How to Water Orchids


How to water orchids

Water orchids once every 7 days in Spring and Summer and once every 10-14 days in Fall and Winter. Water orchids with a good soak, either under a tap or place the orchid in a basin of water for 5 minutes so the soil is evenly moist. Mist orchid leaves with water 2 times a week to increase humidity.

However, it should be noted that orchids may need to be watered more or less often depending on several factors such as the potting medium (moss dries at a slower rate than the bark) the time of year, and the specific environmental conditions in your house.

Here is a quick table summary of how often to water orchids:

Orchid Conditions:How Often to Water Orchids:
Indoor Orchid Plants:Water orchids once every 7 days or so with a generous soak from Spring until late Summer/ Early Fall.
Orchids Indoors in Winter:Water orchids once every 7 to 10 days in late Fall and Winter. Indoor heating can dry out orchids so monitor the soil moisture and water when the top inch feels dry.
Orchids in Moss:Typically water orchids in moss once every 7 to 10 days in Summer and every 10 days in Winter as moss retains more moisture so wait until the top inch of the soil dries out and water accordingly.
Orchids in Bark:Water orchids in bark once every 7 days or so in Spring, Summer, and early Fall, and once every 7-10 days in the Winter.
Misting Orchid Leaves:Mist the orchid leaves with water at least 2 times a week to create a humid micro-climate that mimics the orchid’s humid tropical environment.

Orchids are particularly susceptible to problems associated with overwatering and can suffer drought stress if underwatered or the air is too dry so knowing how and when to water orchids is important.

Keep reading to learn how to water orchids planted in moss or bark, the best method for watering orchids according to your climate and conditions, and all the best watering practices to ensure a healthy orchid plant…..

How Often to Water Orchids Indoors

Whilst many species of orchids grow all over the world, the most common household varieties are cultivated from tropical and sub-tropical climates with warm temperatures, higher levels of humidity, and loose aerated soil that drains water quickly.

Orchids are so well adapted to growing in well draining soil around their roots that orchids are sensitive to too much from watering too often or because of slow draining soils.

To grow orchids successfully in the home it is important to emulate the typical watering, soil, and levels of humidity.

Water orchids once every 7 days or so with a generous soak during Spring and Summer and once every 10-14 days in Winter. Mist the leaves with water twice per week to recreate the orchid’s preferred level of humidity. Water with a generous soak and wait for the top inch of the potting medium to dry before watering again.

However, it is important to note that how often you water your orchids can vary according to several factors such as:

  • The average humidity and temperature range of your home.
  • The size of your pot or container (smaller pots dry out much quicker than larger pots, read my article, choosing the best pots for orchids).
  • Whether the orchid is in the air current of air conditioning, draughts, or near sources of heat.
  • The type of potting soil (moss retains more moisture than bark).

To establish how often to water orchids in your home, specific to your conditions, feel the soil with your finger to detect the level of moisture.

If the top inch of the soil feels noticeably moist then delay watering your orchid for a few days until the top inch of the soil feels as though it is drying out.

Another method is to push a wooden skewer into the potting medium around the orchid’s roots to determine whether the soil is still moist or drying out. If the skewer feels dry to the touch then this is the ideal time to water the orchid.

With consistent watering and drying out of your orchid over many months, you can even judge when it needs to be watered by picking up the pot and feeling the weight after watering then when the orchid feels notability lighter, the potting medium is drying out, indicating the perfect time to water.

Allowing the top inch of the potting medium to dry out between each watering creates the optimal balance of moisture for orchids indoors, to meet their water requirements and avoid problems associated with watering too often such as root rot.

Keep in mind that regular misting of the leaves is important all year round as the air indoors is usually a lot lower in humidity than outdoors and orchids are tropical plants that grow in climates with 60-70% humidity which is easily replicated by misting the plant at least 2 times per week.

(If your orchid is dying read my article on how to revive a dying orchid).

How Often to Water Orchids in Winter

Orchid’s demand for moisture can fluctuate somewhat according to the seasons even when grown as houseplants.

In Fall and Winter orchids require water less often than during the active growing period of Spring and Summer in reaction to the decrease in the amount of daylight and the intensity of light.

However indoors temperature range can be fairly consistent all year round and can even increase in Winter due to sources of heat such as radiators, fires and forced air all of which can increase evaporation from the soil and water loss from the leaves which impacts how often to water your orchid.

Water orchids every 10 days or so in Winter and mist the orchid with water every 2 days to counteract low humidity. Indoor Winter temperatures can dry out orchids more quickly. Test how quickly the top inch of soil dries out and increase or decrease how often you water your orchid accordingly.

Always ensure the top inch of the potting medium feels dry before watering your orchid again. This balance of soil moisture ensures the orchid does not dry out completely yet avoids the issues associated with overwatering such as root rot.

The air indoors in Winter can be particularly dry for orchids which saps moisture from the leaves so it is important to mist the leaves regularly to replicate their more tropical, humid natural environment.

As long as the top inch of the potting medium is somewhat dry between watering then the orchid should stay healthy over Winter.

Increase the frequency of your watering again to around once per week in the following Spring.

How Often to Water Orchids in Moss

Watering orchids, planted in moss can be tricky as orchids are susceptible to root rot if there is too much moisture around the roots for an extended period.

Moss absorbs and holds moisture which can promote the conditions for root rot if you water your orchid too often.

Therefore diligent monitoring of the moisture levels of the moss is required to ensure your orchid stays healthy.

To determine how often to water your orchid in a moss-based planting medium, water the plant with a generous soak and then periodically test the soil to an inch depth with your finger or with a wooden skewer to establish how long it takes for the moss to become somewhat dry.

Once you detect the moss is relatively dry to an inch then is the best time to water your orchid. It usually takes anywhere from 7 to 10 days for the moss to dry between bouts of watering but this can vary depending on the humidity of your climate, the temperature range of your home, air currents, and the size of the pot.

Regardless of the potting medium, orchids prefer some humidity so mist the leaves once every 2 days or so to recreate a humid micro-climate that mimics the humid conditions in its native tropical environment.

Method for Watering Orchids in Moss

The best method for watering orchids planted in moss is to place the pot in a basin of water for around 5 minutes. As moss is an aerated potting medium, this is all the time it needs to moisten the moss and sufficiently water your orchid.

After its 5-minute soak, allow excess water to drain from the orchid’s pot from the drainage holes in the base for 10 minutes or so.

Afterwards you can place the orchids pot on a saucer or tray to prevent excess water from spilling but it is important to empty any saucers, trays or decorative outer pots of water regularly so that the excess water does not pool around the bottom of the pot to prevent the orchids roots being sat in boggy soil.

This method gives the moss a good soak which emulates the conditions of the orchid’s native tropical environment where typically there is a deluge of rain that soaks the area around the orchid roots followed by a dry period.

If you water orchids too lightly then only the top inch or so of the moss becomes moist and the water does not infiltrate the potting medium properly to reach all of the roots where it is required which can cause the orchid to suffer from drought stress with wilted, shriveled leaves and grey or white roots.

Watering under a tap is another good option but I prefer to place orchids in a basin of water as it ensures that the moss is evenly moist throughout the mixture so that the roots can uptake the moisture they require.

How Often to Water Orchids in Bark

Bark is my personal favorite potting medium for growing orchids as it most closely resembles the growing conditions of the orchid’s native environment with its aerated, porous structure which helps to improve drainage and reduce the risk of root rot.

Typically, water orchids in bark once every 7 days in Spring and Summer and once every 7-10 days in Fall and Winter. Mist the leaves with water once every 2 days to increase the humidity.

Bark is the best potting medium for growing orchids.
Pine Bark is the best potting medium for growing orchids.

However, you may need to increase or decrease how often you water your orchid based on several factors, such as the humidity and temperature range of your climate, and the size of the pot.

You must establish a watering schedule for your orchid that accounts for the conditions in your home for your orchid to remain healthy.

This means that you should soak the bark and then measure how long it typically takes for the top inch of bark chippings to feel somewhat dry before watering again.

You can do this be feeling the potting medium with your finger to assess when the top inch feels dry or periodically pick the potted orchid up straight after watering and when it feels significantly lighter, you know the soil has dried and it it is time to water.

Again it is important to mist the orchid with water at least 2 times per week to recreate the conditions of the orchid’s tropical, humid environment as dry air in the home can sap moisture for the leaves and dry out your orchid too quickly.

(Read my article, how to revive a wilting orchid).

Method for Watering Orchids in Bark

Orchids prefer a cycle of watering where their potting medium is soaked and then allowed to dry over around a week, rather than watering with a little and often approach.

Therefore the best method for watering your orchid in bark is to place the pot in a basin of water for around 5 minutes or so and allow excess water to drain from the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot.

This style of watering emulates the watering conditions in their native tropical environment where they typically experience a deluge of rain followed by a dry period.

Bark is particularly aerated and porous and allows water to drain efficiently yet it absorbs some moisture so that the roots can uptake the water the need without being say in overly moist potting medium which keeps the orchid healthy and avoids root rot.

Place the orchid on a saucer, or tray to prevent excess water from spilling in your home but empty the saucer or tray regularly so that water does not pool around the base of the pot which can keep the bark potting mix too damp and promote the conditions for root rot.

You can also water orchids in bark under a tap as long as you ensure that the potting mix is evenly moist and you use enough water so that excess water trickles from the drainage holes in the base of the pot.

I personally find it easiest to place the orchid in a basin of water for 5 minutes as I can water several plants at once with this method and it ensures the bark mixture is evenly moist to ensure the roots can uptake water properly to stay healthy.

(Read my article, how to tell if an orchid is over or underwatered).

Watering Orchids With Ice Cubes

There is often advice that using ice to water orchids is the best method to avoid overwatering.

However, I would recommend water by either using a tap or placing orchids in a basin of water rather than using ice cubes as the melting ice cubes are not going to water your orchid’s potting medium as evenly.

Usually, the ice melts and generally moistens only a section of the potting medium and the water may not reach all the roots where it is required.

Also it is difficult to judge how much ice is enough to water your orchid, as you could easily use not enough ice and only moisten the top inch or so of the potting medium and the orchid may not have enough watering causing drought stress.

Also, ice is contrary in temperature to the tropical environments from which common house plant orchids originate, and the contrast in temperature can cause some shock to the plant as room temperature rainwater is generally best practice (although tap water is okay too).

Whilst watering orchids with ice cubes is achievable, it is not the best method for watering orchids as it is difficult to judge how much water you have used to ensure your orchid is sufficiently watered and stays healthy.

Watering Orchid Best Practices

  • Watering orchids at room temperature is generally considered best practice as it is a similar temperature to rainwater in their native tropical environment and can prevent shock.
  • Tap water is okay for watering orchids in almost all homes but if you live in an area with high levels of chlorine in the water then allow the water to stand for 12 hours to allow chlorine (and fluoride) to evaporate or use rainwater, although this is not a common concern for most areas.
  • Mist the orchid’s leaves with water regularly as the air indoors is often low in humidity, and in dryer climates, you should mist the leaves more often. Misting once every 2 days helps to keep the humidity level to the preference of orchids.
  • Wait for the top inch of the potting medium to dry out before watering again. Typically this takes a week but monitor the soil’s moisture by checking the weight (the pot should feel lighter as water evaporates over the week) with your finger or use a wooden skewer to detect moisture levels.
  • Always soak the potting medium when watering so that it is evenly moist and then allow it to dry out, as watering too lightly can prevent water from infiltrating the soil by moistening the surface and not reaching the roots causing drought stress.

Signs of an Overwatered or Underwatered Orchid

Orchids are more susceptible to problems associated with overwatering than underwatering so it is important to recognize the signs to help you get the balance of watering right for your orchids. Consider that slow-draining soils can also cause symptoms of overwatering. Signs of overwatered orchids:

  • The roots of orchids should look a healthy green color and feel firm which indicates the correct balance of watering. Overwatered orchid roots look brown or black and feel mushy. There is often an unpleasant smell to overwatered orchid roots which can indicate root rot from overwatering or slow-draining soils.
  • The leaves of overwatered orchids turn yellow, droop, and even wrinkle which indicates the roots are not in a condition to transport water and nutrients around the plant.
  • Flower buds dropping before they open is another sign of overwatering.

Whilst orchids are more susceptible to the effects of overwatering, underwatering can still be a common problem for orchid house plants. Orchids can show signs of stress from not being watered often enough or from being watered too lightly. Signs of an underwatered orchid:

  • The roots of an underwatered orchid can look grey or even white with a shriveled, dry appearance rather than a healthy green.
  • The leaves of an underwatered orchid can turn yellow, droop, and wrinkle which are the same symptoms as overwatered orchids. This is because overwatering and underwatering both compromise the orchid root’s ability to transport water and nutrients around the plant which is why the symptoms are often similar.
  • Flower buds not opening or falling off is also a sign of stress from underwatering orchids.

(Orchid leaves can turn yellow for several reasons. Read my article How to Save an Orchid with Yellow Leaves to learn more).

Key Takeaways:

  • Water orchids once every 7 days from Spring until Fall and water once every 10-14 days in Winter when the orchid is dormant. Water orchids with a good soak so that the potting medium is evenly moist. Mist the orchid leaves with water 2 times per week to increase humidity.
  • Water orchids in moss around every 7-10 days in Spring and Summer and every 10 days or so in Winter by placing the pot in a basin for 2 minutes. Check the potting medium moisture regularly and adjust your watering schedule if the moss is still too damp to avoid root rot.
  • Water orchids in bark once every 7 days in Spring and Summer and every 10-14 days in the Winter. Water by placing it in a basin for 5 minutes. Bark dries out quicker than moss and replicates the aerated, well-draining growing conditions of the orchid’s native environment.
  • Check the potting medium of your orchid regularly and ensure that the top inch dries out between bouts of watering to meet the watering requirements of the orchid and avoid root rot.

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