Orchids are very popular as indoor plants. And maintaining them is actually not complicated. Nevertheless, mistakes often happen that damage the plants in the long term or even cause them to die. Orchid species such as the popular moth orchid (Phalaenopsis) differ significantly from other indoor plants in terms of their care requirements.
Orchids such as the butterfly orchid (Phalaenopsis), Dendrobium, Cambria, Cattleya, or Vanda orchids are extremely decorative, long-lived, and allergy-friendly flowering plants. They decorate bathrooms and window sills with their beautiful exotic flowers. Unfortunately, the plants are often poorly cared for and so many orchids are only allowed to stay in pots for a short period of time. Often the tropical beauties end up on the garbage prematurely because not enough flowers are forming, the plants are getting yellow leaves or the roots are rotting. So that this fate does not overtake your orchids, we offer tips on how to avoid the worst mistakes in orchid care.
Mistake 1: Planting orchids in the wrong substrate
Most orchids grow in the tropics and subtropics as so-called epiphytes. They do not stick with their roots in the earth, as we are used to from domestic flowering plants, but grow on trees. There they feed themselves with their aerial roots in the moist, nutrient-enriched air that surrounds the trees in the rainforest. This is why you should never use conventional potting soil when repotting orchids! Always plant orchids in a special, coarse orchid substrate.
This consists of bark, bast, and coconut fibers. It is mainly used by the plant to hold on and at the same time allows good ventilation of the roots, which are dependent on a lot of oxygen. In normal potting soil, the roots of orchids would rot in a very short time and the plant would die of a lack of oxygen and waterlogging. The group of terrestrial orchids, to which the lady’s slipper (Paphiopedilum) belongs, is an exception. Representatives of this special orchid group are planted in well-drained potting soil.
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Mistake 2: watering orchids too hard
As already mentioned, the orchid as a rainforest plant mainly feeds on nutrient-rich humidity. You could say that tropical beauty lives on air and love. Rainwater that falls on the plant can easily roll off and does not accumulate around the roots that hang at a dizzying height in the natural location. That is why it is essential to make sure that no water collects in the pot, even with indoor plants. Water your orchid only moderately, preferably in the morning and ideally with warm, decalcified water. Instead of a watering can, it is better to use a spray bottle and only wet the substrate and the roots, not the leaves! Alternatively, you can immerse your orchid in lukewarm water once a week and then let it drain well. Caution: Do not water the orchid again before the substrate has dried well, otherwise mold will form!
Error 3: Bad location
Another classic mistake in orchid care is a location that is too sunny. Although the orchid is a tropical plant, it is not a sun worshiper. On the contrary: As rainforest dwellers, orchids live in their natural habitat under the dense canopy of jungle trees. Indoor plants cannot tolerate direct sunlight through a pane of glass, for example on a south-facing window sill or in a winter garden. The fleshy leaves of the orchid get sunburn easily, which can be recognized by dried, light brown spots.
The roots of the orchid can also take sun damage in a transparent pot. Incidentally, such dry damage can also be caused by dry heating air. Orchids don’t die from sunburn, but the spots on the leaves are a real blemish. Nevertheless, do not cut off the affected leaves, because the plant depends on the leaf green for photosynthesis! It is best to place your orchids in an east or west window, where the plants get morning or evening sun. Alternatively, you can stretch a semi-transparent blind or a pleated blind on the window, which keeps direct sunlight away from the orchids and still lets in enough light.