The specific amount of water an orchid needs depends on many factors, but here are tips on how you can water to optimize the health of your exotic beauty.
* How Often Should I Water My Orchid?
Since most orchids are from tropical regions, a common assumption of novice orchid growers is that orchids need to be watered frequently, even daily. This is not the case. Over watering is a common beginner's mistake, and is one of the surest ways to kill an orchid.
For orchids grown in the home, it's best to water approximately once weekly.
In addition to different types of orchids having specific moisture needs, there are a number of environmental factors that influence how often an orchid needs water, including temperature, time of year, growing medium, and container size, just to name a few. But stick to the once-a-week guideline for starters and keep an eye on your orchids to see how they respond.
* How Can I Tell if My Orchid Needs Water?
Although there are a many variables affecting how often an orchid needs water, there is a simple test you can do to determine if the growing medium is dry. Even when the surface of the pot appears to be dried out, the root area may still be very moist. Poke your finger, or a regular wooden pencil, into the pot; if it feels moist to the touch or if the pencil looks moist, don't add water.
* How Do I Water My Orchid?
For most orchids, it is best to thoroughly soak the plant and its growing medium. Then let it almost dry out between waterings. It is far better to give your orchid an occasional, deep watering than to continually provide the plant with water. Remember, a soggy orchid will soon become a dead orchid.
When watering, use rainwater or distilled water. Take your orchid right over to the sink and allow water to run through the potting medium. Soak the plant completely (keep flowers dry to make them last longer). The root-ball in both potted and mounted plants needs to get thoroughly wet.
It takes some time for less porous materials like bark and cork to take on water, so give your plant's growing medium and roots a chance to absorb the water. Keep in mind, it rains hard and frequently in the tropics, so treat your plants to a downpour. Some plants do require a rest period, usually in winter, during which watering is reduced or suspended temporarily.
* Orchid Cultivation
Any plant is more likely to thrive when the conditions of its natural environment are duplicated as closely as possible. This is certainly true of orchids, which have specific requirements for humidity, temperature, air movement, growing medium and water. But don't get overwhelmed, start things off right by purchasing a healthy plant and a variety of orchid that is easy to grow. Then supplement your knowledge with one of the many excellent books and web sites devoted to orchids, including the American Orchid Society (AOS).
* This article originally appeared in Suite101 online magazine.