I can’t tell you how many times I hear from customers that orchids are for experts. I carry many varieties of orchids, & I grow them at home, I love them! I think people are afraid of them, because they mistakenly believe that they are for experts only. Actually, some varieties are quite easy to care for. Orchids are losing so much of their habitat, www.conservation.org/Pages/default.aspx & we need to help them out. The biggest mistake most people make is giving them too much water, they thrive better with a little neglect.
Orchids grow anchored to trees in the tropics. They like good air circulation, light, & water, and humidity.The easiest one to grow is the Phalaenopsis, which has flowers that will last 2-3 months.
They like diffused light, but not direct sun, 70-80 during the day and 60-65 at night is the best temperature zone. They don’t like big changes in the temperature, so if it is really cold out, I close the blinds so that the really cold temps don’t radiate off the glass where the orchids sit. One time I moved my orchid to a colder place in the house and all the blooms fell off. I learned, they let you know when they are not happy. :>)
Orchids only need about a few ounces of water once a week. It they are potted in bark, water once a week, if they are potted in sphagnum moss, water them about every 7-10 days. Never plant orchids in soil, they are air plants, and need good air circulation. The other thing customers ask me is about the leaves turning yellow. Yellowing of the older leaves is normal, yellowing of the new leaves is not. If the new growth is yellowing, it’s most likely too much light, or too much fertilizer. You can remove the older leaves that are yellowing, but pulling at the base of the leaf where it attaches to the plant, give it a sideways pull and yank it lose. Try to get the whole leave, so that you don’t end up with a piece that still attached at the base, as water will get in there and casue the plant to rot. If the leaves go limp and feel soft at the base, you have overwatered, just withold the water and let it drive out so you don’t kill it.
After your orchid blooms, you can repot it. I do this about once a year. As for cutting the spikes back, I don’t, but you can, I like to leave them and see what new laterals come out. The only troulbe I’ve had is with scale. These are hard shelled little bumps that attach themselves to the plant. It’s hard to control once you get it. so it’s best to watch for it, and swab the scales with isopropyl alcohol each time you see one. If you don’t mind chemicals, you can spray it with an insecticidal soap. Even though it’s a little more work, I prefer the alcohol.
There is all kinds of technical information available, at the American Orchid Society www.aos.org if you want to really get into the subject. But I am sure that is when you will become convinced that orchids are just for experts. There are so many varieties and species and they all differ in their requirements. I would start with the easier variety, experiment with it, and then add to your collection after you get comfortable with orchids in general. The other thing that bothers people about orchids is that they have a period of time when they are just resting. For lack of anything better, I call it the ugly time. It doesn’t bother me, but some people can’t stand having the orchid out when it looks like it’s half dead and doing nothing. I tell my customers to place it in an out of the way room, by a window for light, and just water it, and when it starts it’s next cycle, bring it back out to it’s spot for show. Hopefully I’ve encouraged you to try growing an orchid, then worry about becoming an expert. They are awesome plants!