There are nearly 30,000 species of orchids, and legions of loyal fans belong to organizations around the world. These tropical flowers are beautiful to look at and easier to care for than you might think. The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance claims that orchids can go long periods without water because they have thick, spongy roots that absorb moisture. Their central stems contain both female and male reproductive parts, and most are classified as epiphytes – plants that grow without soil.
However, not all orchids are low-maintenance houseplants. To err on the side of caution, PennState Extension suggests two genera: Phalaenopsis (moth orchids) and Paphiopedilum (slipper orchids). Longwood Gardens claims that Phalaenopsis is the most common type of orchid and explains that these plants have dark leaves on either side of their long, tall stems. These leaves are wide and flat, with a horizontal profile. BMC Plant Biology adds that Phalaenopsis flowers can be purple, purple and, in rare cases, blue-violet.
Phalaenopsis does best with warm temperatures of 60 to 85 degrees and low light. They need more humidity than other types of orchids and can thrive in artificial light. Slipper orchids prefer low light, temperatures ranging from 60 to 90 degrees, and windows facing east or west – artificial light is also fine.
The frequency of watering orchids depends on the type of medium in which they are planted. The Chicago Botanic Garden reports that orchids grown in moss hold more moisture and can take a drink every two to three weeks. You will need to water more often those planted in woodchip substrates. If you’re not sure, the American Orchid Society recommends trying the pencil trick: Simply take a sharp pencil and insert it into the foam or wood shavings. If the tip of the pencil darkens, the orchid is not thirsty.