How not to kill orchids (and the best room in the house to keep one)

orchid plants
Here's your expert orchid care guideLove Orchids

With beautiful silky leaves, orchids effortlessly bring a touch of exotic elegance to any interior. As one of Britain's most popular houseplants, they have a reputation for being a little tricky to care for, but with the right care, these charming and charismatic plants can give a long-lasting display in your home.

Orchids are herbaceous perennial plants and can be found almost everywhere in the world (there are more than 20,000 species) in both warmer and cooler climates, although 85 per cent come from the tropics and subtropics.

All plants in the orchid family (orchidaceae) have the same flower structure – they are made up of three sepals and three petals. The middle petal, slightly larger and with a different shape, is called the lip. The lip serves as a platform for insects to easily reach the heart of the flower, while the heart contains the pollen cluster, also called the stamen.

orchid flower in plant pot
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Of the orchid family it's the phalaenopsis (also known as the moth orchid) that's considered the trailblazer for introducing the public to the exotic beauty of orchids, but there are many other orchids that have earned their popularity, including cattleya, vanda and zygopetalum.

Read on for some orchid care tips, plus advice on how to make your orchid flowers last longer, and what to look out for when buying one of these beautiful plants.

Britain's most popular houseplant: Proving just how special orchids are, every year the Royal Horticultural Society puts on the RHS Orchid Show to showcase these magnificent plants through immersive installations.

To ensure your orchid plant thrives and hopefully reblooms for years to come, here are some care rules to stick to.

1. A bright but cool room

Orchids hate direct sunlight so place them in a bright but cool room.

What's the best room in the house to keep an orchid? It turns out they love bathrooms. 'The bathroom provides the perfect setting for orchids due to its higher humidity levels and lower light conditions,' says Millie Durbak, brand manager at Prestige Flowers. 'These factors mirror the orchid's preferred environment, creating a perfect balance for optimal growth.'

Orchids, particularly the phalaenopsis variety, excel in removing pollutants from the air. 'Placing them in the bathroom not only elevates the aesthetics but also contributes to a fresher and healthier indoor environment,' adds Millie.

2. Beware of the fruit bowl

Never put your plant too near a fruit bowl as it may drop all its flowers. Orchids are sensitive to ethylene gas which can be produced by ripening fruit, especially bananas.

3. Water twice a week (in the summer) instead of once

Orchids normally only need a weekly water but in high temperatures (during summer) this should be increased. The experts atLove Orchids explain: 'Simply dunk your orchid in its pot into water for a few minutes – this will allow the root system to absorb all the H2O it needs. Or run the pot under a tap for 20 seconds, allowing water to drain through the bottom. Tap water is fine, even if you live in an area with very hard water – orchids are extremely versatile and will adapt to your water source.'

Orchid care hack: Add a couple of ice cubes to the surface of the bark instead of watering, avoiding the leaves.

4. Feed monthly

Your orchid will survive without plant food but will really thrive if you feed it every month. You can buy orchid feed from your local garden centre or use a traditional plant fertiliser like Tomorite. Ensure you dilute it to a quarter of what it says on the label.

orchids phalaenopsis flower on window sill home plants in blossom white, purple, pink blooms home garden successful growing
Nedopekin Yuriy - Getty Images

5. Maintain the roots

Don't like the look of the roots? You can cut off dry, shrivelled roots sticking out from the bark. But if they are green and healthy, leave them alone, warn the pros at Love Orchids – orchids are meant to have aerial roots.

6. Reflower

When the flowers start to drop, cut back the stem. It's best to do this when there is still at least one flower left – this will ensure the stem is still active and will prevent it from dying back and going brown when you cut it. 'Simply cut just above a node that is below any previous branch or bloom. If the stem has gone brown, cut it off near the base of the plant,' explain Love Orchids.

Top tip: If you cut the stem low down, the plant will produce a larger bloom, but it may take longer to develop. Want a quick fix? Cut just above the node below the lowermost previous branch or flower – a new branch should develop fairly quickly with little effort. If new flowers don't appear in two to three months, try moving the plant to a cooler place to trigger reflowering.

Reflowering varies according to species. A zygopetalum can flower up to three times a year, while oncidium will only reflower after nine to 12 months.

7. Time to repot

It's recommended you repot an orchid every four to five years – or if the bark has begun to compost down – whichever comes first. 'Don't worry if there are any gaps in the bark, orchid roots love air just as much as they love water,' say the team at Love Orchids. 'Choose a slightly larger pot and use specialist orchid bark. It might take a week or two for the plant to become stable whilst it regains its foot hold.'

Is your orchid shedding its flowers, or has it turned yellow and limp? Find a solution below to these common ailments.

• Problem: Shedding flowers

Solution: If your orchid sheds flowers or flower butts, this is an indication that your plant hasn't got enough water or sunlight. Give it a more luminous surrounding, and soak its roots once a week.

• Problem: Yellow leaves

Solution: Yellow leaves can be caused by exposing your orchid to too much sunlight. Place your orchid in light surroundings, but not in direct sunlight e.g. a side table near a window would be an ideal location.

• Problem: Limp leaves

Solution: Limp leaves are indicative of a water deficiency or, in contrary, water excess. If the orchid's roots are grey, this means your orchid is suffering from water deprivation. It's best to soak your orchid in a bucket or sink for 10 to 15 minutes. If the orchid roots are brown, this indicates that your orchid was given too much water. Sometimes, the orchid will grow new roots (after its bloom).

orchid plants
Betsie Van der Meer - Getty Images

...there are a few key things you should look out for to ensure your plant is healthy and will blossom over time. Here, the experts at share some valuable advice:

1. Look at the pot size, the number of flowers and buds per stem, and the appearance. The price of orchids depends largely on the length of the cultivation period and the amount of work involved.

2. Orchids must be free of pests and diseases, so inspect closely. The flowers sometimes suffer from botrytis (grey mould), a fungus which greatly diminishes the decorative value. If the plant has yellow leaves it's because it has been kept too wet or too dry. Pests such as brown scale, mealybug and scale insects are troublesome because they are so hard to eradicate.

3. If the flowers or foliage are damaged or flawed, this is often caused by transportation or storage, or because the plant has been mechanically damaged in the greenhouse.

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