Part 3 Watering your orchids

Dendrobium sp

How much water to give an orchid is a common question. In general orchids are drought tolerant because of a combination of thick cell walls, succulent leaves; a mechanism called CAM, sunken stomata, pseudobulbs and thick fleshy roots. 

I will explain drought tolerance as it relates to orchids better because it’s a tad confusing and adds to the dilemma that new growers have about how much to water.  

Tropical epiphyte orchids in the wild, never get overwatered because they live on tree bark (or sometimes rocks) which dry out quickly.  This is why the preferred medium for growing these orchids is in bark or on mounts.  

Recent studies have shown that an orchids roots (velamen radium) uptake water and nutrients very quickly making the most of sudden torrential downpours.  The roots stay hydrated for several hours.  You can watch this when you’re watering your plants.  The water droplets stick to the roots rather than run off.

Can you overwater your orchids? Yes. But, it’s a little harder if you grow them in fast draining media, or mount them.  But be aware, media such as bark eventually breaks down and then can stay wet.  It’s a fine line between under and overwatering.

Again study the environment where the orchid originates to understand its needs.  If this is a tropical orchid then expect that there will be a dry season (winter in Australia) and plenty of rain, humidity and heat in the monsoon season, so plenty of water in summer.  

Get yourself a spray bottle for spritzing orchid roots and this can be done every day. I also like to add a weak seaweed tonic or banana water to my (rain via a tank) water and use this every other day. This way I get to check on my orchids each day to see if they need a more soaking kind of watering and you can judge this by the dryness of the bark or bedding material, if its crunchy and light then give it a good soaking by submerging the pot or mount in a bucket of water. For those who don’t have the luxury of spritzing orchids every day 🙂 the hose on a fine spray will work.

Remember orchids are good at conserving water but, your plants are living in pots of bark or mounted so its going to be very hard to overwater, except in winter when you need to restrain yourself a little and keep them dry.

Next we will discuss fertilising…..

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