How to care for orchids – expert tips for longer lasting beautiful blooms

Want to know how to get this tropical beauty to thrive? Experts offer their advice on how to care for orchids

potted orchids
(Image credit: Alamy)

Want the best advice on how to care for orchids? This ever-popular tropical plant is renowned for its delicate blooms and the air of calm it imbues. It's a staple in high-end spas and the orchid has a quiet elegance that elevates it from other flower varieties. And if you know how to take care of them, they can be relatively low maintenance and those in pots can last for months. Even cut stems will last longer if you treat them right.

Although available as single stems and in bouquets, orchids are more often bought in pots, as they can thrive well indoors rather than in gardens.  'I like Phalaenopsis and Cymbidium orchids best,' says florist, Judith Blacklock of Judith Blacklock Flower School. 'Potted Phalaenopsis are great and will last up to three months. They will also flower again for those with green fingers.

'As a cut flower, I use the lower flowers for buttonholes and wrist corsages and then the remainder of the stem in hand-tied bouquets. Otherwise, simply place the stems in a vase and add a few large leaves such as Bergen, Hosta or Fats at the base.'

We've pulled together plenty more expert tips to ensure your orchids thrive...

1. Get the light right

Moth orchid

(Image credit: The Stem)

Whether you've opted for a potted orchid or cut stems, this flower likes to have the right amount of light.

'In terms of placement, my orchids are always happy where there is lots of natural light,' says Harriet Parry, floral stylist, and spokesperson for Funnyhowflowersdothat.co.uk (opens in new tab)

'Keep them in a bright place, but out of direct sunlight,' cautions Judith Blacklock. 

'Phalaenopsis, aka moth orchids, are relatively easy to look after,' says James Folger, founder, The Stem (opens in new tab). 'They crave humidity and bright, indirect light, so an east or west-facing bathroom or bedroom is perfect. Unlike many other plants, they release oxygen at night.'

2. Water them correctly

orchids on a stand

(Image credit: Future)

This is where many plant parents can fall down, as not all species have the same requirements when it comes to watering. Knowing what each plant needs is crucial to keeping them alive.

'Water orchids once a week,' says Judith Blacklock (opens in new tab). 'Let water run through them from the tap and leave to fully drain before putting it back in its pot again,' 

'Phalaenopsis orchids are extremely versatile but don’t leave the roots standing in water for long periods of time, as they will most likely rot,' says Malcolm, head grower at Love Orchids (opens in new tab).

'The best way to care for potted orchids is to not overwater,' says Harriet Parry. 'You don't want to saturate them. I like to give their roots a little spritz.'

3. Trim the stems every few days

Most of us expect to trim cut flowers before arranging them, as it helps draw water up the stems, but there is a knack to it.

'Remove your phalaenopsis orchid stems from the water tubes provided and cut them stems at a 45° angle,' says celebrity florist, Larry Walshe of Bloom (opens in new tab). 'Place them in cool water and mist the flowers every few days. Cut orchids should not be kept below 10°C/50°F.'

'For cut orchids to look beautiful for as long as they can, make sure they are kept in clean water and the stems are trimmed every few days,' says floral stylist Harriet Parry. 

'I love Slipper orchids as they have a real character, with lovely colors and patinations. But you can't not love a Phalaenopsis; they are timeless and elegant with a beautiful shape and many blooms per stem.'

4. Feed them and keep away from fruit

potted orchid

(Image credit: Alamy)

Potted orchids need food as well as water, and this is another area where some of us can be a little neglectful.

'Your Phalaenopsis orchid will survive without fertilizer, however, we recommend feeding it once every four weeks if you want it to thrive,' says Malcolm, head grower at Love Orchids. 'A high-potash fertilizer like Tomorite will do the trick. Just be sure to dilute it to a quarter of what it says on the label.'

Much like daffodils, orchids are another flower that does not do well placed near a fruit bowl. Whether potted or cut, its delicate petals react badly to the ethylene gas that ripening fruit emits, so keep them away from each other.

5. Cut the stem to reflower

It's not an urban myth, potted orchids can - and do - reflower according to Malcolm, master grower at Love Orchids. 

'When your orchid drops its flowers, cut back the stem, especially any brown parts. It doesn’t generally matter what height, lower down means a larger bloom but longer to develop. If you cut back when there’s at least one flower left, the stem is active. If it’s too late and it's already dried out, cut near the base of the plant. Any dry shriveled roots can be trimmed too.'

Jacky Parker is a London-based freelance journalist and content creator, specialising in interiors, travel and food. From buying guides and real home case studies to shopping and news pages, she produces a wide range of features for national magazines and SEO content for websites


A long-time contributor to Livingetc, as a member of the team, she regularly reports on the latest trends, speaking to experts and discovering the latest tips. Jacky has also written  for other publications such as Homes and Gardens, Ideal Home, Red, Grand Designs, Sunday Times Style and AD, Country Homes and Interiors and ELLE Decoration.