Watering Orchids

Lots of beginners have questions about watering orchids. To water orchids, just run water through the pot until it drains freely out the bottom. Try to get all the potting mix wet.

You can also dunk the plant in a bucket of water and hold it under until it stops bubbling. This is faster than taking them to the sink if you have a lot of orchids to water, but it can be tricky to stop all the potting mix from floating out of the pot.

When to water? It depends on the type of orchid. Some orchids come from relatively arid areas and have adaptations to store water, such as thick leaves and pseudobulbs. These orchids should be allowed to dry out between waterings. Other orchids aren't adapted to dry out too much; they should be watered as they approach dryness. Most orchids that die in cultivation are killed by overwatering causing the roots to rot. Orchids should NEVER sit in water. (There are a few exceptions, among orchids that come from truly wet places, such as streambanks. Phragmipediums like a lot of water, and some people set them in a dish of water. Disa orchids need very pure water flowing past their roots constantly, and have a few other special requirements, too.)

Some orchids need a dry rest, usually after flowering. This is an adaptation to living in regions with a dry season. All the leaves will drop off, and then the plant should get only the bare minimum of water needed to keep pseudobulbs from shriveling. Resume watering normally when it starts growing again.

Fertilizing orchids is done by dissolving orchid plant food into the water, and then watering the orchid. It's best done "weakly, weekly"; that is, don't use much fertilizer at a time, but use it often. Many orchidists fertilize every other time they water, using the non-fertilizer waterings to flush out any excess fertilizer. You can also save money on fertilizer by watering a plant thoroughly first, then watering again with the fertilizer: because you don't have to be careful to get all the potting mix wet when fertilizing, you'll end up running less fertilizer out the holes in the pot.

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