How to Grow Orchids at Home

Woman spraying water on blooming orchid on window sill. Girl taking care of home plants and flowers.
Maryviolet / Getty Images

Orchids are some of the most delicate and unique flowers you can grow as houseplants. There are approximately 30,000 different species in the world — many are considered rare or endangered — and about a third of these are located in tropical areas.

It’s easy to find common orchids to grow indoors. You’ll often see them at garden centers, online, and even at grocery stores. When you get these plants home, though, it can be tricky to maintain their growth and blooms. This article will increase your chances of orchid success, helping you foster gorgeous blooms for years to come.

How to Plant Orchids

Orchids are best started with a full plant because growing from seed is quite time consuming. It is wise to learn the best way to pot a bare-root orchid or to repot a mature orchid plant you get from the store. Here’s what you need to know.

Growing From Seed

If you're up for the challenge and willing to wait to see a bloom, orchid seeds are fairly easy to find. There are lots of varieties, so read the descriptions carefully as you choose what to grow. You can also find someone you know who already grows orchids and ask if they have any seeds to share. Orchid seeds and growing plants need soil with special qualities. Invest in a good orchid soil mix, along with a pot that has good drainage.

Growing From a Starter

Consider starting your orchid journey with a bare root starter plant. This is a more cost-effective method compared to plants that are already potted. When you first see a bare root orchid, you might be concerned by how lifeless it looks — but with a little love, it can spring back in no time. Soak the roots in water for a few days to perk up the plant. Then, use your orchid soil mix and a well-draining container for planting. If you do choose this method, be sure to get a starter plant from a good source, preferably from an orchid grower who can give you a few tips for the specific species or cultivar.

Repotting Orchids

Most houseplant orchids will fall into the category of repotting. For example, you might have gotten this flower as a gift or you bought one yourself at the store. Most store-bought orchids aren’t growing in the best pot when it comes to size (too small) or drainage (not great). Moving your plant to a bigger, well-draining pot will help it long term.

Start with a good orchid soil mix. Then, gently remove the plant and roots. Inspect the roots and if there are any black or damaged ones, remove them before transferring to your new pot. Water thoroughly. You can even find special orchid pots that set the plant up for good airflow. Just search for “orchid pot” online, and you’ll see several options.

Orchid Care

Orchids tend to have a reputation for being challenging, but by providing the right conditions, you'll be rewarded. Below are some key factors to consider.

Light

One of the most common complaints from orchid growers is that they can’t get their plant to rebloom, and perhaps the biggest barrier to this is not having good lighting. They need bright but indirect sunlight — indirect so the plant won’t get burned. With proper lighting, you’ll likely get leaves without flowers.

Pay attention to the color of the leaves because this is a good indicator. If the leaves are dark green, you might not have enough light, if they are yellow-green, they may have too much sun. A nice bright green is ideal.

Soil and Nutrients

One reason you don’t want to use a more standard soil or potting soil with orchids is that they need a lot of air around their roots. Soil mixes with materials like bark, perlite, and peat moss can help with this. You can create your own orchid soil mix, or just invest in one from your garden center.

Once you have your plant potted, many experienced growers like to use an orchid food or a fertilizer like a 30-10-10 mix. Your fertilizer and nutrients plan should be adjusted depending on the specific orchid you have. Pay attention to the name on your orchid tag or ask the grower you get it from about nutrient needs.

Water, Temperature, and Humidity

Remember that orchids are tropical plants, so the more you can mimic their natural environment, the better off they’ll be. Keep your plant in a warm location and away from drafty windows. They benefit from regular spritzes of water, helping to create a more humid environment.

Remember that even with the best growing conditions, orchids usually take 8-10 months to rebloom — so, stay patient. Orchids often need a dormant period (usually in winter) to help them store up extra energy.

Growing Orchids Outdoors

Most of the country does not have the ideal year-round conditions for growing orchids outside. However, if you have hot and humid summers, definitely consider taking your orchids out to the yard or patio during these months. It’s a great setting for your orchid, and then you can bring it back inside when it gets cooler.

Orchid Varieties

Close-up image of the beautiful yellow and red Cymbidium, purple speckled orchids
Cymbidium orchid. Jacky Parker Photography / Getty Images

Out of the thousands of orchid species, around 70% of them are epiphytic plants that usually grow on the surface of other plants and then absorb the moisture and nutrients they need from the air. Most houseplant orchids are epiphytic plants. Here are a few particularly fun ones to grow:

  • Phalaenopsis orchid: This is probably the most common orchid you see in grocery stores or growing as a houseplant. It’s also one of the most forgiving orchids and a good choice for beginners. It grows between 1 to 3 feet and is available in many different color shades. 
  • Cattleya orchid: These orchids grow from a few inches to more than 2 feet tall. Gardeners usually look for this species because of its interesting blooms — often with spots, streaks, or other bicolors. They are also especially fragrant.
  • Cymbidium orchid: Cymbidium orchids have many smaller flowers on a single plant. This is good beginner's orchid. It reaches 1-4 feet total.
  • Dendrobium orchid: Dendrobium orchids require staking. They have beautiful top-heavy blooms, most often in colors of lavender, white or yellow.