Orchids are among the most beautiful and popular houseplants, but they can also be quite tricky to care for. One of the most common questions that orchid owners have is how to water their plants properly. Orchids have different watering needs than other plants, and overwatering or underwatering can cause them to wilt, rot, or die. In this article, we will explain how to water orchids correctly, how much water to give them, and when to water them. We will also share some tips and tricks to keep your orchids healthy and happy.
How to Water Orchids
How to Water Orchids: The Dos
Here are some of the dos of watering orchids that you should follow to ensure their optimal health and growth:
- Do water orchids in the morning. This is the best time to water orchids, as it gives them enough time to absorb the water and dry out before nightfall. Orchids do not like to sit in wet conditions for too long, as this can promote fungal and bacterial infections. Watering orchids in the morning also mimics their natural cycle of receiving dew and rain in the early hours of the day.
- Do water orchids according to their type and potting medium. Different types of orchids have different water requirements, depending on their origin, structure, and adaptation. For example, cattleyas and oncidiums are drought-tolerant orchids that can store water in their pseudobulbs (thickened stems), so they need less frequent watering than phalaenopsis and paphiopedilums, which are more sensitive orchids that do not have water-storing organs. Similarly, different potting media have different water retention capacities, depending on their composition, size, and porosity. For example, bark and wood chips tend to dry out faster than moss and perlite, so they need more frequent watering. You should research your orchid type and potting medium, and adjust your watering schedule accordingly.
- Do water orchids thoroughly and evenly. When you water orchids, you should make sure that you wet the entire potting medium and the roots, and not just the surface. You should also avoid watering only one side of the pot, as this can create uneven moisture distribution and cause root rot on the wetter side. You can water orchids from the top or the bottom, depending on your preference and convenience. If you water orchids from the top, you can use a watering can, a hose, or a faucet, and let the water run through the pot for a few seconds, until it drains out from the bottom. If you water orchids from the bottom, you can submerge the pot in a bucket or a sink of water, and let it soak for a few minutes, until the potting medium is saturated. In both cases, you should let the excess water drain out completely, and never let the orchid sit in water for too long.
- Do water orchids with room temperature water. Orchids are sensitive to temperature changes, and they do not like to be shocked by water that is too hot or too cold. Watering orchids with water that is too hot can burn their roots and leaves, and watering orchids with water that is too cold can cause them to drop their buds and flowers. You should always use water that is at room temperature, or slightly warmer, to water orchids. You can use tap water, filtered water, or rainwater, as long as it is not too hard or too soft, and does not contain too much chlorine, fluoride, or salt. You can also add some orchid fertilizer to the water, following the instructions on the label, to provide your orchids with some extra nutrients.
How to Water Orchids: The Don’ts
Here are some of the don’ts of watering orchids that you should avoid to prevent damaging or killing your orchids:
- Don’t water orchids on a fixed schedule. One of the biggest mistakes that orchid beginners make is to water orchids on a fixed schedule, such as once a week or once a month, regardless of the orchid’s actual needs and preferences. This can lead to overwatering or underwatering, which are both harmful to orchids. Instead of watering orchids on a fixed schedule, you should water orchids when they need it, depending on their type, potting medium, and environment. You should check the moisture level of the potting medium and the roots before watering, and only water orchids when they are almost dry, but not completely dry.
- Don’t water orchids with ice cubes. Another common mistake that orchid beginners make is to water orchids with ice cubes, thinking that this is a convenient and easy way to provide orchids with the right amount of water. However, this is actually a bad idea, as ice cubes are too cold for orchids, and can damage their roots and leaves. Ice cubes also do not provide enough water for orchids, as they melt slowly and unevenly, and do not wet the entire potting medium and the roots. You should never water orchids with ice cubes, and always use room temperature water instead.
Why Is Watering Orchids Important?
Watering orchids is important because it provides them with the moisture and nutrients they need to grow and bloom. Orchids are epiphytes, which means they grow on trees or rocks in their natural habitat, and their roots are exposed to air and water. Orchids do not have a regular soil medium to store water, so they rely on their roots and leaves to absorb and retain water. Watering orchids also helps to flush out any salts or minerals that may build up in the potting mix and damage the roots.
How Often Should You Water Orchids?
The frequency of watering orchids depends on several factors, such as the type of orchid, the potting mix, the pot size, the temperature, the humidity, and the light level. There is no one-size-fits-all rule for how often to water orchids, but a general guideline is to water them once a week in the winter and twice a week in the summer. However, you should always check the moisture level of the potting mix before watering, and adjust accordingly. A good way to do this is to use the finger test: insert your finger about an inch into the potting mix, and if it feels dry, it is time to water. If it feels moist, you can wait until it dries out a bit more. Another way to do this is to use the weight test: lift the pot and feel how heavy it is. A dry pot will be much lighter than a wet one.
How Much Water Should You Give Orchids?
The amount of water you give orchids depends on the size of the pot and the type of potting mix. Orchids are usually potted in a loose and airy mix of bark, moss, perlite, or charcoal, which allows for good drainage and aeration. You should water orchids until the water runs out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot, and make sure that the potting mix is evenly moistened. Do not let the pot sit in a saucer of water, as this can cause root rot. You should also avoid watering the leaves, the crown, or the flowers of the orchid, as this can cause fungal or bacterial infections. If you accidentally get water on these parts, gently blot them dry with a paper towel.
When Should You Water Orchids?
The best time to water orchids is in the morning, as this gives them enough time to absorb the water and dry off before the night. Orchids prefer a dry and cool night, as this mimics their natural environment and triggers their blooming cycle. Watering orchids in the evening or at night can cause them to stay wet and cold, which can lead to diseases and stress. You should also avoid watering orchids on very hot or sunny days, as this can cause the water to evaporate quickly and scorch the roots or leaves.
What Kind of Water Should You Use for Orchids?
The kind of water you use for orchids can affect their health and growth. Orchids prefer water that is slightly acidic, with a pH of around 6.5, and low in salts and minerals. Tap water can sometimes be too hard or alkaline for orchids, and it can also contain chlorine, fluoride, or other chemicals that can harm the plants. If you have hard tap water, you can either filter it, boil it, or let it sit overnight before using it. You can also use rainwater, distilled water, or reverse osmosis water, as these are pure and soft. However, you should avoid using water that is too cold or too hot, as this can shock the orchids. Room temperature water is ideal for orchids. Source: usbg.gov
How to Water Orchids in Different Types of Pots and Mixes
Orchids can be grown in different types of pots and mixes, and each one has its own watering requirements. Here are some examples of how to water orchids in different situations:
- Orchids in clay pots and bark mix: Clay pots are porous and allow for more air circulation and evaporation, while bark mix is coarse and drains quickly. These orchids need to be watered more frequently, as they dry out faster. You can water them every two to three days in the summer, and every five to seven days in the winter.
- Orchids in plastic pots and moss mix: Plastic pots are non-porous and retain more moisture, while moss mix is fine and holds more water. These orchids need to be watered less frequently, as they stay wet longer. You can water them every seven to 10 days in the summer, and every two to three weeks in the winter.
- Orchids in baskets and no mix: Some orchids, such as vandas and dendrobiums, can be grown in baskets with no potting mix, as their roots are adapted to hang freely in the air. These orchids need to be watered daily, as they have no medium to store water. You can either mist them with a spray bottle, or dunk them in a bucket of water for a few minutes.
Tips and Tricks for Watering Orchids
Here are some tips and tricks to help you water your orchids better and keep them healthy and happy:
- Use a watering can with a long spout or a hose with a gentle spray nozzle to water your orchids. This will help you reach the roots and the potting mix without splashing the leaves or the flowers.
- Add a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar to your water to lower the pH and make it more acidic. This will help your orchids absorb more nutrients and prevent mineral buildup in the potting mix.
- Fertilize your orchids every two to four weeks with a balanced orchid fertilizer, diluted to half or quarter strength. You can either add the fertilizer to your water, or apply it after watering. Fertilizing your orchids will provide them with the essential elements they need to grow and bloom.
- Increase the humidity around your orchids by placing them on a tray of pebbles and water, or by using a humidifier or a misting fan. Orchids thrive in a humid environment, as this prevents them from drying out and losing water through their leaves.
- Repot your orchids every one to two years, or when the potting mix becomes soggy, compacted, or decomposed. This will refresh the potting mix and improve the drainage and aeration of the roots. You can also trim any dead or damaged roots when you repot your orchids.
FAQs About Orchid Watering
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about orchid watering, and their answers:
How do I know if my orchid is overwatered or underwatered?
Overwatering and underwatering can both cause orchids to suffer and show signs of stress. Here are some ways to tell if your orchid is overwatered or underwatered:
- Overwatered orchids have yellow, mushy, or wrinkled leaves, and black, brown, or soft roots. They may also drop their buds or flowers, or develop fungal or bacterial infections.
- Underwatered orchids have dry, crispy, or shriveled leaves, and white, brittle, or shriveled roots. They may also stop growing or blooming, or develop sunburn or spider mites.
How do I revive an overwatered or underwatered orchid?
If your orchid is overwatered or underwatered, you can try to revive it by following these steps:
- For overwatered orchids, stop watering them until the potting mix is completely dry. Remove the orchid from the pot and cut off any rotten or damaged roots. Repot the orchid in a fresh and well-draining potting mix, and water it sparingly until it recovers.
- For underwatered orchids, water them thoroughly until the water runs out of the drainage holes. Soak the orchid in a bucket of water for an hour or two to rehydrate the roots. Mist the leaves and the roots daily to increase the humidity. Water the orchid regularly until it recovers.
How do I water orchids in different seasons?
Orchids need different amounts of water in different seasons, depending on the temperature and the humidity. Here are some general guidelines for watering orchids in different seasons:
- In spring, water your orchids once a week, as this is the time when they start to grow and bloom. You can also increase the frequency of fertilizing to boost their growth and flowering.
- In summer, water your orchids twice a week, as this is the time when they are most active and need more water. You can also mist them more often to cool them down and prevent them from drying out.
- In autumn, water your orchids once a week, as this is the time when they start to slow down and prepare for dormancy. You can also reduce the frequency of fertilizing to avoid overfeeding them.
One of the most important factors that affect the lifespan of orchids is how you water them. Orchids have different watering needs than other plants, and overwatering or underwatering can cause them to wilt, rot, or die. Orchids need to be watered until the water runs out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot, and the potting mix should be evenly moistened. You should also avoid watering the leaves, the crown, or the flowers of the orchid, as this can cause fungal or bacterial infections. If you water your orchids properly, they can live for several decades, and some specimens are known to be well over 100 years old! If you want to learn more about how long orchids live and how to care for them, you should read the article titled “How Long Do Orchids Live (Secrets To Success)”. It has some useful tips and tricks to help you keep your orchids healthy and happy.