How To Care For An Orchid

How To Care For An Orchid


  • Introduction
  • Description of orchids
  • Botanical description                                                  
  • Classification                                                                
  • Principal parts of an orchid                                  
  • Physical characteristics
  • Main parts of flowers                                          
  • Inflorescence                                                                
  • Fruits
  • Seeds                                                                        
  • Leaves
  • Stems
  • Roots
  • Orchid size                                                      
  • Growth types                                                      
  • Factors to consider for the cultivation of orchids
  • Light
  • Irrigation
  • Ventilation                                                                
  • Temperature                                                                
  • Fertilization                                                                
  • Asexual propagation
  • Separation of pseudobulbs                                            
  • Propagation of orchids through old pseudobulbs    
  • Propagation of orchids through training                  
  • Keikis
  • Technique of induction of hijuelos (keikis) by                      
  • “Hormonal pulse”
  • Sexual propagation
  • Germination                                                                  
  • Sterilization of mature seeds for reproduction          
  • in a culture medium

Factors to consider for the cultivation of orchids

Since most orchids are epiphytes (their roots are not under the ground), they need mainly five factors to be able to grow and develop properly: light, irrigation, ventilation, temperature and fertilization; all these in regulated quantities. Next,

present some recommendations for each of the factors that orchids need to grow:


Most orchids need bright light, but indirectly to develop their flowers, if the light is very weak it may take a long time to bloom or not.

When the plant is in bloom, it should never be exposed to direct sunlight, even through a glass (window or dome).

Some orchids tolerate direct sunlight, but only in autumn and winter, when their intensity is weaker and others only in winter.

An indicator to know if the plant is receiving the amount of light needed, is the color of its leaves, if they are bright green, the amount is correct, if they turn dark green, it may not be receiving enough light and If they are yellow, you may be receiving too much light. One of the vital functions of the plant is photosynthesis, which requires the amount of light necessary to carry it out. The process of photosynthesis occurs when the plant absorbs light to combine water and carbon dioxide

(CO2,) generating some sugars that are responsible for forming its structure and that serve as energy to grow and flourish, so if you do not have the right level of light, this process is not done properly, which decreases the quality of the plant, its growth and development.


Although orchids do not need direct irrigation, they do require that the environment be humid, so it is recommended:

Place the containers with the plants on a tray with water

and gravel, in such a way that these are not in direct contact with the water.

You can place containers with water near the plants.

Place the plants together so that a microclimate is created between them.

Make periodic reviews to detect pests or diseases early, before all plants become contaminated.

Use sprinkler irrigation to ensure that the plant is receiving the amount of water and moisture it requires.

Irrigation by sprinkling to control humidity

how to care for an orchid

Recommendations for watering orchids:

1.- Caring for water quality.

One of the frequent problems in water quality is the amount of salts it contains, in order to detect this problem it is necessary to observe

inside the pot or in the drain, if there is the formation of small white stones or white debris, then there are accumulated salts.

The excess of salts in the water can cause the plant can not feed, which will weaken and be prone to attack pests and diseases, so it is necessary to change the source of water supply.

It must be borne in mind that a suitable pH level (hydrogen potential) in the water will allow the absorption of nutrients and the vigor of the plant, otherwise, if the level is not adequate, the plant will not be able to absorb the nutrients. necessary nutrients. A pH suitable for orchids is

the neutral with a value of 7 as rainwater, so it is recommended to apply this, so it is also advisable to apply drinking water (potable or municipal), since the chlorine with which it is purified does not harm the orchids and has an adequate pH

2.- Supervise the water source for irrigation:

It is recommended that when orchids require irrigation,

take advantage of the fall of rainwater, or store it for use when necessary.

Rainwater should be stored in a clean and dark drum, with a lid that seals perfectly, which will prevent the proliferation of algae or bacteria.

It is not necessary to add substances so that the water remains in good condition, this water can be used for a long time.

Drinking or municipal water can be used, as long as it is of good quality.

3.- Caring for the irrigation frequency

During the cultivation of orchids, one of the common problems is the rotting of roots or the appearance of fungi due to excess moisture; The frequency of adequate irrigation depends not only on the species, but on other factors such as the type of substrate, temperature, light and ventilation.

If you have a high amount of light and temperature should be watered more often.

Cultivation in clay containers requires more water than when grown in plastic pots, as mud loses moisture through its walls.

The orchids tolerate more the lack of water than the excess, so it must be observed and take as a base the amount of moisture that is seen in the substrate and the state of their roots.

The best time to water during the day is in the morning, when the temperature is cool. Do not water when you are directly receiving the sun’s rays, because water droplets can cause burns.

4.- Observe the irrigation direction

When the plants are watered and flowering, care must be taken that the water does not fall on the flowers, as they are susceptible to being attacked by fungi or may rot by shortening their duration.

5.- Proper way to water

Orchids should not be submerged in water for long periods of time, because their roots will rot without having the option of sprouting, causing the death of the plant. To water an orchid, the substrate on which it is

find, without letting the water accumulate and wait for it to dry to return to water, on average, you should only water once a week.

The plants that are grown in baskets or trunks can be quickly submerged in water for irrigation, it must be ensured that the water drains well before placing it in its usual position.

Spraying the plant with an atomizer will help keep the leaves and the plant in general, which will allow a better development.

One must be completely sure of the good drainage of the substrate, since stagnant water means the death of the plant.


Orchids, like many plants, need to be in places with adequate ventilation to:

Renew the air they use to survive.

Prevent the attack of fungi and bacteria by excess moisture. Avoid cold air currents


Since orchids grow in almost all the ecosystems of the country, it is to be assumed that they require a climate as close as possible to their origin, so it is important to know their origin.

Orchids are species that grow in temperate and warm cold environments, but most are developed mainly in tropical ecosystems, although some endure extreme climates such as frost, high temperatures and precipitation.

The temperature inside the houses is suitable for cultivating the most common types of orchids. In general, if the temperature is comfortable for the human being, it will be for the orchids; however many orchids adapt to unfavorable conditions.

Tips to prevent the plants from freezing:

If the crop is outdoors, a record of nocturnal temperatures should be made, since if they start to be less than 10 ° C for more than two hours, the plants should be put inside or cover them, this It can be made with sheets of newspaper, a lightweight sheet, plastic bags or plastic packaging with air bubbles.

When the temperature drops to 4 ° C it is not enough to cover them, as most orchids do not tolerate a temperature below 10 ° C for a full night.

If the temperatures are low and the plant is inside a room, its leaves should not touch the windows, since they can be damaged and it is also necessary to cover them.

Tips to lower the temperature

If the plants are grown inside a room or nursery without artificial climate, they should be placed outside and under shade so that the wind can cool them.

It should be taken into account that the temperature at night is much lower outside than inside the house.

The air circulation can be increased, which will cause the orchid to transpire and cool, taking care that the substrate where it is located is not too dry.

If you put a shadow mesh, you can make the plants receive less heat from the sun’s rays.


In its natural environment, orchids are nourished by organic remains that have accumulated for many years or that nature provides little by little. When cultivating the orchids out of their habitat, human intervention is necessary for their survival, since the conditions where they are going to develop are not the same, so we must provide them with climate, soil and essential nutrients for their survival and development. .

Considering that orchids are usually epiphytic plants (their roots can develop outside the soil) they are accustomed to receiving nutrients diluted in small quantities, but constantly. Therefore, if we want healthy and vigorous plants it is better not to apply too much fertilizer, but rather in a small amount.

Recommendations for fertilizing orchids:

It is preferable that the plant has a small amount of nutrients available to it that is poisoned by an excess.

It is always preferable to fertilize in low and constant doses.

Before starting a fertilization plan, we must know the time in which the plant throws its leaves to stop fertilizing during this time.

Naturally, epiphytic orchids absorb nutrients from the water that drains from the trees and only absorb a minimum amount, so we must provide little amount of nutrients.

Types of fertilizers to use

Most of the substrates that are used in the cultivation of orchids lack the necessary nutrients so that they can be efficiently developed, therefore, it is important to select the appropriate fertilizer.

All fertilizers contain nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), which fulfill a specific function in the plant. Nitrogen helps the overall growth of the plant, phosphorus helps flowering and potassium helps the growth of strong roots. These ingredients are mixed in different proportions, depending on the requirements of the plant.

On the label of fertilizers comes a code of three numbers, which are the percentages of nutrients contained in that product; the first number is the amount of nitrogen, the second is phosphorus and the third is potassium. The appropriate formula for each plant depends on its physiological stage and its deficiencies.

If you have few plants and do not need to apply a specific fertilizer, you can use a balanced one, which can be formulated 20-20-20 or 17-17-17. Since flowering lasts a few weeks, it is not necessary to apply fertilizer during this time.

To have a good flowering it is advisable to apply a fertilizer called “flowering stimulation”, which should be applied before the floral buds appear. It is advisable to use fertilizers formulated specifically for orchids, which can be obtained in an agrochemical store or in garden centers.

How to fertilize

Irrigation water should be used as a means of fertilization, applying the dose indicated by the manufacturer, which comes on the product label. Normally the suggested dose goes from a quarter to a half teaspoon in three or even eight liters of water, it is recommended that the nitrogen is not based on urea.

It is necessary to know well the species of plant that is cultivated, since some require a recess of fertilization, which occurs once the growth and flowering have been completed.

It is important to provide the so-called microelements that plants need for their optimal development, these are included in small doses in some products available in the market, a deficit of one or more of them can produce alterations or a reduction of the absorption of macro nutrients , can cause diseases. The most important microelements are:

iron (Fe), molybdenum (Mo), zinc (Zn), manganese (Mn), boron (B), and copper (Cu).

Organic fertilizers

In addition to the nutrients mentioned above, there are other more complex such as sugars, vitamins and proteins that must be diluted in water and then placed in the plant. All these important substances are found in the so-called organic fertilizers, which can be:

Bone meal Blood meal Humus earthworm

Composted common substrates Castor bagasse

These fertilizers must be applied with great care and in minimum and safe proportions of two to three times per year on the surface of the substrate, as they gradually release nutrients.

Characteristics of poor fertilization

Its growth is slow and gradual, plants smaller than normal.

Yellowish leaves

Characteristics of excessive fertilization

Accumulation of salts (white crystals) on the surface of the substrate.

The roots are blackened due to the high concentrations of salts.

The tips of the leaves may be dry or black.


ALL the rest below, add it to article “How To Propagate Orchids”

Separation of pseudobulbs

Due to the growth pattern of orchids, which commonly generate a new pseudobulb per year, it is possible to multiply them when the plant has a large number of pseudobulbs, which can be separated to obtain a new plant. Then the steps to follow to perform this multiplication.

Step 1.- It must be ensured that when dividing the pseudobulbs each new plant has at least three or four, this will increase the chances of the new plant surviving, since among the pseudobulbs there is an exchange of vital nutrients for their survival.

Step 2.- It is recommended to carry out this technique at the beginning of spring or at the end of its flowering, because it is here when they have more accumulated nutrients and there is an increase in the survival of the new plants.

Step 3.- Before starting to make the cut you should flap the knife or knife, this will prevent diseases in the plants. To perform the cut, the roots are separated with the fingers and the union between the pseudobulbs is cut without damaging them.

Step 4.- After making the cut, it is advisable to place sulfur powder in the wounds as a fungicide, this can be obtained in pharmacies at low cost and will prevent a fungal attack.

Step 5.- Roots or parts of plants that are broken or damaged are eliminated to prevent pests or diseases.

Step 6.- It should be placed in a container with capacity for a year’s growth, with a very porous substrate, this will facilitate the development of roots of the new plant.

Paso 1

Paso 3

Paso 4

Step 5 Step 6

Propagation of orchids through old pseudobulbs

Step 1.- It is necessary to divide the plant where we find the old pseudobulbs, in order to remove, prune and clean them; All leaves and roots are removed without causing injury, as are all dead parts.

Step 2.- To plant them it is necessary to select a plate just the size of the pseudobulb and in which there can be very porous substrate in a small amount.

Step 3.- Place the pseudobulb in the center of the previously soaked base, at the same time the substrate is moistened and it is only watered every time it dries to avoid the generation of fungi due to excess moisture, since the pseudobulb will be in direct contact with the substrate.

Step 1 Step 2 Step 3

Activation of old pseudobulbs

For this it is necessary to place the old pseudobulbs inside a container with a little moisture in the shade and preferably in a warm place that is not exposed to sudden changes in temperature.

Propagation of orchids through the formation of hijuelos (keikis)

The keikis develop mainly from the floral stick after its flowering, this technique is also called floral layering or layering

over-rooting. The genera of orchids in which it has given better results are: Phalaenopsis , Dendrobium and Leuchilus carinatus .

To stimulate the appearance of shoots after flowering, the following steps should be followed:

Step 1.- It is necessary to cut the floral stick above a knot located approximately half the length.

Step 2.- With a razor that is well sharpened and previously flamed, the layer of tissue that covers the buds of the internodes is carefully removed.

Step 3.- Allow the buds to be exposed to light, not to the sun and at the same time, place with a brush a plant growth hormone called benziladenine, diluted in water.

Step 4.- Once roots appear in the buds, they can be cut and planted in pots with a suitable substrate. 

Another technique that uses the buds of the floral sticks, is that of stake that is described below:

Step 1.- Check that the floral stick is in good condition, that is, that it is not broken or has the beginning of a plague or disease and that it is vigorous.

Step 2.- Cut about three centimeters above and below the yolk with a clean and sharp knife so as not to damage the stakes. You can get two to three stakes per rod, depending on the species you are working with.

Step 3.- Remove the part of the plant that covers the yolk, which often has a triangular shape and is just above a small twig or bulge.

Step 4.- Once the stakes are in place, fill a container with substrate containing preferably crushed tree bark and moss, stakes should be placed, covered almost completely by the substrate. Several can be sown in a single container, taking into account that roots will grow from each yolk, which can become entangled and damage if the stakes are very stuck.

Step 5.- The substrate and the stake are moistened perfectly with an atomizer and covered with a transparent plastic, allowing it to stand in an illuminated area for two weeks.

Step 6.- Every two weeks the stakes are checked, for this it will be necessary to remove the plastic and to observe if there are roots, if they still do not have it, it becomes wet enough only and it is covered. This step will be repeated every two weeks; if ten weeks have passed and there are no beginnings of root growth in the stalk buds, it is possible that they are dead.

Step 1 Step 2 Step 3

Step 4 Step 5 Step 6

Once the orchids are obtained, the following is recommended to facilitate their cultivation:

Orchids can be placed under a 50% shade mesh.

It is preferable that they be placed on wire cloths to avoid excess moisture and facilitate aeration.

The plants can be stuck together, but you have to monitor regularly for damage caused by pests or diseases, which can spread quickly.

You will have to be very careful with the amount of sunlight, which has to be, in most cases, little.

The species that can survive with their roots in the air do not need to be on pieces of maquique, they can be placed on trunks, tree bark or coconut husk, among others.

Technique of induction of suckers (keikis) by “hormonal pulse”

Step 1. For this process the cover of a bud should be removed in the middle part of the floral stick, with a sharp knife disinfected, later a paste called lanolin added with vegetable hormone is applied, it is continued fertilizing and watering the mother plant of normal way

Step 2. After two weeks the yolk should be checked, in which a small green shoot starts to appear, and after a few months you can distinguish whether it is a sucker or keiki, or a new floral wand.

Step 3. A cut should be made on one side of the bract or cover, without damaging the yolk or flower stick that is behind and making the same cut on the other side. Afterwards, a toothpick is taken and the back part of the bract is slid down with a pull, with the opposite direction and down.

Step 4. Completely remove the bract and apply regularly with the toothpick the hormonal paste on the yolk without damaging it. From this one a new plant is obtained.

Sexual propagation


Most of the orchid seeds need a specific fungus to germinate, this performs a symbiotic function, which is when two organisms coexist to benefit from each other without being affected, so the fungus helps feed the seeds as they develop its leaves and roots. The success

This process in the natural environment is reduced since many factors have to coincide simultaneously, so the percentage of germination of a seed is very low, achieving that only 10 or 15 seeds germinate from

a total of 1 million, and only one or two become adult plants after two or three years, that is why wild populations must be managed properly, otherwise they can easily disappear.

Another way to propagate orchids is the asymbiotic germination, which is when an orchid seed can germinate and develop without the presence of the fungus.

Sterilization of mature seeds for reproduction in a culture medium

Step 1. Once you have the fruits, these must be opened to obtain the seeds, causing them to be contaminated, so they require a sterilization process (disinfection).

Step 2. For sterilization, the seeds should be introduced for 30 minutes in a solution, using 3% hydrogen peroxide, adding a drop of detergent to moisten them and then rinse with distilled water three times.

Step 3. The instruments and the necessary water are sterilized a day before.

Step 4. Seeds are sown, for which methods such as the syringe and the package can be used.

Step 1 Step 2 Step 3 Step 4

Sterilization of the seed using the “syringe” method.

Step 1. You should take a 5 milliliter syringe and place a cotton-tipped filter, wrapped in cloth and tied with a garter. The plunger is then inserted to make sure it is not completely plugged.

Step 2. Remove the plunger from the syringe, pour a small amount of seeds and insert again.

Step 3. Prepare a 1% chlorine solution by adding a drop of detergent.

Step 4. Absorb 4 milliliters of the previously prepared solution with the syringe and shake it for 5 minutes, making sure that the seeds are completely wet and that they are not trapped in bubbles. Eject this solution and repeat the process.

Step 5. Wash the seeds three to four times, absorbing distilled and sterilized water in the syringe, shaking for a moment and then expelling the liquid.

Step 6. Seed the seeds in the middle of the crop, expelling the excess water, removing the cotton with tweezers and placing the seeds in the middle.

Sterilization of the seed with the “package” method

Step 1. Prepare a package from a piece of filter paper where a small amount of seeds should be spread.

Step 2. Fold and seal the packages with staples, then immerse in distilled water for 10 minutes, gently pressing to eliminate bubbles.

Step 3. Pass the packages to a 1% chlorine solution with a drop of detergent for 10 minutes, shaking them gently.

Step 4. Transfer the package plus the chlorine to the laminar flow hood where the package is transferred to distilled water, shake and throw, repeat this process four times to rinse the seed.

Step 5. Cut and open the package on a sterilized surface, then plant the seeds in the culture medium.

Sowing seeds in a culture medium, using green capsules

Step 1. Separate the capsule from the mother plant eliminating the remains of petals and column, washed perfectly with a brush, water and detergent.

Step 2. Immerse for a few seconds in 75% ethyl alcohol or 3% chlorine solution for 20 minutes.

Step 3. Wash the capsule with distilled water and introduce for 10 minutes in a 3% sodium or calcium hypochlorite solution to which a drop of detergent has been added.

Step 4. Transfer the submerged capsule in the chlorine solution to the laminar flow chamber.

Step 5. Remove the capsules of the chlorine, immerse them in 100% alcohol and pass them through the fire to flame them, then transfer the capsule to a disinfected petri dish.

Step 6. Cut the half lengthwise with a scalpel, lift one half of the capsule and with a bacteriological handle take a portion of seeds and place it in the culture medium, repeat this step until all the seeds are used.

Selection of culture medium

The culture medium to be used can be prepared with basic ingredients or purchased already prepared in powder form. There are different types of media

available in the market, as well as others specific to certain species of orchids.

Through this technique ensures that all fertile seeds can germinate allowing natural selection more controlled than that occurs naturally.

There are several formulas that use basic ingredients and all work, some better than others, depending on the species you are working with, it is advisable after a time to adopt only one and make improvements, according to the responses of the seeds.

Method for the preparation of the culture medium that comes in powder

Step 1. Weigh the correct amount of the powder culture medium and empty it into a one liter glass bottle.

Step 2. Add a small portion of distilled water and a magnetic bar, and mix until it dissolves.

Step 3. Drill the container with distilled water until it has a liter and stir continuously.

Step 4. Measure the pH and adjust it between 5.6 and 5.8 using drops of HCI or NaOH and mix thoroughly with the magnetic bar. To determine the pH it is enough to do it with the indicator papers.

Step 5. Pour half the liquid into a jar, add four grams of agar, or the recommended amount according to the brand.

Step 6 Close the lid of the bottle without fully securing it, cover the jars with aluminum foil or special lids and place them in the autoclave for 15 min at 120 ° and 15 pounds of pressure

Step 7. Finally the culture medium is poured into the petri dishes, previously sterilized, ensuring that at all times the tools and the environment are sterilized, since one of the main problems in this technique is contamination by fungi, which cause In most cases, seedling and seed losses.


In some successful experiments, the seedlings grow in drawers 40 centimeters away from the light source, under fluorescent tubes of 20 watts in a growing room that is regulated at 18 ° C, with 16 hours of light and eight hours of darkness. These recommendations may vary, depending on the origin of the plants to be planted.

Growth with light source and regulated temperature

Don Burke

I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide.  I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.

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