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How Often to Water Orchids?

Phalaenopsis orchids are a splendor to look at and despite their fancy looks, they’re not at all difficult to grow, which only increases their popularity even further.

An improper watering routine, however, can significantly shorten the lifespan of your orchids. If you don’t want to cut your phalaenopsis orchid’s life short, you need to understand its watering needs.

How do you water orchids to avoid their untimely death? And more importantly, how often do orchids need watering to stay healthy?

I’ve created this short guide to watering orchids to answer these questions and provide some additional useful tips about watering orchids.

How to Water Orchids?

Phalaenopsis orchids are epiphytes, which means they don’t need to be rooted in soil and instead hang on to trees, growing under the canopy of trees in tropical regions.

It’s difficult to recreate these conditions in our homes, so you must rely on a potting medium that offers good drainage and aeration.

Preferably, the pot should be transparent to offer light exposure to the roots just as they would have in their natural habitat. The pot must also have drainage holes to allow excess water to escape from the pot.

Ideally, orchids should be watered in the morning to allow the soil to drain until nighttime. You should also focus on watering the soil and avoid watering the plant from above to avoid fungal diseases on the leaves.

Orchids don’t require frequent watering, especially that they are categorized as succulents. Succulents have evolved to store water in their roots, leaves and stems.

If you take a look at the leaves of orchids, you’ll notice they are fleshy and have a shiny, waxy surface. Even though these plants do retain water and do fine even if you miss a watering session here and there, their water retaining capacity isn’t comparable to that of cacti.

Before you water your orchid, I encourage you to check two things first:

  • The color of the exposed roots
  • The dryness of the potting medium

Here’s how checking these two things every time before you water your orchid will prevent overwatering mistakes.

When the potting medium of your orchid starts to dry out, the exposed roots will turn silvery white. When this happens, it’s safe to water your orchid without risking overwatering.

But do check the soil dryness too. If the top inch of soil is still moist, don’t water the plant until the soil dries out a bit.

Therefore, to sum up:

  • Water orchids in the morning to give the soil time to dry out and prevent fungal diseases.
  • Check the color of exposed roots to see if they have turned silvery white, signaling that the roots are not saturated with water.
  • Check the dryness level of the soil.

This means that you’ll need to monitor your phalaenopsis orchid for these things and base your watering decision on your observations.

Many other things will also influence the watering frequency including the size of the plant, the temperature and humidity levels in your home, and light exposure.

How Often to Water Orchids?

This is a question with no straight answer. There are many factors that influence the watering frequency of these plants, so it’s difficult to set up an exact watering schedule that will work for all orchids.

As a guideline, you can start with watering the plant weekly during the growing season and every two weeks during the blooming season.

But don’t take this guideline as scripture, always examine the soil dampness and the roots of the plant to make sure it’s safe to water.

Are You Underwatering Your Orchids?

If your orchids aren’t getting enough water, there will be signs of distress, and you’ll immediately notice these changes if you’re monitoring your orchids.

Signs of underwatering include:

  • Yellow and wilted leaves
  • Bud blast (buds fall off)
  • Drooping, shriveled aspect

If you’ve missed a few watering sessions here and there, your orchid isn’t likely to display these signs. However, going for weeks without water will cause these symptoms to appear.

Watering the plant will usually help it bounce back to good health. If the plant has dried away completely, watering it won’t help.

Are You Overwatering Your Orchid?

Overwatering is a serious problem when it comes to orchids. As the plant saturates with water and the roots sit in a moist environment for prolonged periods, the excess moisture will cause fungal diseases that will lead to rotting.

Signs that you’re overwatering your orchid include:

  • Leaves turning yellow
  • Soft, mushy, dark roots
  • Visible rotting at the base of the plant
  • Bad (rotting) smell

Root rot caused by overwatering is difficult to treat, especially in its advanced stages. If you know that you’ve routinely overwatered your orchid, you may get ahead of the problem by removing the orchid from its current pot and cleaning its roots of soft, dark and mushy roots, keeping only those that are firm and healthy.

After this procedure, you’ll need to transfer the orchid to a fresh pot and withhold watering for a week. If the root damage has gone too far, the plant is no longer salvageable.

Overwatering is easy to avoid if you monitor the plant’s soil and its health. The plant will show signs of overwatering or underwatering that are easy to detect.

It’s always a safer bet to slightly underwater your phalaenopsis orchid than to overwater. Especially that distress caused by underwatering is easier to reverse than damage caused by overwatering.

Conclusion

The answer to How often orchids need to be watered is when they need it, and only when they need it. And when do they need it? When the soil is dry, and the orchid’s roots are turning silvery white.

Setting up your watering routine based on these two parameters (soil dryness and color of roots) will make sure that your orchids will not go without water and will not be overwatered either.

Caring for Phalaenopsis orchids does not pose any other major difficulties on par with the difficulties that may arise from an improper watering schedule.

Updated: April 28, 2020

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