Plant rescuer Sarah Gerrard-Jones shares tips caring for orchids

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Many people love the fragrant beauty of orchids, but are afraid to try their own hand at orchid care. Fortunately, much of the hesitation people feel about growing these beautiful flowers is unnecessary. Once gardeners learn a bit about what makes these houseplants unique, they can avoid five of the biggest mistakes that owners generally make, according to Kate Lindley, product manager at Baby Bio.

1. Over or underwatering

Overwatering but also under watering are common mistakes when it comes to caring for orchids. 

The expert explained: “Orchids are very susceptible to root rot, so they will eventually die if they are allowed to sit in wet potting mix. Likewise, roots may shrivel and dry out if conditions are too dry.”

To prevent over or underwatering, always check the dampness of the compost first to ensure it actually needs a drink. 

Ideally, gardeners will want to water it when the potting mix is almost dry, but not completely dry. Kate suggested that owners can mist their orchid lightly to increase humidity, but be careful not to soak the leaves or leave them damp as “this can lead to mould, fungus, and leaf rot”.

2. Not enough sunlight

Without providing enough light to orchids, gardeners will have lush-looking growth but no flowers. It’s a common mistake to think that orchids need darkness to thrive, but they actually need a lot of sun.

The expert said: “Like all plants, sunlight is essential to allow your orchid to convert light into energy, and in turn produce an orchid’s beautiful blooms. 

“Most orchids thrive in bright but indirect sunlight, so east or west-facing window sills are ideal for most of the year.”

However, for those who give their orchid too much sunlight, particularly as the UK heads into spring, gardens “may scorch the delicate blooms”, and likewise, if for those who “don’t give it enough sunlight, it simply won’t blossom and thrive”. 

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It’s important to remember that there are some varieties which prefer full sun, such as vanda orchids, so always check the plant’s requirements before choosing the perfect spot for it.

3. Not using the correct compost

Many people bring their orchids home and proudly plop them in a pot full of soil, expecting great results. But within a few weeks, the plant is dead. This is because orchids just don’t do well with soil. 

Kate explained: “In their natural habitat, orchids are mainly either epiphytic, meaning they grow on trees, or lithophytic, meaning they grow on rocks. Most orchids therefore naturally grow high up in the rainforest treetops on rough bark rather than on the ground in soil. 

“As such, orchid owners should try to mimic this environment and always pot these plants in specific bark-based orchid compost which promotes aeration to the roots and drainage to prevent the plant becoming waterlogged.”

They need a loose and aerated potting mix so that the roots have plenty of room to breathe and draw water from the air around them. Soil just has a tendency to smother these plants, so avoid it at all costs.

4. Not using specialist fertiliser

According to the pro, orchids require a unique mix of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium for “optimum growth”, so owners need to make sure they invest in a specialist plant food which can provide the perfect balance, as opposed to a standard all purpose houseplant fertiliser. 

She said: “We recommend five to ten drops of Baby Bio® Orchid Food per half a litre of water every time you water, or use a Baby Bio® Orchid Food Drip Feeder to keep your orchid fed for up to four weeks.

“They will also benefit from Baby Bio® Orchid Feed and Mist to create a humid environment while delivering much-needed nutrients to every part of the plant – simply point and spray.”

5. Not repotting when needed

Those who don’t repot their orchid, it could become pot-bound, and the roots can strangle each other, stunting its growth and reducing its lifespan.

Kate said: “Orchids should be re-potted every year so that they can continue to bloom and flourish, however many leave them in the same pot for years. If roots appear tight and tangled or you spot white roots growing out of the container, it may be time to repot.

“Another sign your orchid might need repotting is if its roots are beginning to rot, or appear soft and brown, as this could be a sign that your compost is no longer draining effectively.”

When repotting, make sure to use a clean, sharp pair of scissors as orchids susceptible to disease, so it’s important to make sure the tools are sterilised.

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