‘It’s important’: Common orchid mistakes to avoid that lead to ‘root rot’

Alan Titchmarsh shares tips for looking after moth orchids

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Orchids are widely considered one of the most beautiful houseplants in the world, and for a good reason—their delicate grace and exotic symmetry make a lovely addition to most decor. While orchids have also earned a negative reputation as being difficult to care for, with the right tips they will be healthy and thriving in no time. Some orchid mistakes can lead to stunted growth or poor flowering, while others can be life-threatening to  orchids. Fortunately, many mistakes are relatively simple to address. 

Gardening experts at BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine have shared the most common mistakes for those growing orchids.

They said: “Tender orchids are among the most popular houseplants to grow, but to keep them flourishing and flowering it’s important that some common mistakes are avoided.

“Moth orchids are arguably the most popular and commonly grown orchids, found everywhere from garden centres to supermarkets. 

“They enjoy a constant temperature of around 18 degrees, so are best grown indoors all year round.

“Other orchids, like dendrobiums, cymbidiums and oncidiums need a minimum evening temperature of 10°C, so can be moved outside in summer to a bright spot out of direct sunlight.”

Keep your orchids healthy by avoiding these common mistakes.

Using the wrong pots

For those growing moth orchids, they will need to be grown in clear containers to allow the green roots to photosynthesise. 

They also prefer shallow squat pots, as their roots don’t like all the moisture retained in deep pots and they just don’t need the depth anyway as their roots spread out, not down.

Dendrobiums and cymbidiums don’t have photosynthetic roots, so can be grown in opaque pots. 

Vandas don’t need any pot at all, and can be grown in empty vases or suspended from wires.

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Re-pot orchids in spring when the roots have filled the pot, this is usually carried out each year.

The experts said: “Don’t let them remain in the same compost for over two years. 

“Don’t overpot orchids as the compost won’t dry out fast enough, leading to root rot.” 

Therefore it is important to choose a pot that is just bigger and always use orchid compost.

Poor watering

Orchids’ roots are very susceptible to root rot, so it’s important that they’re never sitting in water. 

Water orchids by dunking the whole container in water, then draining, or from above and again allow to drain. 

Tepid water is ideal, tepid rainwater even better.

Avoid using ice cold water as it could put the orchid into shock and end up killing it.

The wrong light

Most orchids, including phalaenopsis, dendrobiums and cymbidiums need bright, indirect sunlight, as direct sunlight can scorch the leaves. 

They enjoy high humidity, so it’s worth buying a spray bottle to give them a good mist.

Misting is also a great way to avoid over watering the plant.

Not deadheading

Orchids are grown for their flowers, so it’s essential that they’re deadheaded correctly to encourage more flowers. 

Moth orchids flower multiple times on one stem, so cut off faded flowers just above the next flower bud. 

On other orchids plant owners can cut the old flower stem right to the base.

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