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Are potted orchids hard to keep alive?

Orchids are beautiful and exotic flowers that can add a lovely pop of color to any space. However, they have a reputation for being quite finicky and difficult to keep alive, especially as potted plants. So are orchids really that hard to care for?

Light Requirements

When it comes to light, orchids do have some specific needs. In the wild, most orchids grow on trees under the canopy of diffuse, dappled sunlight. They usually get 10-15 hours of daylight but very little direct sun.

For potted orchids, it’s best to place them near an east or west facing window. A south facing window can work too, provided the light is filtered. Direct hot midday sun will scorch the leaves. If kept too far from a window, orchids won’t bloom.


Overwatering is one of the most common reasons potted orchids die. Their roots need a lot of air circulation and can easily rot if kept too wet.

Water once a week at most, letting the potting media dry out slightly between waterings. The roots should be a light silvery green, not dark and mushy. Add just enough water so it drains from the bottom, avoiding water sitting in the saucer or pot.


Most household temperatures work well for orchids, ideally 65-85°F during the day and 55-65°F at night. Avoid cold drafts and sudden temperature swings.


Humidity is very important for orchids to thrive. In humid tropical climates, they grow on trees where moisture is abundant. In homes, the air is drier. Use a humidifier near your orchids or place their pots on pebble trays to increase humidity.

Potting Mix

Orchids prefer an airier potting mix compared to most other plants. Quality orchid mixes contain bark chunks, sphagnum moss, perlite or charcoal. Avoid regular potting soil, as it retains too much water.

Repot every 1-2 years in fresh orchid mix, trimming dead roots. Choose a pot with drainage holes, not much bigger than the root mass.


Use a balanced orchid fertilizer or a weak solution of general purpose fertilizer. Fertilize lightly once a month during the growing season. Avoid over-fertilizing, as this can damage the roots.


Remove dead or dying flowers by cutting the stem just above a node. This tidy pruning encourages more blooms. Prune dead roots and leaves as needed.

Common Problems

Here are some common issues you may encounter while growing potted orchids:

  • Limp, wrinkled leaves – Underwatering
  • Yellowing leaves – Overwatering
  • No blooms – Insufficient light
  • Mushy roots – Overwatered
  • Drooping leaves – Under-humid conditions

Tips for Success

Follow these best practices and your orchids should thrive:

  • Provide bright, indirect light.
  • Water thoroughly then allow to dry.
  • Maintain high humidity.
  • Use specialized orchid potting mix.
  • Fertilize lightly.
  • Allow good air movement.


Orchids demand some specific care to look their best, but they don’t have to be difficult. By understanding their preferences for sufficient light, limited watering, humidity and air flow, even beginners can be successful. With the right growing conditions and attentive care, potted orchids can stay healthy and bloom for years to come.