It's so easy to over-water your phalaenopsis orchid. Knowing when and how to water your plant is one of the most important things when learning to be a successful orchid grower. Here's what you need to know to make sure you're doing it right!
When (And How) To Water Your Orchid?
When it's time to water your orchid depends on a number of factors. These include the temperature of your house, the amount of light the plants get, the potting mix, and even the kind of container your plant is growing in. Instead of scheduling a weekly water, it's far better to look out for signs that indicate that your orchid needs watering.
Regardless of the potting medium used, it should be thoroughly moistened whenever you water, then they need to dry out almost completely before re-watering. A good way to check the potting mix is dry enough to water again is to poke your finger (or some form of wooden skewer) around 2-3cm into the mix to feel how dry the mix is (if using a skewer look for any significant darkening of the wood).
Watering your orchids in the morning is sometimes advised as this tends to ensure any stray splashes on the leaves evaporates throughout the warmer temperatures in the day. If you notice any water where the leaves and stem meet, make sure to gently wipe or blot these away as this can lead to root rot.
How To Water An Orchid In Bark?
It's very common to find orchid plants potted in bark or a form of commercial orchid bark mixture. Bark tends to initially repel water, but if left to soak it will start to absorb and retain the water.
Water until the planter is almost full, then leave for no longer than 10 minutes, so it can fully saturate. Next, allow the water to completely drain out. Ensure the pot is evenly watered to make sure all roots have access to nutrients. Depending on how fast your potting bark dries out, you may need to repeat this somewhere between every 5 -11 days.
How To Water An Orchid In Moss?
The Moss usually used with Phalaenopsis Orchids is Sphagnum moss, which is a fine substrate that can retain water better than bark. It's great for younger potted orchids but as they grow, this medium makes it harder for delicate orchid root structures to breathe and air out. The best way to water if your orchid is potted in sphagnum moss is to run the plant in just it’s grow pot under the tap until it start to flow freely through the drainage holes. As always, ensure to gently dry any water that is where the leaves and stem meet.
Can I Use Tap Water To Water My Orchid?
It's often suggested that rainwater is the best water for your orchid (or melted snow!). While there is some truth behind this due to it being free from the chemicals used in tap water and its slight nitrogen content (an essential nutrient for all plant growth), it isn't really necessary. Tap water is absolutely fine to use as long as it hasn't been softened with salts.
Water at room temperature is best but the ice cube method can also be used without harming your plant. Once a week, place 1-3 ice cubes on top of you potting mix. Aim to have them not touching the leaves where possible. As they melt they will provide enough moisture to keep your orchids thriving! This is especially handy for orchids in high glass containers.
Should I Mist My Orchid?
The majority of indoor orchids prefer a humid environment, however misting your orchid isn't strictly necessary. There are two main reasons not mist your orchids. Firstly, misting can increase the risk of a fungal or bacterial disease to the leaves or stems. Secondly, there are much safer and efficient ways to increase the humidity levels for your orchids.
One way is to place the orchid pots on a "humidity tray", which can be made from a shallow bowl or saucer containing a layer of pebbles or stones. Place your orchid on top of the pebbles, then fill the tray with water, ensuring the water doesn't reach the bottom of the pot. As the water begins to evaporate, it will humidify the air directly around the plant. This is a great low cost and easy option to help replicate the natural tropical environment of your plant.
Alternatively, if you want, you could invest in a small plug-in humidifier to place around where your orchid plants are. Most electrical humidifiers will allow you to set and monitor the humidity for optimal plant health and happiness!
Should I Use Orchid Feed?
The reality is that store bought orchid feeds will not provide your orchid with the exact chemical balance of nutrients it requires. In fact, a lot of these feeds will contain more nutrients than your plant can even absorb. However, depending on your water of choice, it might be good to use a water soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer if you think your orchid may be in need of some extra help and a feed with with high phosphorus like 10-30-20 in autumn, if you are struggling to get your orchid to re-bloom and flower.
Understanding Your Orchid Roots
Each orchid root has a thin membrane called a valemen. This layer serves multiple purposes. Whilst helping cling to rough surfaces, it also absorbs water quickly and helps with the exchange the minerals and salts. It's this membrane that is your best indicator of the state of your orchid roots and your watering requirement. Silvery white velamen is dry, whilst green is likely recently watered. You can identify your orchid needs from looking at the roots. It's probably always best to lean towards underwatering, rather than overwatering. Bear in mind that your potting mix will hold onto moisture for a period of time depending on what is is made from. Bark will hold moisture longer than clay or charcoal.
Why Are My Orchid Roots Brown & Mushy?
Your orchid may be desperate for water up top with shrivelled leaves, but be so damaged in the root section that it can't absorb the water provided. This is a sure fire sign your roots have rotted. They will die back when exposed to too much moisture and overwatering. The mix may be oversaturated so that oxygen cannot circulate. It may be time to repot your orchid in a new mix in the hope of saving it.
In summary, whilst each scenario will be different depending on the growing environment, its generally a good idea to water your orchid every 7 to 11 days, or more specifically, when the mix the orchid is contained in gets dry. Too much watering can damage your plant and is the most common reason your orchid will die. Overwatering can lead to crown rot, root rot and other issues like fungus gnat and other infestations. Remember to water in the morning, as watering at night can leave water to sit for a period of time. Take into account the temperature of your house. It may be winter, but if you have the thermostat set to high, it may as well be summer.
We hope you found these orchid watering tips useful. Be sure to visit our shop to see some of the beautiful phalaenopsis orchids we grow here in the south coast of England, and if you sign up for our newsletter, you can get access to our orchids at super prices whenever we have grown a few too many!