Re-blooming your orchids

By Terre Chaffin

Oklahoma State University Extension Master Gardener

If you’re one of those gardeners or growers who doesn’t like to see the garden season end, now might be a good time, as winter is upon us, to take a look at those orchids you may have gathered over the summer and fall. Mine, I admit, are sitting in a northeast bathroom window and love the morning light there. They are then bathed in west light from the front of the house as the day winds its way to ending.

And they are green. Just green for the last 18 months with no blooms. Plenty of roots, but no flowers or buds.

Gardeners often bring home blooming orchids to enjoy or receive them as gifts. Then, after the blooms fade, we find ourselves with a pretty green plant that we are not sure what to do with.

“Just ignore them,” is a common remark I hear when I talk to those who have had more luck with getting their own orchids to flower again and again. My mother had this touch, growing them in far northern climates under grow lights in the winter and then hanging them from a redwood lath-house in the back yard all summer long. She was always treated to happy blooms. Maybe the trick was she had so many.

So, here’s the best advice I could gather from various sources. If you want to re-bloom your orchids, remember first and foremost, they need the strongest indirect sunlight you can find. This is why many orchid growers have greenhouses. Finding the best place for them indoors can be tricky but worth the effort. South windows and west windows often have good light.

Orchids are tropical plants and do not like to be cold, so find good indirect light in a warm window.

Drainage is also key. Orchids naturally grow in the tops of trees, so the better drained the media and container the more success you will have. Make sure you have a good orchid soil that drains well. These mixes often contain small lava rock or bark.

Orchids do not like to stay too wet. Watering weekly is a good rule. If they are in an undrained decorative pot or saucer, take the orchid container out of what you have them sitting in and run water on them for 15 to 20 seconds, let dry out and put back in the pot or saucer. The key is not to let the orchid container sit in water after you water them. This will help avoid over-watering that can kill them.

A blooming orchid does not need fertilized but would like to be fertilized once a month with a standardized liquid orchid food after blooming.

Orchids like light and love. There are fussy varieties that will require more pinpointed touches of care, but the garden variety respond well to fertilizer, correct watering, a good light source and temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees. When you get a bloom stalk beginning, you have arrived.