimental to the health of the plant. Use a slow release fertiliser once a year, this will encourage regular blooms and maintain the overall health of the orchid.

You can also apply a weak liquid fertilising solution in spring or summer when the orchid is blooming to give it a healthy top up.

Common orchid problems

If your orchid isn’t flowering, you need to check the light levels, how often you are watering, the temperature and the fertiliser you are using. Black spots on the leaves are also an indication that conditions aren’t right for your orchid.

If most of the orchid’s leaves are falling off, this may be because the plant has a bacteria or fungus problem. You can treat this with a bactericide or fungicide spray.

Choose your orchid

Check out the great range of orchids and other plants at your local Bunnings.

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Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.
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