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Orchids: Expert tips on potting, watering and blooming success

Widely regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful plants, orchids are prized for their delicate and unusual blooms. Whether they are displayed individually or in groupings, these gorgeous flowers brighten our homes, offices and studios. They often are used in arrangements, bouquets and boutonnieres to make occasions like weddings and school dances even more special. During the summer, they can be placed outside under cover of shade and thrive in the Mississippi humidity.


Tropical plants, orchids grow wild in many parts of the world and are coveted for their exotic appearance. The theory that they are hard to grow in our area is incorrect. In fact, a thriving Gulf Coast Orchid Society conducts monthly meetings and holds an annual show in Gauthier.


Growing orchids can be a rewarding experience. Here are some general tips to get you started:

  1. Choose the right type of orchid: Some orchids are easier to grow than others. Cattleya, phalaenopsis and paphiopedilum orchids are among the easiest to grow and are recommended for most beginner gardeners and orchid growers.
  2. Pot properly: Orchids need a loose, porous potting mix that allows for good drainage and air circulation. Many people use bark chips, sphagnum moss, coconut husks, charcoal, perlite and even Styrofoam pellets as potting mix, often in combination.
  3. Provide the right environment: Orchids thrive in bright, indirect light and high humidity. Avoid direct sunlight, which can scorch the leaves. Keep the temperature between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and between 55 and 65 degrees at night.
  4. Don’t overwater: Orchids need to be watered once a week; make sure to let the soil dry out between waterings. Overwatering can lead to root rot, which can kill the plant.
  5. Fertilize: Use a water-soluble fertilizer with high nitrogen once a month during the growing season. Some growers suggest using a well-balanced fertilizer at one-quarter strength at each watering.
  6. Prune and repot: Cut back the stem after the flowers fade, and repot every two to three years.

Orchids are exotic plants that create beautiful blooms. The phalaenopsis orchid, also known as the moth orchid, is the most popular variety, but there are many different species. With the right care, most orchids bloom at least once per year.

Every orchid species has slightly different needs, but the variables are all the same: light, temperature, water, potting material and humidity. By adjusting the environment to accommodate your species of orchid and providing a few seasonal triggers, you can get your plants to bloom and thrive.

Written by Darlene Underwood

Darlene Underwood is a Mississippi master gardener, national
accredited flower show judge and Garden Clubs of Mississippi
third vice-president. Reach her at

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