Orchids have a reputation as being difficult, if not impossible, to grow, especially withouta Greenhouse or Hothouse. Orchids must have the growing conditions they need to survive. But most orchids are actually far sturdier, adaptable, and resilient than most people think. If you can grow houseplants, you can grow orchids. There are some notoriously fussy orchids among the 20,000 species and over 100,000 hybrids available today, but if you select one of the rugged, popular, easy-to-grow types that adapt to the temperatures and light conditions found on the average home windowsill, orchids can be very rewarding indoor plants.
Most people's first orchid is purchased in bloom. To get Orchids produce flowers again you have to provide a big difference between day and night temperatures, just like the plants would experience in nature. Making sure the temperature drops at least 10 degrees at night, especially in the fall and winter when many orchids initiate flower buds, will make it much more likely that your plant will reflower. Investing in an automatic setback thermometer can make this a lot easier (and probably save you some money in the long run). Your orchid plant will live quite nicely without this nightly temperature drop, but may not do much more than that. Optimal humidity also enhances flowering. Fifty percent or more is necessary, but often is often far below that in most homes in the winter (summer is another story). You can increase humidity near the plants by using a humidifier; or try placing the pots on flat pebbles or pea gravel in a tray filled with water so it almost covers the stones; or group the plants together and surround the area with clear plastic (it may not look so great in the living room, though). But beware too much humidity promotes fungal and bacterial diseases that can affect the leaves or flowers. In nature these pathogens are not a problem as the plants are normally in an environment full of breezes. You can use a small oscillating fan if necessary to simulate these conditions and prevent disease problems. Orchids are also classified into three groups (high, medium, and low) depending on how much light orchids need to thrive. Most orchids prefer at least 6 hours of light a day. Although they will grow acceptably with less light than recommended, they may not flower if they receive inadequate light.
How can you tell if your orchid is getting enough light?
Lush, rich, dark green leaves are attractive, but indicate the light is not strong enough. The leaves should be a grassy green color (light or medium green with yellowish tones). You can determine if the light is sufficient for your orchid with a simple hand/eye test. Place your hand 6 inches above the leaves and look at the shadow that is cast. A sharp-edged shadow means high light; a soft-edged shadow indicates medium to low light; no shadow at all means the light is insufficient for an orchid to flower.To provide optimum light indoors, place your plants in a south- or east-facing window. A western exposure is often too hot in the afternoon and north-facing windows are usually too dark. Up in the north, the sun shifts in the sky considerably, so you may have to move your plants as the seasons change to get the right amount of light. You can alter the amount of light the plants receive by moving them from or toward the window, putting up a sheer curtain to cast light shade in a too-bright spot, or placing reflective material in a dark growing area to increase usable light. Be careful that your plants don't get too much direct light – especially if they have tender, dark green leaves. Just like tender, unconditioned human skin, the leaves can be sunburned, first bleaching out to white, then dying and turning black.
If you don't have adequate light or space by your windows, you can always use artificial light. Special grow lights, or four fluorescent tubes placed 6 inches apart side by side and placed 6 to 8 inches above the plants, set for 14 to 16 hours a day should be sufficient for low light-requiring orchids. Supplemental fluorescent light in a window may be all you need to provide sufficient light for your orchids to flower.
Fortunately orchids are relatively low-maintenance plants. It's recommended that you fertilize them weekly with a dilute solution of 20-20-20 fertilizer, then switch to a blossom-booster fertilizer (that has more phosphorus and less nitrogen) in the fall to assist flower bud initiation. I can't manage to keep up with that kind of schedule (well, I do have lots of plants) and if they get fertilized a few times a year they're lucky. I always dunk the pots in fertilizer water when I move them out in the spring and again when they come back inside in fall, and occasionally in between. Maybe I should fertilize more, but the plants grow vigorously and most bloom well, so I don't feel a real need to do more. As with watering, if you're unsure, less is better than too much.
More Great Orchid Pictures on Google images