Have a question about orchids or growing orchids? Or, want to know more about bromeliads or other Better-Gro® products? Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
If you don’t find your answer here, please go to our “Ask the Grower” page, and we’ll be happy to have one of our professional growers answer your specific question.
About the Mini Phalaenopsis… is it truly a mini Phal, or is it a different variety that just looks like a Phal?
Mini Phalaenopsis are true Phals which have been hybridized using dwarf or compact growing parents.
In stores, I sometimes see outdoor ground orchids. How are these different than other orchids?
The “ground orchids” are terrestrial plants, meaning that, in nature, they grow in the ground. Most of the commonly grown orchids are not terrestrial plants; they are epiphytes and are found growing on trees.
Evidently my cat, Miss Missy, likes my Phalaenopsis as much as I do. She just ate the flowers off of it. Are they poisonous? Is she going to die?
No, fortunately Miss Missy is fine. The flowers are not poisonous. We’re glad she enjoys orchids as well, but sorry to hear about the loss of your Phalaenopsis.
I purchased a blooming size orchid that had a flower on it at the time. How long will it take to rebloom?
It depends on the type of orchid. In most cases, it will bloom again in about one year with adequate care.
I love chocolate and heard there is an orchid that smells like chocolate. Is this true?
Yes! There are a few varieties of orchids that smell like chocolate: Maxilaria tenuifolia and Onc. Sharry Baby ‘Sweet Fragrance’ are probably the two most popular varieties.
Will the scent of my orchid change with each blooming season?
The scent will likely stay the same, although the presence and/or intensity of the fragrance may vary depending on the time of day and the temperature.
Can I cross orchids at home? What supplies do I need?
Making an orchid cross (pollination, hybridizing, or orchid breeding) is a fairly simple task. All that is required is a toothpick and a means to label the flower being pollinated. However, germinating the seed once it is mature is much more difficult and most often done under laboratory-like conditions.
What is the best resource for orchid information?
There are numerous sites on the web that offer good information about orchids. We suggest starting with the American Orchid Society (www.aos.org).
How can I find a local orchid society?
Either search for one through the American Orchid Society (www.aos.org) or visit a local orchid show. The local company putting on the show will most likely have a membership sign-up desk present.
General Orchid Care
Out of all the different types of orchids, which do you find is the easiest to grow?
It depends on particular setting where the orchid is to be grown. In warm climates, Vandas can be hung and watered by Mother Nature or by the grower a couple of times a week in bright light.
In a pool cage setting with bright light, Dendrobiums will thrive and bloom with minimal care. Keep it on the pot bound side; they do not like to be over-potted.
For northern climates, low light settings (lanais, covered porches, in the house) Phalaenopsis grow and thrive. Phalaenopsis should be grown under cover where they do not get rained on and water can be regulated. Plants grown outside can develop fungal and bacterial issues from water sitting in the crown of the plant. When grown in the house a day night temperature differential of 15-20 is necessary to initiate flowering in the fall and early winter months.
Why do orchids fall over? Is this how they act in nature? It seems like they would be damaged a lot in nature if this were the case.
In nature, it is not common for orchids to fall over because they are most often ephiphytic and grow in trees. Their roots hold them securely to the tree.
Orchids like to be grown on the “crowded” side and do not like to be over-potted. This keeps the media from staying too wet but causes them to be top heavy. This is why many people drop their orchid that is growing in a plastic pot into a cover pot which is heavier. Clay and porcelain pots are the most common. If the orchid is falling over without the help of a breeze, then it is top heavy and probably too big for the pot; this means it needs to be repotted.
How long with the blooms on my Phalaenopsis last?
Phalaenopsis blooms can last several months on a large plant with proper care. While enjoying blooms in the house, keep them on the dry side and do not overwater as this will cause the bottom leaves to yellow.
How long will it take my Phalaenopsis to bloom again?
Usually, Phalaenopsis bloom during the cool season, so chances are that it will be another 8-12 months before you have flowers again.
Feeding and Watering Your Orchid
Should I use distilled water to mix my orchid food, or can I use tap water?
Tap water from your city should be safe for mixing orchid food – as long as it has not been treated by a water softener.
Is it best to use a mister or to water my orchids with a hose or watering can?
It is best to use a hose or watering can when watering your orchids because you need to get the orchid’s roots completely wet. Just be sure to not leave standing water in the orchid’s pot.
Where should I apply water to my orchid – the roots, the leaves, or both?
It is best to apply water to the roots, but an occasional watering of the entire plant will help to keep dust buildup off your leaves. Also, when feeding, it is a good idea to mist the leaves as some micro-nutrients are absorbed through the leaf.
Is the water that is sitting in the orchid pot’s saucer bad for my orchid?
Yes, it is recommended that water remaining in the saucer or pot after watering be poured off.
I’ve seen orchid potting mixes on the market that have the orchid plant food mixed in. How does this work differently than other plant foods?
The plant food that is mixed in is a timed release plant food, meaning that it is designed to release a small amount of plant food over an extended period of time. How quickly this plant food releases can vary greatly depending on the temperature – which could cause problems in some situations. Also, it is important to know how long this plant food is designed to last (120 days, 180 days, etc.).
Can I use an extended release orchid food and a water soluble orchid food together?
Technically yes, however, for the home grower it is generally not necessary. Applying too much plant food at one time could burn the roots of your orchid and cause other problems.
How should I use Better-Bloom with an extended release plant food?
Again, it is not generally necessary for the home grower. However, if you are using both, cut the soluble plant food strength in half.
I do a lot of composting, and it seems to work well with many of my plants. Can I use my compost on orchids?
It is acceptable for terrestrial varieties (see information in “About Orchids” above) but may keep the epiphytic types too wet in the root area.
Repotting Your Orchid
Can I plant my Phalaenopsis, Dendrobium, Oncidium, or Cattleya in the ground?
No, we do not recommend planting any of those orchids in the ground.
My Phalaenopsis’ leaves are extending beyond the rim of the pot. Does this mean my pot is too small?
No. The pot size is based on the root ball mass size – not the size of the foliage. Leaves will most often extend over the edge of the pot.
I recently repotted my Phalaenopsis, but I think I repotted it in a pot that is too small. How soon can I repot it again to a larger pot?
Do not over pot. When repotting Phalaenopsis, select the pot based on the root ball mass size – not the size of the foliage. Leaves will most often extend over the edge of the pot. Plants are usually repotted annually. If the mix has not broken down and the orchid dries out within 7-10 days, you can go another season without repotting.
How can I tell a live orchid root from a dead one?
Sometimes it is difficult to tell live orchid roots from dead ones. Live roots usually have firm substance; while dead roots are usually dry. A useful test is to pinch a root between thumb and forefinger and pull away from the plant. If the velamen comes off leaving a thin, wiry root behind, the root is dead and can be removed. Click here to see what dead roots look like.
Where should I cut a flower spike on a Phalaenopsis?
After the flowers on a Phalaenopsis have died, you can cut the spike above the second node. The node is an enlarged bump on the spike. Phalaenopsis will sometimes produce more flowers with this treatment. You may also cut the spike off completely and allow the orchid to put all of its energy into a new spike.
What kind of planter/pot should I purchase if I want to make an arrangement of orchids?
Pots with drainage holes work best, however a lot of pots don’t have drainage holes. If yours does not, be sure to tip the pot to the side after watering and pour off any excess water that is sitting in the pot. Do not leave water standing in the bottom of the pot as this will rot your orchid’s roots.
If I plant something in the same pot as my orchid, will it “choke” the orchid?
No. As long as you water enough to keep both plants adequately hydrated.
What is the advantage of planting in a wooden basket over a plastic one?
There is no advantage. It’s just a matter of aesthetics; the wooden basket looks more natural.
What’s Wrong with my Orchid?
One leaf of my orchid is turning brown and appears to be falling off. Does this mean the whole plant is dying? Can it be saved? If so, how?
A brown leaf could be several things 1) an old leaf; 2) a bottom leaf of a Phalaenopsis that has stayed too wet; or 3) a leaf with a fungal infection. It must be seen to be diagnosed.
How can I tell the difference between heat damage and sun damage?
In general, conditions that are too bright may result in yellowing of the leaves and in severe cases, scorching (whitening) of the upper leaves. Signs of heat damage include withered leaves, yellowing leaves, and leathery leaves. Severe instances of heat stress can scorch the plant as well.
How do I tell the difference between damaged caused by watering too much and damage caused by not watering enough?
Overwatering may cause rotting of the plant leaves, stems, and roots. In cases where only the roots have rotted, the leaves and stems of the orchid may start to wilt. Underwatering may lead to wilted leaves and stems. If the leaves are wilting, take a look at the orchid’s roots. If the roots seem fine (white/green), then you are probably watering enough. If the roots are rotting (black/discolored), then you are probably overwatering.
How long does the color on a Bromeliad last? My Bromeliad’s flower has started turning brown. Is there anything I can do to reduce this or help it flower longer?
Different bromeliads have flowers that last longer than others. However, 1-2 months is typical for most varieties. The colorful parts of the flowers are often flower bracts and not the flower itself – like the red bracts on a poinsettia.
What’s the correct way to water a Bromeliad? Do you water the planting media or the flower?
Bromeliads may be watered from the top as long as enough water is given to work its way to the media. When watering a bromeliad that is in bloom from the top make sure the old stagnant water in the cup is flushed out because it can sour and rot the center out. The mother plant flowers only one time and produces pups or offshoots which mature after 18-24 months and then they flower, and the cycle repeats itself.
My Bromeliad’s flower has started turning brown. Is there anything I can do to reduce this or help it stay in flower longer?
Different varieties have different bloom life. Be sure to keep fresh water in the rosette. Do not let the water sour.