Successfully Growing Orchids in your Home

Sonoma County Orchid Society  Cattleya Sun Coast Orchid

By Kathie Hile

It wasn’t long ago that orchids were regarded as exotic, expensive, delicate, tropical and hard to grow. Now they have reached the mainstream market and are being sold along-side cut flowers, and for some are as disposable as cut flowers. But with a little knowledge of your orchid and its cultural requirements, you can re-bloom your orchid year after year. All the orchids pictured in this article can be grown in your home.

Although there are many orchids that are temperamental and need a tightly regulated environment, there are hundreds of orchids that will adapt themselves to a home’s temperatures and light conditions. Besides temperature and light, orchids need good air circulation and humidity, both of which can be created in the home.

In order to select an orchid for your home, you must know your home’s environment. What is the average day and night temperatures, both in the summer and winter? Where does your home have the most light, as well as the least? One orchid you buy may need high light and another low light. Know what kind of orchid you have so that you can research its cultural needs.

Temperature: Orchids are classified as either “cool”, “intermediate” or “warm” growing, meaning the lowest temperature the orchid prefers during winter nights. There is not space in this article to go into more detail, but the information is readily available on the internet. But there is one important fact you should know in order to re-bloom your orchid. Most orchids experience a significant difference between day and night temperatures, so set your home thermostat so that the night temperature will drop at least 10 degrees, particularly in the fall and winter. This will induce your orchid to initiate buds which, in turn, will give you flowers.

Light: Here, too, orchids fall into three categories of light intensity: high, medium and low. Most orchids require about 6 hours of light per day, although some may take Sonoma County Orchid Society Guarittonia Why Not Orchidmore or less, depending upon the genus and species of orchid. Too little light prevents orchids from blooming, although they will grow. Rich, lush dark green leaves indicate the orchid is receiving too little light. The leaves should be a light or medium green with yellow tones. You can check your light level with this hand/eye test. Hold your hand 6″ above the leaves and look at the shadows cast. A sharp-edged shadow means high light; a soft-edged shadow means medium to low light; and no shadow at all means the light is insufficient for an orchid to flower.

It may be necessary to move your plants as the seasons change. Move your plants closer to or away from windows as necessary. A sheer curtain will provide light shade. In the winter, when the sun is low, a reflective material will increase light levels.

Air: Orchids like good air circulation. If you cannot leave a window cracked during the day, think about setting a small fan near your orchids, allowing them a light, indirect breeze.

Humidity: Your orchids will benefit from adequate humidity. 50% or more is necessary for good flowering, but that is far more than the average home. You can increase the humidity around your plants with a humidifier, or you can place your pots on flat pebbles set in a tray with water added until it almost covers the stones, or purchase a lattice-like plastic grid (sold in most hardware stores) on which to place your plants. Never let the pot sit in the water. The plant’s roots must be able to breathe, which they cannot do in a water-logged pot.

Did you know that there is an orchid society in Sonoma County with members that want to answer your questions and help you grow? This enthusiastic group of hobby orchid growers meet the second Tuesday of each month, except September and December, at 6:30 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Building in Santa Rosa (across from the fairgrounds).

Sonoma County Orchid Society Epicatanthe Don Hermanh OrchidEach month there is a guest speaker. There is a show-and-tell session where members show-off the orchids they bloomed and talk about how they grow in their home or garden (yes, there are orchids that will grow outdoors in Sonoma County). There are almost always orchids for sale by members or the various speakers. There is an “opportunity table” of between 18-20 orchids purchased from the speaker or another professional orchid vendor. You can purchase 3 tickets for $1 for a drawing to win one of these orchids. There is an orchid library available to you and there are always refreshments. We would love you to come visit as a guest.

On April 2 and 3 of this year we have our spring show extravaganza “Orchids in Art”. There are 10 to 13 professional vendors selling unique orchids (not just what you see in your local stores. You will be amazed by the variety of shapes and sizes, colors and scents). Members also have a sales table. There is an orchid boutique selling non-orchid plants and orchid and garden related items and books. There is an hourly raffle for orchids provided by the vendors; there are docent tours where a docent leads guests on a tour of the display area and points out unique orchids and answers questions; there are skill sessions on various topics for new and more seasoned growers. There is a silent auction table of items donated by merchants in Sonoma County. If you volunteer to work a shift at the show, or help with advertising by passing out show flyers (beginning immediately), you get free admission to the show are invited to participate in a pasta party on Saturday evening after the show. If you wish to volunteer, please contact me at

For more information, see our Society’s website at or visit our Facebook page or you may email Kathie Hile at There is also a wealth of information at the American Orchid Society website, including culture sheets for many types of orchids.



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