Orchids are becoming easier to find and cheaper to buy. It is not uncommon to find them now in grocery stores and garden centers ready to take home in full bloom. After you bring it home, follow some basic steps to keep the orchid alive and healthy in your home environment.
Place the orchid in a room with bright filtered light. If close to a window, close the curtains when the light comes in on the plant or move it to a different spot. Direct sunlight can cause damage, but inadequate light is the most common reason orchids fail to bloom. Orchids need about 10 to 15 hours of light per day, which can also be from an artificial light source. Move farther from windows in hotter summer and colder winter days. Turn the pot one-quarter turn at each watering to balance light and growth.
Maintain the temperature in a range between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperatures that are comfortable for people in a home are also good for orchids. Place the pot where it will have good ventilation but no cold drafts. Be aware of drafts from doors in the winter and move the plant to a more protected spot if needed. Don't keep it too warm in winter around heaters. Orchids prefer 60 F in winter and need a rest.
Water the orchid with distilled or rain water. Orchids don't do well with hard water and minerals will build up on the potting medium. To be extra sure about purity of water, it can be boiled to sterilize and kill any fungal or bacterial contaminants. Water once per week. Touch the growing medium to see if it feels moist and water if dry. Let water drain through and out of the pot. When the orchid is blooming and actively growing, the pot can be immersed in the water for 30 minutes to allow the bark to soak up more water and then drain well. In the summer, this would be good at every other week waterings opposite feedings.
Apply a balanced liquid all-purpose fertilizer at one-half the strength suggested on the label. Orchids growing in bark should receive a fertilizer higher in nitrogen, such as 30-10-10. Fertilize during one or two of the watering days per month. Fertilizer formulas are also available specifically for growing orchids. Orchids are epiphytic and get nutrients from the air and watering. The use of lower-strength fertilizer and allowing it to drain well prevents the buildup of salts and minerals in the medium.
Adjust the humidity to keep it in the range of 60 to 70 percent around the plant. This can be done by placing a bowl of water next to the plant or setting the pot on a dish with water and pebbles inside. Keep the pot and aerial roots out of standing water. Green florists foam is a good choice to put in the bottom of a decorator pot and then set the orchid in its own pot on top. The foam will absorb and evaporate the excess water around the plant without standing stagnant water.
Use a lightweight soilless potting medium that is able to hold moisture. One suggested mix is one part peat moss, one part charcoal and two parts of 1/2-inch pine bark. Many garden centers and nurseries sell orchid potting medium mixes and mesh baskets for planting orchids. A mesh pot or basket provides ventilation to prevent rot. Allow the aerial roots to hang outside the pot to prevent rot.