MY FIRST TWO ORCHIDS CROAKED! lessons in how to water orchids

Orchids are intriguing, but I killed my first two.

Then I learned how to water orchids, later there was a whole greenhouse full of orchids and blue ribbons at the shows.

You can successfully grow orchids. Learn from my mishaps.

A beautiful cattleya taught me orchid care for beginnersMy First Orchid Was a Beautiful Cattleya
  • Watering orchids is the most important aspect of orchid plant care.

Correct watering was the first thing I had to learn about orchid care. I killed some on the way until I learned how to water and fertilize orchids correctly.

If you had a few plants CROAK on the way - don't worry you are in good company.


how to water orchids -  lesson 1

  • My first orchid was a lovely Cattleya orchid. We lived in central Florida and the landlady offered to hang it in the branches of her large oak tree.

She was familiar with taking care of orchids and was pleased to take charge while we was busy working.

  • It flowered and prospered under her tree.

When we moved away into a very small house, I had no place to put it inside. So I decided because it had done so well outside that I would plant it outside under a tree.

  • It didn't make it thru the summer before IT CROAKED!

It was a mystery to me why the orchid died. It had done so well outside hanging under a tree, but now it died! I had to learn proper orchid plant care.

orchids for beginners to grow


why did the cattleya croak?

  • The beautiful cattleya was an epiphyte. Their native habitat is in trees. That's why it grew and flowered hanging in my landlords oak tree.

It dried out between waterings. It was planted in bark and in a pot with slots on the side. That simulated its natural tree environment. It got plenty of air around its roots.

My landlady watered it once a week, so it had time to dry out before it was watered again.

  • When I planted it in the ground, the roots couldn't get the air they required. In the ground the roots didn't dry out before the next summer rain came along.

The roots promptly rotted and the plant died.

  1. I had no idea what epiphyte and terrestrial orchids were.

  2. Originally it was planted in bark in a slotted pot, so it got air around its roots.

  3. I didn't know the roots had to dry out before watering.


how to water orchids -  lesson 2

Lady Slipper - phaphiopedlum They will grow in the home.Lady Slippers like Constant Moisture
Image by angelac72 from Pixabay

With my second orchid I made more boo-boos of how to water orchids.

A few years later, I got a lovely Lady Slipper. Later I told someone that I didn't know how to take care of orchids.

  • They told me, "Let it dry out before you water it." I felt guilty because I had already watered it once.

I thought they must be right because my cattleya had died from getting too much water.

So just to make sure it dried out, I decided to wait a week. It started looking a bit peaked. The leaves were getting pale and it just didn't look the same.

  • I thought maybe it needed some fertilizer. So I gave it some liquid fertilizer that I gave to my other house plants. They liked it.

But the Lady Slipper didn't like it. It shriveled up and died. IT CROAKED!

Some lady slipper orchids grow wild in the United States.


what happened to the lady slipper?

I still didn't know how to water orchids. There were two types of orchids. And each type has their own growing requirements. Especially when it comes to watering orchids.

  1. Ephiphytes must dry out before watering.

  2. Terrestrial orchids must not dry out completely.

  3. Also, never fertilize a dry plant, especially if it looks peaked already.

epiphyte vs. Terrestrial orchids

Cattleyas Have Pseudobulbs to store water.Cattleyas Have Pseudobulbs

Epiphytic orchids live up in trees. Occasionally they may live on rocks.

They do not take any nutrients from their host trees. They get their nutrients from the air, water and debris that collects on them.

This type of orchid would often go without water in their natural habitat. They also receive more sun which causes them to dry out faster.

  • Epiphyte orchids have adapted themselves to their growing environment. In nature this type of orchid would have dry periods without regular water.
  • They have grown enlarged stems called pseudobulbs. The enlarged stems allow the orchid to store extra water. They also have heavy, thick leaves to keep the orchid from transpiring excessive water.
  • Examples are; cattleyas, oncidiums and dendrobiums.

Phaphiopedlium species, a Lady Slipper are terrestrial orchidsLady Slippers Have Only Leaves

Terrestrial orchids generally live on the ground in the soil and organic matter. They get their water and nutrients from the soil.

This type of orchid does not normally go without water in their natural habitat. They also receive less sun in the dappled shade under the trees.

  • Terrestrial orchids have only leaves. Their leaves are thinner and they transpire water faster.
  • They live where they get regular water. Their roots are able to store a certain amount of water. But they have no pseudobulbs to store extra water.
  • Examples are; paphiopedilum, called Lady Slippers.


most important orchid care for beginners

Both of my lessons in orchid care were about how to water orchids.

  • Many people think that more water is better. That's not true.

It is better to err on the side of not enough water, instead of too much. That's good orchid care for beginners.

  • The correct amount of water is better.

Orchids can't live or function without water. They need water to carry their nutrients around in the plant. They also use water for turgidity to hold themselves upright.


how to water orchids

  • When you water, do it thoroughly.

Water until you see it coming out of the bottom of the pot. This flushes the extra salts out of the pot.

How often you water depends on the plant's growing environment and the pot size. Orchids in smaller pots and in warmer environments are watered more often.

It also depends on the type of orchid. Terrestrial orchids are watered more often than epiphytic orchids.

  • Terrestrial orchids need to stay moderately moist, but not soggy.

Water them when they are dry on top of the potting mix.

  • Epiphytic orchids must dry out between waterings.

Pick up the pot and feel the weight of the pot. It should be a about half as light as it was 10-15 minutes after its last watering.

  • Never fertilize a dry plant.

If the orchid is dry, water it and wait until the next day to fertilize it.

  • Water early in the day.

The leaves must be dry before night. Wet leaves during the night time encourage leaf diseases.


Phalaenopsis are the easiest orchids to grow in the home.Phals Are Easy to Grow!

These were my lessons on how to water orchids. So don't feel bad if you have done something similar.

We all have done dumb things!

  • Once these important lessons are learned, growing orchids is a snap!

There are many Types of Orchids and it is such a pleasure caring for them.

Orchid plant care is easy!

Ask, is your orchid is an epiphyte that lives in the air or a terrestrial that lives on the ground?

Then you will confidently know how to water your orchids.

Learn from my mistakes and enjoy growing orchids

more about orchids

  • Types of Orchids

    There are more types of orchids in the world, than any other plant. Orchid types for growing in the home with photos and information, lady slipper, phalaenopsis

  • Phalaenopsis Orchid Care

    All about phalaenopsis orchid care, water, light, temperature and fertilizer. Moth orchids or Phals are the popular modern houseplants easy to grow now-a-days.

  • Orchid Care for Beginners

    Orchid care for beginners, orchid terms, potting medium, temperature, light, watering, favorite beginner orchids; cattleya, cymbidium, phalaenopsis, lady slipper

  • How to Care for Orchids

    You already know how to care for orchids, if you grow houseplants. Orchids are one of the modern houseplants that are easy to take care of with just 3-4 things.




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