University of Illinois Extension

Orchids: an Outstanding Indoor Plant


Indoor house plants don’t have to be limited to the standard foliage plant, says Candice Miller, University of Illinois horticulture educator.

“Orchids, for example, are long-lasting flowering plants that make great houseplants.”

First off, let’s explain the various orchid types that you could grow indoors:

Phalaenopsis species- The moth orchid is really the most adapted for growing in your home. This orchid has long arching sprays of colorful flowers that begin flowering in winter or early spring and remain showy for several months. These require less light that some of the other orchids and flower in a variety of colors and patterns ranging from pink to white. “Don’t be confused by the new “blue” Phalaenopsis orchid,” notes Miller. It is not really blue, but simply has blue dye in the rooting media that is taken up by the plant.

Cattleya species- Cattleyas are known for their use in corsages and for having a flower that can last from two to six weeks. They generally flower only once per year during the spring or fall. They require twice the amount of light of moth orchids to perform well in the home.

Dendrobium species- Dendrobium orchids produce long, graceful sprays of flowers that are typically white, lavender or a combination of the two during the fall and winter. Flowers may remain open three to four weeks.

Most orchids require the same temperature range as other houseplants. Daytime highs in the 70’s and night time lows of 55-65 degrees F will keep orchids growing perfectly happily. A bright window with indirect sunlight all day is ideal.

In terms of watering, once a week is about right for most orchids. Overwatering is by far the easiest way to kill an orchid, so only water orchids once the potting media has dried out slightly. Orchids are typically planted in a well-drained media, like a bark mixture, that allows water to easily drain away. “A few ice cubes placed on top of the bark media once a week does the job well for many orchids,” states Miller.

“Probably the most difficult aspect of growing orchids is getting them to re-bloom,” notes Miller. Providing orchids with warmer temperatures during the day and cooler temperatures at night (about a 10-15 degree difference is ideal) helps to simulate seasonal cues that the plant needs to start blooming again. If the temperature in your home stays relatively consistent, you will likely have difficulty in re-blooming orchids.

Fertilizing is also important. An application of a high-phosphorous, “bloom booster” fertilizer in mid- November can help to jump start the re-blooming process.

Some resources will also suggest that during the month or so that you’re trying to get the plant to re-bloom, you should restrict watering to just once every two weeks and allow the top 2 inches of growing medium to dry thoroughly before watering again.

“Though a little extra manipulation is needed to get your orchids to rebloom, that moment of pure excitement when you realize a new flower is on its way is definitely worth it!”


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