Orchids – Indoor plants – orchid care – how to care for orchids


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Description and origins

The orchids are mostly endemic to the tropical and subtropical areas of the Asian and American continents. Some species, almost two hundred, are found, however, in the spontaneous state also in Italy, especially in the hilly and mountainous areas.

Those from temperate and warm habitats are almost all epiphytes: they cling with their roots to other plants, which only serve as support.

The others, of altitude, are, on the contrary, called “terricolous”, because they sink the roots in the soil.

The leaves are in any case whole, almost always oval or ribbon-like, arranged alternately. Their consistency is sometimes fleshy, since they also serve as a reserve of liquids and nutrients. In other cases, this task is instead performed by the pseudobulbs at the base, ovoid or cylindrical in shape.

The shape of the flowers is typical and very recognizable: in the upper part there are three sepals, in the lower one three petals. The central one, called labellum, varies in shape and colour according to the species and cultivars and has the function of attracting pollinating insects.

The Roots, in the epiphytic and saprophidic species, are aerial and often fleshy. On their surface there is a thin layer called velamen, whose task is the absorption of the humidity of the air and of the surfaces to which they are anchored.

As we have said, however, there are also terrestrial species, such as those that can be found spontaneously in Europe. In this case, the underground apparatus is composed of bulbs or rhizotubers.







 Easy to difficult


 From 10 to 60 cm

Water requirements


Ambient humidity



 Every 15 days

Minimum temperature

 Usually 10°C, much depends on the species


 Very bright, no direct light


 Division, keiki withdrawal


 Aphids, snails, cochineal

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How to treat orchids

ghiaccio e orchideeOrchids are plants native to totally different climates from ours, which usually live in tropical climates where temperatures are always high and humidity is high. Cultivation in Italy is possible but only by keeping these plants in an apartment during the coldest months. The minimum growth temperatures for orchids in fact must be at least 18-20 ° C and for this reason should be kept warm during the winter months.

Orchids are also demanding plants in terms of humidity and to take the best care of them we must remember to keep a high humidity around the plant with frequent vaporization of the leaves and stem. Another important factor for these plants is light as they need light but never direct light and prefer diffused light.

In this in-depth analysis we will deal one by one with all the fundamental aspects for the Orchid care analyzing the different aspects that these plants require for proper cultivation.

Orchids in apartment

orchidea phalenospisThe genus of the orchids counts thousands of species, spread practically all over the world; thinking of the orchids, the first flowers we are thinking of are those of the tropical species, but there are not only those; many orchids live spontaneously also in the European woods and pastures, and can be seen in flower usually in the spring months.

Obviously native species are not suitable for cultivation in apartments, are more suitable for the garden, but are often protected species, so we will have to be content to admire the flowers immersed in their natural habitat.

The most suitable orchids to be grown in apartments are the tropical species, which can be better adapted to the warm climate throughout the year.

Which species

On the market, as plants or even as cut flowers, you can more easily find 3 species of orchid: phalaenopsis, dendrobium and cymbidium .

The first two species are warm-loving orchids; the Cymbidiums, on the other hand, are orchids that can be grown in the garden without fear of slight frosts; in the northern regions it would be better to place them in a protected place during the winter months. The cultivation of Cymbidium in apartment leads to the absence of flowers, and to a slow deterioration of the plants, which tend to produce scarce foliage of dull color and to be easy prey to parasites of various kinds.

So, if we buy a plant of Cymbidium, we try to set it in the open air, perhaps on a terrace, so that we can enjoy the flowers and healthy and lush plants over the years.

Apartment species

Phalaenopsis and dendrobium are the most common species, but even in a small nursery we can find many species of orchid of tropical origin, definitely not suitable to be cultivated in the garden. Each species obviously has different needs, and if we are passionate about these magnificent flowers we will soon learn to inform us every time a new specimen finds its place in our collection.

If you want to cultivate many tropical orchids it is the case that you have a terrarium or a small greenhouse, in which to maintain humidity and temperatures suitable for the growth of these beautiful plants.

If you just want to grow one or two orchids as indoor plants, the advice is definitely to devote precisely to the phalaenopsis, which among the various species seem to be those that best suit the climate in the house. Also the dendrobium, the cattleye and the cambria can be cultivated in apartment, often with repeated blooms and good successes of cultivation.





Other characteristics/ climatic needs

Cold greenhouse orchids


Ribbon-like leaves

Large flowers with a waxy consistency

Very simple cultivation

Dendrobium Nobile

Bamboo shaped stems with alternate leaves and long pseudobulbs

Large multicoloured flowers, up to 8 cm in diameter

It blooms in winter.

Delicate because it requires specific temperature changes


Nithyform leaves

Small golden or brown flowers

Between 10 and 25°C

Tempered greenhouse orchids


Ribbon-like leaves, very decorative

The labellum is similar to a pocket

Simple cultivation if you have the right temperatures


Thick and leathery leaves

Very large, lasting almost a month.

Very colorful

Medium difficulty


Thin leaves light green

Flower similar to the purple of thought

Delicate cultivation, very frequent root and collar rottenness

Hot greenhouse orchids


Ribbon-like leaves, very long

Diameter up to 15 cm, beautiful in blue and fuchsia

Quite difficult cultivation


Thick and rounded leaves

Large butterfly-shaped flowers, in many colors

Very simple hybrids.

The most common and widespread in the apartments

Light for orchids

orchidea dendrobium Even if each species of orchid has specific needs, which depend on the place of origin of the species present in nature, we can indicate general rules for plants that are recommended as apartment species.

One of the fundamental elements is light; in fact most tropical orchids live in well-lit places, but hardly receive direct sunlight; the ideal is to place them near a window, but away from sources of heat or draughts; so it is advisable to keep the pots of the orchids in the brightest areas of the house, so that they can enjoy a good amount of light without being burnt by direct sunlight, especially during the summer months we protect the plants from direct sunlight, and if we move them outdoors remember to repair them, especially during the hottest hours of the day.

In any case, let’s avoid placing our orchid in a dark or dark place, because this would lead the plant not to produce flowers and to develop poorly or not at all the roots and foliage.

If we have decided instead to cultivate a deciduous species, let’s remember to place the pot in a not very bright place during the resting period of the plant, that is when it does not have vegetation.

Almost all of them require a very bright exposure, but the direct sun must be avoided, especially from mid spring to autumn. In the house, a room with a window to the south is ideal, possibly screened with a light-coloured curtain. In the summer, outside, we can place them under a deciduous tree or under a pergola.


annaffiare orchidee Most of the orchids that can be grown in apartments are of tropical origin, therefore they are adapted to the warm and humid climate of the tropics, with frequent and slight rainfall and almost no sudden changes in temperature. Therefore, they prefer a climate of warm cultivation, with average temperatures of about 20-25 ° C, throughout the year.

Watering must be very frequent, but avoiding soaking the substrate: every 3-5 days we moisten the soil with demineralized water at room temperature.

The password is high ambient humidity This type of humidity is not only given by watering, but depends on the amount of water in the environment; for a correct development of the orchids and to promote flowering, the ambient humidity must be high enough; to obtain a good ambient humidity, it is advisable to vaporize the leaves of the orchids often, using demineralized water.

During the summer heat periods and even when the heating or air conditioning system is active, the climate in the apartment tends to be very dry, we can overcome this problem by placing a humidifier near our orchids .

Another valid method to increase the amount of water dispersed in the air is to place the pots of orchids in a tray filled with pebbles or expanded clay; we will always keep the tray full of water, up to at least half a centimeter from the pot of orchids, so as not to wet the soil, in this way the water in the tray evaporating will maintain high ambient humidity.

How to water orchids

Come annaffiare le orchidee As written in the previous paragraph, orchids are plants that demand heat and humidity. Ambient humidity and humidity at the root level. If the humidity at the root level can be easier to obtain (just drown the roots in the water at the time of need), for the ambient humidity things get complicated because they need a whole series of measures that we have just seen.

However, these measures serve precisely to water the plant, as the orchids absorb water mainly from the atmosphere.

For a correct watering of orchids, therefore, it is necessary to adopt all the measures seen in the previous paragraph, because while they represent good practices for the cultivation of these plants, they are actually essential to ensure the plant a good dose of the water it needs.

Fertilizer and soil

Most tropical orchids are epiphytes, that is, they do not sink their roots in the soil, but live between the intersections of the branches of tall trees, or between the rocks, where decomposed or decaying materials are deposited; therefore they prefer very soft and incoherent soils In the nursery, this type of substrate is imitated by mixing pieces of bark with peat or sphagnum, pieces of coconut fibre, or even polystyrene.

Usually orchids are not repotted regularly but move them into a larger container only when the roots come out abundantly, or divide the heads to place them in different pots and thus obtain two specimens of the same plant.

Orchids also need to be fertilised, but in very limited quantities; usually fertilize throughout the year, every 12-15 days but using a specific fertilizer and in very small quantities, so that there are no excessive amounts of mineral salts inside the water of the watering.

Orchids cannot get nutrients from the substrate. They must therefore be helped with synthetic fertilizers, mostly liquid or water-soluble.

Usually, during the vegetative restart, a product in which the nitrogen is predominant is administered. From mid spring to autumn, however, a more balanced formulation will be chosen. In autumn and winter it is important to prefer a greater administration of potassium, so that the plant is stimulated, at the end of winter, to emit flower stems.

Almost all of them require a practically inert substrate. Commonly used materials are: pine bark (specially prepared), charcoal, expanded clay, agri-perlite, polystyrene, rock wool. If you want to increase the humidity slightly, you can add some sphagnum.

Most cultivated orchids

cattleya Orchids can be considered to all intents and purposes cosmopolitan plants because, in their different species, they are found everywhere on our planet, with the sole exception of deserts and areas constantly covered by ice.

The most decorative and consequently widespread in cultivation, however, are mostly native to tropical areas. Tens of thousands of hybrids have been obtained from the 25000 species present in nature.

Their specific needs are determined by the natural environments from which their ancestors derive: in general, they grow vigorously when temperatures are between 15 and 25 °C.

These are the most common species:

– The cattleya From Central and South America, they have impressive and often perfumed flowers. They must grow with temperatures between 16 and 25°C and a high level of humidity in the air (at least 70%).

– I cymbidium endemic to the highlands of the Himalayas and Australia, are considered to all intents and purposes houseplants. In some areas of our country, in the Centre-South and on the coasts, they can, however, be utilized also as outdoor specimens, in open ground or in pot. They can bear a minimum temperature of 4°C, especially if little prolonged. It is however important to keep them in autumn for about a month at about 10°C, in order to induce the production of flower stems.

The emission may last several months and repeat in the same year. The corollas are very durable and colourful (especially in hybrids).

– The oncidium require temperatures between 10 and 25°C and have corollas with temperatures between yellow, bronze and brown

– I dendrobium come from Asia, Australia and New Zealand. The type called “Nobile” prefers cool environments, especially during the night hours. Those, on the contrary, known as “phalaenopsis”, are less demanding in terms of sudden changes in temperature and flower easily even without being subjected to them. They are therefore very suitable for cultivation as indoor plants.

– The Miltonia come from the Andean regions. They adapt well to a mild climate, with temperatures between 12 and 25 °C. They bloom between summer and autumn. They have very showy and colourful corollas.

– The Vanda come from tropical Asia, in particular from the forests of Burma. They want temperatures between 16°C and 30°C. The flowers are large and very brightly coloured (including blue). Some have an excellent and intense scent.

Where to grow orchids

coltivare le orchidee Almost all orchids are grown in pots, in our country, with the exception of cymbidiums which, in some areas, can be kept outside, in a sheltered position.

A nice alternative for epiphytes is the creation of a so-called “raft”. For its creation, branches or portions of cork are used, to which the plant can cling, just like it would cling in its natural environment. You can create very elegant compositions and also rather simple to maintain.

They should almost always be kept indoors (or, in summer, on the veranda or in a sheltered area of the garden). However, they must be protected from draughts, especially when cold. The proximity of heat sources, which cause a too dry environment, should also be avoided.

Irrigation and humidity

To always have beautiful plants and avoid the onset of rottenness, it is advisable to water only when the roots are silvery. You can choose to distribute the water from above or do so by soaking the pot for at least half in the liquid (letting it drain well for at least the whole night). The second method, if well executed, avoids the onset of rottenness at the base of the leaves (where the water often settles).

In order to remain healthy, however, the plants also need a lot of ambient humidity. It must always increase as temperatures rise. To achieve this, the leaves can be sprayed several times a day or placed in the area of subpots full of expanded clay and water.

For all these operations it is very important to use only demineralised or rainwater. Limestone (and other salts) can, in the long run, seriously damage both the leaves and the root system of orchids.

How to induce flowering

orchidee In order to obtain a new flowering it is almost always necessary to expose the plants for a period of time to a drop in temperatures, especially at night. This simulates the winter they would have experienced in their natural environment and, at the end, the normal vegetative recovery with the consequent production of flowers. Each species requires adequate temperatures and timing: it is therefore necessary to obtain in-depth information.


Seed propagation can only be carried out by professionals or experts.

However, it is possible to operate, depending on the species, by division of the pseudobulbs or by taking the suckers, called also keiki.

Once the part of the plant necessary for reproduction has been taken, repotting must be carried out. To repot, you will need to find suitable soil, available at any nursery or garden center. The perfect soil for orchids is an organic substrate rich in plant components such as bark and wood, necessary to give the roots of these plants the essential ventilation and support necessary for their growth.

The new plants should be positioned trying to put the plant collar not too low or too high compared to the top of the pot.

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