How to care for orchids

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How to care for orchids

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With thousands of species growing on every continent except Antarctica, orchids are characterized by their stunning blooms. Though notoriously difficult to care for, you can grow orchids indoors with a bit of effort. Each variety of orchid requires slightly different attention, but these steps provide information for basic orchid care.


Step One

Position your orchid in front of a window covered with sheer curtains. Orchids love sun, but direct sunlight can burn them and too little sunlight stops them from flowering.


Step Two

Choose a north or east facing window, or a highly protected west or south facing window, for low light, warm growing orchids. These include orchid varieties such as Lady Slipper, Phalaenopsis and Oncidium. Select a west or south facing window for moderate to high light, warm growing orchids like Cattleya, Dendrobium and Vanda.


Step Three

Water your orchid generally once a week during the winter and twice a week during the summer, though specific watering requirements vary depending on the climate in which you live, your potting material and your orchid variety.


Step Four

Run room temperature water through the pot for about 30 seconds, allowing it to flow out the bottom of the pot. This wets the roots without soaking the potting material. Water early in the day so the orchid dries before night.


Step Five

Keep Paphiopedilum, Miltonia, Cymbidium and Odontoglossum orchids constantly moist but not wet. Allow Phalaenopsis, Vanda and Ascocenda orchids to almost dry before watering again. Poke your finger an inch into the potting material to feel wetness of the roots and determine whether it's time to water following the directions in Step 4.


Step Six

Feed your orchid about a quart of specially formulated orchid fertilizer each time you water. There are various products available for use during different periods of growth and for different orchid varieties. In general, the fertilizer should contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in proportions of 20-20-20.


Step Seven

Maintain a humidity level of 50 to 70 percent. During dry summers when the humidity level may drop, place your orchid pot in a shallow dish filled with pebbles and water. Keep the water level below the height of the pebbles to ensure that the orchid pot isn't submerged in water. Change the pebbles every two to three months to remove accumulated salts and algae.


Step Eight

Mimic the gentle breeze of a rain forest to create an ideal environment to care for your orchid. Open windows in the summertime, and place an oscillating fan near your orchid in the winter. This moving air evaporates stagnant water in the orchid's pot, where harmful bacteria and fungus would otherwise breed.


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