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Do Orchids Need Sunlight? 5 Things to Consider

Naturally, sunlight is essential for orchids, especially when we’re talking about orchids grown indoors. But it’s not enough to say that orchids need sunlight. It’s also important to determine what type and how much sunlight an orchid needs.

I will discuss these aspects and also how you can ensure that your orchid gets the optimal amount of sunlight even indoors.

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Plant Index

How Much Sun Does an Orchid Need?

First, it’s important to clear up that orchids need indirect light. These tropical plants grow under the canopy of trees, receiving dissipated light and not direct light.

In fact, leaving your orchid out in direct light, even indoors, will cause leaf burn, which will irreversibly damage your orchid.

There’s a bit of a debate going on about the actual number of hours that orchids should receive sunlight. Some experts argue that you should aim for 14 to 16 hours of sunlight per day, others agree on a minimum of 8 hours of sunlight per day.

Light requirements are also different for different orchid varieties, so your best bet is to determine the exact light requirements of your orchid.

To do so, you only need to monitor the color and general health of the leaves. For example, the leaves of Phalaenopsis orchids should be bright green to medium green in color.

If the leaves turn to a dark green, your orchid is getting too little light. If leaves turn pale or you notice brown patches, chances are that your orchid is getting blasted by direct light.

Growing under the canopy of trees, orchids don’t get much direct light. All light is filtered, so it’s understandable that they’re sensitive when it comes to direct light exposure.

My Phalaenopsis orchid doesn’t mind a bit of gentle morning sun or late afternoon sun, but that’s definitely less than 1-2 hours of direct sun per day.

Can Orchids Live Without Sunlight?

While there are orchid varieties that can thrive even in low light conditions — the Paphiopedilum comes to mind — they don’t do well if deprived of sunlight. But they do well under artificial LED grow lights, however.

Therefore, if your home is particularly deficient in natural sunlight, I encourage you to invest in LED grow lights, especially that there are several tabletop models that do a great job at keeping your orchid happy.

Do Orchids Need Sunlight to Bloom?

Dim light conditions will produce deep green leaves and no blooms on your orchid. Which kind of defeats the whole purpose of growing orchids in the first place, seeing how many of us keep them around for their amazing blooms.

But when does your orchid need the sunlight? During the blooming process itself? Not really. According to the American Orchid Society, adequate sunlight is needed throughout the growing stage of your orchid so it can have the energy to produce blooms when the time comes.

Seeing how many orchids will bloom in autumn-winter, when the duration of days, and by extension daylight, is reduced, it’s all the more important that the plant gets adequate lighting in the entire period before blooming.

Can Orchids Grow Only with Artificial Light?

With today’s full spectrum LED grow light, you can grow orchids under artificial light. While these grow lights can be a bit expensive, they provide the adequate amount of blue and red light needed for the growing and blooming of your orchids.

There are other artificial lights like fluorescent and HID, but it seems LED grow lights have become the gold standard in artificial grow lights.

There are a host of advantages associated with growing orchids (or even other plants) under artificial lights including the ability to control how many hours of light they can receive per day.

Some LED grow systems even have built-in automatic timers that switch the lights off at the end of the day, then switch them back on in the morning to follow the natural day-night light conditions.

Others will also feature a thermostat and a humidity monitor, helping you to monitor the temperature around your plant and the humidity levels.

Whether you use artificial lights to supplement the amount of light your orchid gets indoors, or use them exclusively in a room with no natural light source, you can rest assured that your orchids will thrive under full spectrum LED grow lights as well.

Where Should You Place Orchids Indoors?

You may have already mentally picked out the spot for orchid, but I advise you reassess based on the following tips, just to see if it’s really the best spot for your orchid:

  • Pick a bright room for your orchid and preferably place the plant on some sort of stand, table, desk or even a windowsill
  • Pick a room where you know the orchid is not exposed to extreme temperatures, temperature fluctuations, excessive temperatures from heating vents or cold drafts
  • If you decide to keep your orchid near a window, pick a north-facing or east-facing window
  • Keep a few feet away from south-facing or west-facing windows, and make sure there are curtains on the windows to dissipate direct light
  • Monitor leaves for changes in color and make adjustments accordingly

As I mentioned, the leaves on your orchid will change color depending on how much or how little light they will get. Do some research on what color is normal for the specific variety you have.

Usually, very pale leaves with leaf burn marks signal too much direct light, while deep green colors signal the lack of sufficient light.

Wrapping Up

Like most houseplants, orchids too need enough light to thrive. Without sufficient light, your orchid may fail to bloom, and its leaves will change their color, usually going darker.

Luckily, it’s not that difficult to meet orchid light requirements, especially if you don’t mind reaching for artificial lights when they’re needed.

Make sure you understand what your orchid variety needs in terms of lighting since not all orchids have the same requirements.

If despite your best efforts in finding your orchid a good location in your home, your orchid is not receiving enough light, don’t hesitate to supplement their lighting with artificial LED grow lights.

Posted in Houseplants, Orchids - Updated: December 7, 2020

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