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You’ve just been given an orchid. Now what?

For many, the gift of an orchid is the beginning of the Bataan Death March toward the inevitable. Sure, your heart’s in the right place, you mean well, but you’ve tried to take care of orchids before only to watch them wilt, droop, turn yellow, and die. So what do you do? Just follow these easy steps, stay patient, and remember—orchids are a surprisingly hearty species: they grow on the sides of trees, on rocks, and often subsist on very little sunshine and a bit of monkey urine (no joke!). So you can do this.

Water weakly, weekly.

Your orchid needs water. But how much and how often is a mystery to most. Orchids thrive in humid environments and tropical temperatures. For those of us who don’t live in a greenhouse or a tropical rainforest, that means adjusting your orchid to suit you a bit. So, check the media (what the orchid sits in, the stuff it’s planted in). If it’s mossy, you only use a few tablespoons. Drain all the water out of the bottom of the orchid, and check with your finger by placing it an inch down into the media. Feel moist? Don’t water. Feel dry? Hit it with just a little. If your orchid is in a mulch-type media, you’ll need to water a bit more often, but once a week is usually pretty good.

Here comes the sun.

Orchids do best in south-facing windows. And while they like sunshine, they don’t like direct sunshine. That can mean keeping your orchid a few feet from the windowsill vs. right in the window.

Orchids bloom, and then they don’t. Don’t panic.

Your orchid will go through a dormant phase like many plants, meaning it won’t always offer wonderful blooms. But don’t throw it away when it’s done blooming. It’s time for a quick prune. This is a healthy-looking orchid THAT DOESN’T NEED PRUNING. But it shows you where to prune when it’s ready, after your blooms disappear. When that happens, you’ll note the healthy green color disappearing, so you cut just above the last healthy (green, plump) “node” or where you can see a small segment. That’s it. Just keep watering and waiting; with some patience, your orchid will reward you.

Photo credit: www.bklynorchids.com

Orchids want relationships.

Yes, you heard that correctly, your orchid wants a relationship with you. As such, they’ll require patience, consistency, and a bit of nuance. You’ll have to learn how much sunshine, how much water, and when to prune by working together. But like any relationship, when your orchid blooms, it seems like the world’s a slightly happier place.

By Jack Becker

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