I feared orchids for years, assuming they earned their “hothouse flower” nickname honestly. But actually? Growing orchids is easy if you follow a few simple rules: Give them indirect light, don’t water them too much, and keep them away from vents that blow dry air.
And after they drop their flowers, you can make most orchids bloom again: with a month of temperature fluctuations (10 degrees between day and night is ideal), regular fertilizer, and patience. For full instructions, see How to Make an Orchid Bloom Again.
With tens of thousands of species to choose from, orchids come in an astonishing array of colors and sizes, many with haunting fragrances. Read on for six of our favorite easy-to-grow orchids.
Photography by Mimi Giboin.
Lady’s Slipper Orchid
Botanical Name: Paphiopedilum.
Care and Feeding: Low light, humid air, and bark to grow in will keep a Lady’s Slipper happy. Water once a week (or when the top inch of growing medium feels dry to the touch) and allow the roots to drain fully. If it’s happy, a Lady’s Slipper will bloom every year in late winter.
Design Tip: With dozens of species and hybrids, Lady’s Slipper orchids come in many striking color combinations. Compact enough to sit on the edge of a bathroom sink, a Lady’s Slipper looks lovely in a front of a mirror to reflect the colors on the back of its petals.
Botanical Name: Oncidium
Care and Feeding: Preferring cooler temperatures at night, oncidiums are happy on a windowsill away from heating vents (if the sun is too bright, shield the plant with a gauzy fabric shade). Monitor its happiness by the state of its stalks; if they stop looking plump and firm at the base, give an oncidium more water.
Design Tip: Graceful, arching stalks of flowers can be supported with rigid whip grass, which blends in nearly invisibly with the flowering stems.
Botanical Name: Miltoniopsis
Care and Feeding: This orchid enjoys being misted daily; its flat-faced flowers earned it the nickname Pansy Orchid. Another nickname it deserves is Goldilocks; don’t let it get either too dry or too wet or it will go into decline.
Design Tip: Velvety, vividly colored petals make this a showstopper. A quiet backdrop will play up its colorful beauty.
Botanical Name: Phalaenopsis
Care and Feeding: Give a moth orchid bright, indirect light (a north-facing window might not be sunny enough), but to avoid burning it, cover a western or southern exposure with a gauzy curtain to filter hot rays. Expect a flowering phalaenopsis to stay in bloom for two or more months.
Design Tip: While a single potted phalaenopsis is lovely, white moth orchids look dramatic en masse; group three in a single container for an eye-catching floral arrangements.
Sharry Baby Orchid
Botanical Name: Oncidium ‘Sharry Baby’
Care and Feeding: Keep it in filtered light (harsh sunlight can burn its leaves) in moderate humidity. Fertilize ‘Sharry Baby’ lightly and consistently to encourage growth.
Design Tip: With flowering stalks that can reach dramatic lengths of up to four feet, ‘Sharry Baby’ has the same visual impact as a large-leafed houseplant.
Botanical Name: Doritaenopsis x Phalaenopsis ‘Spirit’
Care and Feeding: This orchid prefers high humidity, making it a good choice to live in a bathroom (but be sure to give it good air circulation). Fertilize it every second time you water it with a half-strength dilute.
Design Tip: Choose a plant with a strongly arched flower stalk for a graceful display.
For more of our favorite houseplants, see our curated guide to Houseplants 101 and:
- Orchids: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design
- 9 Best Indoor Plants for Low Light
- The Orchid that Owned Me
- How to Make an Orchid Bloom Again
Finally, get more ideas on how to successfully plant, grow, and care for orchid with our Orchid: A Field Guide.
Finally, get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various houseplants with our Houseplants: A Field Guide.
Interested in other tropical plants for your garden or indoor space? Get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various tropical plants with our Tropical Plants: A Field Guide.