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How Long Do Orchids Live – So you’ve decided to decorate your home with some lovely, Pinterest-worthy flowers.
You’ve chosen orchids because they are classic, versatile, and live for many years. Don’t they?
The lifespan of orchids depends not only on the quality of care they receive but also on the variety of the orchid you have chosen.
With excellent care and ideal conditions, orchids can last for years and years.
The Orchidaceae — or the orchid family — are a versatile and widespread family of flowers, most famous for their unique, colorful and fragrant blooms.
The orchid family currently has over 28,000 species, making it one of the largest families of flowering plants in the world!
Originating from the jungle, most orchid types are tropical plants that live hanging on trees or growing among rocks.
However, the most common types of orchid we are used to seeing are the terrestrial orchids that grow on the ground of the jungle floor.
Having so many different types of orchids makes it difficult to give general advice on plant care, but the most common home-grown orchids are hybrid types, and therefore the advice on this article will be based on this type of orchid.
Orchids, like all flowers, have a life cycle that includes several stages.
Understanding their life cycle and knowing how to best look after your new plant friend will help you to keep them blooming and delighting your home for years!
How Long Do Orchids Live? The Life Cycle of an Orchid
The life cycle of an orchid is similar to that of any other flower.
There are six stages: seed production, germination, seed formation, maturation, flowering, and reproduction.
The orchid seed is a result of crossing two “parent” plants.
Varying the colors of these plants, orchid breeders are able to create the most beautiful creations.
It can take up to two years for an orchid seed to germinate and finally develop into its own, unique plant.
This part of the orchid’s life cycle is long but definitely worth the wait.
For producing flowers, the orchid needs energy.
This energy is taken from the leaves, which may cause some of them to first turn yellow, then die and fall off.
Observing this process might make you worried your whole plant is dying, but it’s just a part of the flowering process, and completely normal.
It normally takes around 3 months for an orchid to produce its first flowers.
After the first blossoming, the young orchid will start growing roots.
The roots are important for the plant to gain nutrients, which it needs to produce more flowers and to grow.
The flower of an orchid normally blooms for several months, and during this time the flower can be pollinated again.
The complete life cycle of an orchid usually takes somewhere between 9 and 14 months, but if the orchid doesn’t die after this it can bloom again.
Typically orchids bloom every 8 to 10 months.
The life cycle, re-blooming, and duration of flowering all depend on several factors, some of which you have control over as the owner and caretaker of this unique plant!
Sunlight, water, and humidity are all key factors in keeping your orchid friend happy.
Optimal Lighting for Your Orchid
If you want to keep your orchid happy and make sure it re-blooms, you need to keep the light conditions and humidity levels optimal for the orchid.
From when you first bring your orchid home, you should start creating an optimized environment for your new friend to grow in.
Place your orchid somewhere where it can get plenty of light.
This should ideally be an area where there is lots of indirect sunlight.
Do not place your orchid under direct sunlight even for a few hours, as orchids are very sensitive to getting burned.
Too much sun can also lead the plant to dry out easily.
Therefore, indirect, filtered sunlight is the most ideal.
Indirect sunlight simply means that the light is filtered by for example bouncing off a wall or filtered through an object before reaching the plant.
If you are unsure whether the place you have chosen has enough sunlight or too much, you can test it out using your hand.
During midday, when the sun is at its highest and brightest, place your hand a few inches above the plant, so that you cast a shadow over it.
If your hand produces no shadow, there is not enough light.
If the shadow is extremely dark, your orchid might be getting too much direct light.
The shadow should be clearly visible, but not too dark.
A soft grey shadow indicates ideal lighting.
Watering Your Orchid
Because orchids originate from rain forests, some people think they need lots of humidity and frequent, heavy watering.
However, this is simply not the case, and in fact, the most common way people harm their orchids is by over-watering.
If the plant gets watered too often and is not able to absorb all the water at the pace it is being poured, this will cause the soil to get too wet.
If the plant sits in wet conditions for too long, the roots will start to rot and your lovely orchid may die a wet death.
So make sure not to over-water your friend!
There are three ways you can water your orchid without drowning them.
Submerging — not drowning
The first method is submerging.
This technique works if you keep your orchid and soil in a holding pot, which sits inside another “decorative” pot.
If your orchid is planted straight into a pot with soil, this might not work as you cannot drain excess water off.
Using clean water (distilled, or boiled and cooled down), fill the clear orchid pot so that the roots are submerged in water.
Leave the plant to soak up the water for 10-15 minutes.
After this, remove the orchid from water and allow to drain for a further 5 minutes.
Make sure all water is either absorbed by the plant or poured away.
Once done, place orchid back in the holding pot and back into its home pot.
Depending on the time of the year and where your orchid is placed, use this method approximately once a week.
Ice cubes — Yes, really!
The second method is using ice cubes.
Yes, you read that right!
Using ice cubes is an easy and effective watering method, plus it is a great way to avoid over watering your plant.
This method also improves water absorption, as the water is provided to the plant in small, consistent portions.
Simply pop an ice cube on top of the soil, beneath the leaves of the orchid and let your plant drink!
Just be mindful that there is no excess water left — if you see any water pooling, just pour it off.
Depending on the weather conditions, give your plant one or two ice cubes a week (one at a time).
Pouring water — the old school way
The last method is the most popular one — simply pouring water in the pot.
This might sound like the easy and obvious choice, but now that you know how damaging over-watering can be you might wish to reconsider.
Pouring can be an effective way to keep your plants happy, as long as you are mindful of not drowning your plant.
If your plant sits in one pot with the soil, and there are no drainage holes, you are best off under watering rather than over watering.
You can always add more water to the pot, but without any drainage opportunities you cannot get water out.
Make sure not to pour water on top of the plant, but straight onto the soil.
If the leaves get water on them, simply dab them dry with a kitchen towel.
Depending on the season and where your plant is located, ¼ of a cup of clean water should do your orchid just fine.
If the soil is very dry, you can add more. If the soil is wet, use less water.
Fertilizing Your Orchid
Now that you have the basics of water and light down, it’s time to talk about fertilizing your orchid.
The first thing to know is that fertilizer is not a magic potion that will save a half-rotten orchid from the depths of despair.
In fact, if your orchid is poorly, fertilizer is unlikely to make the situation any better but could make it even worse.
However, for a healthy orchid, it can provide a useful boost.
First, you need to select your fertilizer.
For orchids, the recommended fertilizer contains equal amounts of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.
You can also look for one specifically formulated for orchids.
Experts recommend using fertilizer once a month or once every fortnight after the orchids blooms have dropped and you wish to trigger re-blooming.
Fertilizer should be used carefully.
Use a narrow-spouted pitcher to gently pour the fertilizer into the pot.
Be careful not to let it touch the plant, as it may cause damage to leaves — fertilizer should only ever be applied straight on to the soil.
From the soil, it will be absorbed by the roots and used by the plant.
Do not water your orchid on the weeks when you have applied fertilizer.
Your plant may look a bit sad after it has bloomed and dropped its flowers, but don’t get discouraged.
This resting period is actually essential for the health of your plant.
Everything in nature works in cycles, and so does your orchid.
You may think of this time as a sort of a hibernation period — your plant is resting to get the energy to bloom again.
Although you should be patient and respect this period of rest, there are things you can do to help your little flower friend to blossom again.
Besides using a fertilizer, there are other ways you can help your orchid to rebloom.
During this resting period, you may start noticing tiny new buds growing on the flower spike of your plant.
You may encourage the orchid to grow more buds by cutting the spike back into a “node,” or a triangle-shaped area on the stem.
You can also remove the whole spike, thus allowing the orchid to use more of its energy on growing the roots and leaves.
This may seem counter intuitive, but happy roots equal happy plants!
Another important thing you can do to help your orchid is to pay attention to the temperature of the environment it lives in.
With a slightly lower night time temperature (55-65º) you can speed up the process of reblooming, and keep your plant happy.
Ready to Take on the Challenge?
Now that you know the optimal way to provide your plant friend with ideal lighting, how to water it, and how to encourage reblooming, you are ready to take on the wonderful challenge of growing an orchid!
Although this might sound like hard work, it will definitely be worth it, and with the right kind of love and care, you will have a decorative pal for life!