Orchids have a rather sultry place in the language of flowers, but that’s not the only reason they’re in high demand.
Unlike most popular garden and indoor plants, orchids aren’t a species or even a genus, but an entire family of plants called Orchidacaea can vary in appearance and care needs.
One of the genera in this vast family is called Phalaenopsisbut the plants in this genus are better known as moth orchids.
Most orchids, consisting of around 70 species, are beautiful epiphytes hailing from Southeastern Asia and Australia.
The good news is that they’re pretty easy to care for once you know a couple of simple tricks, and proper watering is perhaps the most important of these.
How To Water Your Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid Correctly?
The best method for watering a moth orchid is the soak-and-dry technique.
However, it’s important to understand why watering using the traditional calendar method is never a good idea.
The Unseen Dangers Of Improper Watering
Usually, people wait for the leaves to change color before wondering if they’ve been overwatering or underwatering their plant.
Still, by this point, a lot of damage could already be done.
One of the biggest risks is root rot, which can be caused by bacterial and fungal strains.
Another risk is infestations or infections, which often go hand-in-hand.
Fungal growth in soggy soil will attract fungus moths, while spider mites are most often attracted to plants with low humidity and drier soil.
Aphids, mealybugs, and scale leave behind honeydew, which is an undigested sap plant that can attract sooty mold and powdery mildew.
One other important disease that doesn’t get enough attention is edema.
Picture how you get wrinkly in the bath, then imagine if your skin wasn’t that pliable.
Edema is a blistering effect caused by plant cells swelling with excess water to the point they literally burst.
These blisters will also burst, leaving scarred wounds that can easily turn necrotic.
Why You Should Never Use A Calendar?
As the famous saying goes, “Let the rabbits wear glasses!” because plants are more like humans than we like to give them credit for.
They are capable of responding to stimuli and, in some cases, even feeling pain, but they have other functions most people have never heard of.
One of these is transpiration, a process similar to sweating that plants use to increase the humidity around them.
This function is so important that more than 97% percent of a plant’s water intake is used for this purpose.
But what does this have to do with watering on a schedule?
You drink as much as you need when you need it, and plants are the same.
When a plant is in comfortable humidity levels, they don’t need to transpire as much, which means they drink less.
Temperature, direct sunlight, and humidity can also affect how fast the soil dries out, which can make the plant need water more or less often.
Using the calendar method on a plant is like drinking a bottle of water every time your watch goes off.
Try it for a day and see how often you’re getting too much or too little water, then think about how your orchid must feel under those conditions.
Benefits Of The Soak-And-Dry Method
A few good alternatives to the calendar method actually work, and the soak and dry method is arguably king among them.
This method works for most plants and can be used on indoor and outdoor specimens with equal confidence.
This confidence is because you’re letting the soil itself tell you when it needs more water and when it has enough through simple signs that are easy to master.
Since the soil is where the plant gets its water, it’s like checking a thermos to see if it needs refilled (and knowing when to stop using the same basic observations).
The Finger Trick
One of the easiest ways to check soil dryness without resorting to fancy tools is to use your finger.
Here are the tips you can follow:
- Stick it straight down, and if it’s dry 1” inch down (around the first knuckle on an average-sized adult hand), it’s time to water.
- If you have smaller hands or a child wants to help water, you can just put the finger beside a ruler to find out where 1” inch is.
- If you can’t tell the dampness from touch alone, pull your finger back out and look for any sticking soil.
Dry soil won’t stick, so this is an easy way to tell if it’s damp or not.
A variation of the finger method also exists, which can be easier for people with nerve damage or other problems that interfere with the finger trick.
Here’s how you can do it:
- Mark a popsicle stick or bamboo chopstick and stick it in the soil.
- Leave it there for 20 minutes, and when you pull it out, it will be darker where moisture was present.
Using The Soak And Dry Method
A small watering can work well, but you can use a cup or any other container to distribute water and shouldn’t worry about measuring the amount going into that container.
When possible, use natural rainwater or distilled water (sometimes marketed as baby water) at room temperature to get the best results.
If this is your first time using the technique, you might have the urge to pour too much water at once, and this is the real secret to this method.
When you begin pouring, the soil should soak up the water immediately, and if it isn’t, you need to ease up a little.
It won’t matter if you’re pouring too lightly, as this means you might have to make a couple of extra passes before it’s time to stop.
Once you’ve done his method a few times, the correct rate will be saved into muscle memory, so don’t worry if it takes a little effort on the first try.
Take your time, making sure you have even coverage (for a pot, this is easy, but for a garden specimen, aim for a radius of around 6” inches from the plant to ensure good root coverage).
Avoid getting the stem or foliage wet, which can lead to an increased risk of sunburn or fungal infection.
Remember, it’s overcast when it rains. The water usually has a chance to evaporate before the sun gets intense again, so watering your plant by hand has to follow different rules than rain exposure.
Stop watering when the soil is no longer absorbing as fast as you’re pouring, as this is a sign the ground or potting mix is saturated.
You can also know when to stop for potted plants if you see moisture beginning to seep from the drainage holes.