Proper watering is a crucial aspect of orchid culture! While it may appear challenging at first, this quick guide will equip you with the basic knowledge to succeed in keeping orchids properly hydrated at home.
How to Water Orchids
As a general rule, orchids need to dry out somewhat between watering. Your orchid plants will need to be watered when the potting medium begins to feel lightly damp to the touch. This generally occurs every week or so from the previous watering for most orchids in a 5" or larger pot size. Remember that smaller pots often dry out faster, and can require water two to three times per week. Of course, every grower's environment is different, so you will have to become familiar with your own plant’s watering needs over time. Aside from the wetness of the media, a noticeably lighter weight pot will also indicate that the mix has dried out. If in doubt, do not water and wait another day or two.
We always recommend watering in the morning, as this gives the orchid leaves time to dry and avoid bacterial growth overnight. If possible, use water low in alkalinity, such as rainwater, distilled water, or reverse osmosis water. If you have a dehumidifier in your home, the water that collects in the tray is excellent for watering orchids.
Watering Slab-Mounted Orchids
If you happen to have an epiphytic plant that is being grown on a slab, you should be watering on a daily basis or have very high humidity in order for it to grow successfully.
Watering Orchids In Bloom
Make sure to water more often when your orchids are about to bloom, as well as throughout the blooming period. Letting orchids dry out too much at this time may result in bud blast and early flower drop.
Orchids and Ice Cubes
We recommend through-watering orchids until there is free drainage coming out of the bottom of the pot. This ensures that all the potting media and entire root system are properly hydrated. Using ice cubes comes with the risk of under-watering your orchid plants, which can lead to a stressed root system and under-developed plant over time.
Watering After Repotting
If you have repotted your orchid during the active growing season, do not water the media for at least 3 to 4 days. This allows cuts and breaks in the roots to callous over and avoid rotting upon being watered again.
Avoiding Orchid Rot
Standing water will promote bacterial growth and lead to rot over time. Avoid leaving your orchid pot submerged in water for long periods of time, as the roots will begin to rot. The only exception to this rule is if you are growing Phragmipedium orchids, many of which benefit from semi-hydroponic style pots. Another watering tip is to avoid watering late in the day, and avoid watering directly into the crown of the plant, as both of these habits can lead to sitting water culturing bacterial and fungal pathogens on your orchid’s leaves.
Solving Wrinkled Orchid Leaves
Wrinkled or pleated leaves are caused by a lack of moisture reaching the vegetative part of the plant. This can be caused by not watering enough, or watering too much. If you can’t figure out what you’ve done, tip the plant out of the pot and examine the roots. If they are white or tan, firm, and spread throughout the mix, then the roots are healthy and you need to increase the frequency of watering. If the roots appear brown and mushy, then they have rotted from over-watering. Trim off the dead roots, repot into a new mix, and decrease the frequency of watering. Your orchid may continue to lose leaves as the plant pulls moisture and nutrients from them while growing new roots. Always remember, orchids should never stand in water!