Q: How often should I water my orchid?
A: Readers ask this question of our gardening experts regularly, and it is one I asked myself recently when I was given a beautiful orchid as a gift. I knew the process of watering orchids was a little different to that of my other house plants, but I hadn’t realized just how key getting the regularity of the watering was to the plant’s success.
So, I put this orchid care question to our in-house gardening experts. This is how often they recommend you should be watering your orchid.
How often to water an orchid
Different conditions make for different watering routines, so knowing when to water plants is about specific know-how, but can also be about trial and error. This is what our gardening team says about how often to water an orchid.
‘Orchids like humidity and will appreciate regular misting: once a day if you can,’ says Holly Crossley, Homes & Gardens‘ Senior Content Editor (Gardens). ‘Use harvested rainwater if possible as it has fewer chemical additives than tap water.’
When to water orchid roots
Our indoor plants expert Sarah Wilson agrees with Holly: ‘Mist orchids daily,’ she says, but adds, ‘Aim to water your orchid once a week. In very hot weather switch this up to every two or three days. In winter, water no more than once every two to three weeks.’
Holly Crossley continues: ‘In terms of giving your orchid a proper water, once a week is usually about right. However, this may need to be increased during the height of summer.’
Horticulturalist Anne Swithinbank (opens in new tab) goes further: ‘Most orchids need watering weekly when in active growth. Most are potted in an open, bark-based compost and the best way to check for watering is by testing the weight of the pot. Bring water to room temperature and apply in mornings during winter. In hard water areas, use rainwater.
Anne also suggests that this orchid watering routine is best paired with feeding: ‘Add an orchid fertilizer to the second watering rather than to dry roots, or use a foliar feed,’ she says. ‘Apply a soluble orchid fertilizer every fortnight during active growth, flushing with water between to avoid a build up of residues.’
Anne also cautions that the regularity of your orchid routine shouldn’t mean you overlook potential problems, such as overwatering: ‘Don’t allow them to sit in water otherwise roots will rot. Newly potted plants are prone to overwatering and deserve special attention,’ she warns.
Holly offers this tip for checking that you aren’t watering orchids too often, or not often enough: ‘Check by feeling the top layer of the soil with your fingertip – if it’s dry, give it a drink. Silvery, wrinkled leaves are another sign that it’s time to hydrate. Be careful not to overdo it, though. Too much water can lead to root rot which can kill orchids.’
If you are determined to become adept at watering your orchid just the right amount, think timings, too. Our gardens writer Drew Swainston suggests that ‘orchids are best watered early in the morning as it gives the longest possible time to evaporate any water that has got onto the foliage or into any nooks by the time nightfall comes around. Orchids should always be dry at night as any moisture on them can increase the risk of fungal or bacterial diseases.’
You will need
Make your orchid watering routine easier and you’re more likely to stick to it. This is what our experts suggest you need.
This 200ml vintage spray bottle is a pretty accessory to keep to hand so that your misting routine happens without a second thought (without ruining your aesthetic).
Miracle-Gro Water Soluble Orchid Food
This 8oz orchid fertilizer pack has over 48,000 ratings on Amazon. Use it for colorful orchids with deep, rich leaf color and strong root development.
Our orchid experts
Sarah is Homes & Gardens‘ house plant expert. She has written about gardening for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Easy Gardens and Modern Gardens magazines, and has studied introductory garden and landscape design as well as floristry. In her own garden, she is establishing a cutting garden.
Holly is a former allotment keeper and professional gardener. She now spends her time tending to her many houseplants and writing about gardens and outdoor living for Homes & Gardens.
Drew qualified as a journalist before studying for a horticulture qualification, after which he worked as a professional gardener for several years, specializing in kitchen gardening. He’s now bringing his expertise and passion to Homes & Gardens as a member of our team.
Anne Swithinbank is one of the world’s most established gardening experts and authors, horticulturalists. Anne contributes regularly to Homes & Gardens and our sister title, Amateur Gardening.
How do you know when an orchid needs water?
Identifying over- or under-watered orchids is all about looking for signs. Your orchid will give you clues if it’s happy with your watering routine, the biggest being healthy-looking green roots. It will also signal if your watering routine is over-zealous (brown roots). However, you can easily tell if it needs water if the roots are gray or white root, or simply by poking your finger into the soil. If it’s as dry as a bone, the orchid needs watering. In the meantime, look to mist it daily, especially in hot, dry conditions.
So, it’s clear: orchids need misting regularly, ideally daily, and watering around once a week, though that should be done with caution since they do not like boggy soil.