Taking Care of Your Orchids

The Orchid Show is in full bloom at the Missouri Botanical Garden and visitors are able to buy orchids of their own at the Garden Gate Shop to bring home and grow. But with great flower comes great responsibility, so you may be looking for some tips on how to care for your orchid, especially if it’s your first time growing the flower.

Orchid Show 2018 Olson _K1C7612
Cymbidium Ygraine | Photo by Mary Lou Olson

Before you purchase your orchid, do some “detective work” around your house to make sure you have the perfect spot for the flower. It’s important to find a place with just the right amount of light. Look for somewhere with sunshine, but not a lot of direct sunlight.

Once you bring your plant home, watering and repotting are top priorities. “Overwatering and under-watering are the fastest way to kill orchids,” says Babs Wagner, orchid specialist at the Garden. It’s also essential to make sure your pot has drainage holes, so your orchid isn’t sitting in water. And stay away from using ice cubes to water your orchid.

When repotting your plant, don’t use regular potting soil. Instead, use an orchid specific mix or a coarser medium like a fir bark or sphagnum moss. Orchids also need fertilizer, but it’s best to use half-strength of general purpose fertilizer.

If you encounter problems with bugs in the plant, you can use rubbing alcohol or cinnamon to get rid of pests instead of chemical insecticides. Cinnamon can also get rid of fungal issues.

Your orchid may start growing aerial roots that come out of the pot. They’re natural, so you shouldn’t cut them off.  

For more specific tips about caring for different varieties of orchids, the American Orchid Society has  several care sheets available, including some for novices.  

If you’re looking for in person help, the Orchid Society of Greater St. Louis meets at 7 p.m. on the second Friday of every month at the Garden. Members can provide advice, answer questions, or even help you repot your orchid if necessary.


Catherine Martin
Public Information Specialist

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Sheri says:

    Thanks for the info. How is the cinnamon used?

    1. mbgadmin says:

      Sprinkling powdered cinnamon on the plant will deter pests, and applying it to cuts or abrasions can reduce the chance of rot developing on the cuts.

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