Orchids are relatively easy plants to care for–they must be, or I’d have killed mine by now. :) And I qualify what I post in the way of information by saying I’m certainly no expert. There are many good sites and blogs which can give professional advice. But for those of you who asked, here’s what I try to pay attention to.
This is how I’ve always killed my orchids in the past–by over watering. Orchids’ roots are like their “lungs” and rest at the top of the pot, not the bottom. They must breathe through their roots; therefore, you must be careful not to “drown” them.
Now, the tag which comes with my Phalaenopsis or moth orchids instructs a watering of a mere 1/4 cup of water, once a week. Other sites online state that you should place the orchid (in its plastic pot) in a sink of room temperature water until the planting medium is completely soaked, then remove and let excess water drip away before replacing it in its decorative pot.
That method proved disastrous for me in the past, so I’m a little more stingy with the water now. Remember that the roots need air. I think experience and experimentation are the best teachers in this instance.
Adequately watered plants will maintain a dark green, glossy leaf and I believe it would always be best to under-water rather than over-water. Orchids also like humidity. They can be placed on a humidity tray with pebbles to keep the pot above the water, or can be lightly misted a few times a week.
Feed your orchid a water-soluble fertilizer created specifically for orchids every two to three weeks while the orchid is growing. Although orchids need fertilizer to maintain their blooms, it’s better to under-fertilize than feed them too much. Too much fertilizer could burn the roots, producing dark green, limp leaves. I have also done this in the past and lost the plant. I use Shultz Orchid Food, sparingly.
Orchids like a place in the home where there is a consistent temperature with no drafts or direct sun–an east- or north-facing window will give ample bright light without direct sun. Generally, as I’ve been told, if the temperature is comfortable for you, your orchid will probably be happy.
Orchids must be grown in a medium specifically designed to accommodate their root system. Most orchid “soil” is composed of bark chips, mosses, or a mixture of the two. Potting them in regular potting soil will kill them.
When your orchid has finished flowering, cut the flower stems down to one inch above the second “node” from the base. This is where your new flower will appear, if you’re lucky and patient.
Leave the plant in the same position and don’t fuss over it for a while. Also reduce the water and food you give your plant for approx four months to give it a rest. When/If your new flower buds appear, you can slightly increase your feeding then.
My only experience with orchids is with the Phalaenopsis or moth orchid, and they are fairly forgiving and a good orchid to start with. Their blooms last weeks, sometimes months. They usually bloom from December to May (give or take) and are a bright spot during the winter months. I look forward to venturing into some other orchid types.
Oh, and though I wouldn’t recommend letting kitty damage your lovely plant, orchids are not known to be toxic to cats. :)