Discover everything you need to know to master orchid watering and watch your plant thrive.
You love caring for your houseplants, and this year you finally added an orchid to the mix. It’s one of your favorites, with its showy buds and long, elegant green stems. You check on your orchid every day and can’t wait for it to burst into bloom again.
Your other houseplants are thriving, so you simply add your orchid into your normal plant care routine. You water it every few days, trying your best to keep it happy and healthy.
But after a few weeks, your orchid doesn’t look so good. It’s wilting and you think it might be sick. You give it some more water hoping it’ll make a comeback, but things only get worse and you’re worried your orchid has died.
If this sounds familiar, you might have made a common orchid-grower mistake; you’ve accidentally over-watered your orchid.
For most traditional houseplants, water equals love. But when it comes to your orchid, your watering routine should be tailored to the unique needs of your plants.
Watering your orchid isn’t complicated; in fact, it’s quite easy. It just takes some basic knowledge of the orchid species and a few small adjustments to be an orchid-watering pro.
Below, we’ll take the mystery out of orchid watering so you can develop a routine that ensures your plant will live a long, happy, healthy life.
The Basics: Understanding Your Orchid’s Roots
Most orchid watering mistakes stem from one thing: a misunderstanding of the orchid’s root system.
You might assume that the orchid is like most of the other flowering plants you grow: terrestrial and thirsty. But it’s important to note that orchids do not typically grow in regular soil.
In the wild, orchids cling to trees or stones—sometimes high off the ground—and absorb nutrients from the air.
Since most orchids are epiphytes or air plants, their roots are highly specialized organs that differ greatly from the traditional ground roots of your other houseplants.
Rather than having hearty, tough roots, orchids have delicate root networks that are designed to absorb nutrients from the lush tropical biome, typically from fog, dew, rain, mist, or from decomposing material that accumulates around the plant.
By design, orchid’s roots need air and light. That’s why if you treat your orchids like your other houseplants, they won’t survive.
Orchid Watering: Things to Consider Before You Get Started
Orchids are the single largest group of plants in the world, so for every rule, there are dozens of exceptions. But in general, considering the following factors before you dial in a routine will set you up for orchid-watering success.
Depending on what type of potting medium you choose for your plant, your orchid may require more or less watering. For example, media made from pine bark nuggets will hold more water than less porous media like charcoal or clay pellets. The greater the water retention, the less you need to give your orchid a drink.
We recommend an orchid potting mix that’s made of peat moss, western fir bark, hardwood charcoal, and coarse perlite. It’s the perfect mix of water-retaining mosses and less-porous material to allow good drainage so your orchid’s roots can breathe.
It’s always a good idea to research your particular orchid and become familiar with its water requirements. Orchids are found all over the world and thrive in many climates. Especially if you have a collection of different orchid types, knowing the needs of each will help you tailor your care to their unique water needs.
In general, if your orchid is in a high-temperature environment, it’ll need water more frequently than those in low-temperature environments. When temperatures are hot, water evaporates quickly and the potting medium will dry out faster.
Humidity helps your orchid feel right at home. It keeps your plants adequately moist and slows the rate at which water evaporates through small pores in your plant. If you provide an adequately humid environment for your orchid, you may not need to water it as frequently as someone who keeps their orchid in low-humidity conditions.
As always, we recommend placing your orchid on a humidity tray to allow moisture into the air. It’s the perfect accessory to complement your new watering routine.
Airflow is typically a good thing for orchids. Adequate airflow will help dry out the potting medium and prevent pests from settling in your orchid pot. In the wild, orchids love plenty of fresh air around their roots and leaves.
Common Orchid Watering Mistakes
Now you know the unique needs of your orchid’s root system and what to consider before you get started. Here are a few common orchid watering mistakes so you know what to avoid as you begin dialing in your successful watering routine.
Watering too often is a sure way to kill your orchid. Orchid plants shouldn’t sit in still water since their delicate root systems will likely rot, become mushy or water-logged, or become prone to disease and pests.
As a general rule of thumb, let your plant completely dry out between waterings.
Watering at Night
Watering at night allows water to stagnate in the pot, which invites bacteria, fungus, and other pests into your orchid’s damp potting mix.
Instead, water your orchid in the morning. This allows the water to evaporate in the day’s high temperatures before they drop at night.
Ignoring Your Orchid’s Cues
If you know what to look for, you’ll be able to read your orchid’s cues and adjust your watering routine as necessary before it’s too late.
If your orchid shows pleated, droopy, soft, or yellow leaves, it’s a sign that your plant is in distress. Another hallmark of an improper watering routine is if your orchid’s buds drop or fall off instead of opening. If you see these cues, try making small adjustments to your watering routine.
Orchid Watering Best Practices
Orchid watering doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, if you follow these three best practices, you’ll be well on your way to mastering orchid care.
1. Water Your Orchid Thoroughly
When you do water your orchid, give it a good drink. You can dunk your plants (pots and all) into a bucket or sink full of water. This will ensure your orchid’s roots are saturated.
2. Use Distilled Water
If you’re accustomed to using tap water to water your indoor houseplants, keep an eye on your orchid. Some tap water is treated with minerals like salt or calcium. If you see deposits forming on your plants, consider switching to a distilled or purified water source.
3. When in Doubt, Don’t
The best way to water your plant is when you’re sure it’s dry. If you can’t really tell, or if you’re not sure if it’s time to water, hold off. Most orchids prefer to be dry rather than over-watered.
Lock in Success With These Two Orchid Care Products
If you’re looking for a secret weapon to help you care for your orchid, you’re in luck. We recommend two orchid care products that will keep your plant healthy and encourage your orchid to grow, grow, grow.
To protect your orchid’s root system, use Houseplant Resource Center’s Root Supplement. It’ll nourish your orchid’s roots, ward off fast-spreading diseases and pests, and protect your plant against root rot so you can show off your orchid for years to come.
For best results, use the Root Supplement with our Premium Orchid Food. Our pre-mixed orchid fertilizer acts as a root stimulator to improve your orchid’s ability to use nutrients and to bolster its strength and resilience. This is especially important for young plants. Simply apply the easy-to-use spray every time you water. Then sit back and watch your orchid bloom.