Adopting orchids: what to do when you bring them home

Sometimes in this hobby, you are given an orchid to care for on behalf of someone else. Recently, two orchids have been adopted into my collection because a relative of mine is no longer able to care for them.

What do you do then, once you have brought them home with you?

The first thing to do (ideally before you bring them home) is to research their care needs. I have a new Dendrobium Phalaenopsis and an Oncidium type orchid, both of which I have yet to identify because they are not in bloom right now. Fortunately, I’ve been able to see them in their previous environment and work out what care needs they have. The main points to check out are:-

  • Humidity – how much humidity do these orchids prefer to have?
  • Light – will they cope with high light, or do they like bright shade?
  • Watering – does the orchid like to be kept in media that is on the dry side, or would it rather be kept moist?
  • Temperature – what temperature ranges can the orchid tolerate?
  • Ventilation – how much ventilation does the orchid prefer?
  • Fertiliser – do they like higher levels of feed, or not?
  • Media – what growing media does it do best in?

Some of these points will not be immediately obvious, so you will be relying on the orchid to tell you what it needs. I’ve been working with the Oncidium orchid for a good hour this morning, so I’ll share with you what I did with this one.

The Oncidium type orchid has some wrinkled leaves which suggests that the humidity in its previous home was too low (easily done as the heating was on 25c-30c most of the year!) I can draw a reasonable assumption the orchid requires between 40-60% humidity in order to prevent further wrinkling. She is in a clear plastic pot, making it easy for me to see the health of the roots – I’m really pleased that she is filling the pot! Her leaves are damaged in places with rips in them, and they are quite dusty. This will not help her with transpiration.

One uncertainty with this orchid is light levels. Experience tells me that she will not tolerate high light levels, so she will need to be placed somewhere with bright shade. If she shows signs that she needs more or less light, she will need to be moved to a different location.

The next step, for me, was to check the overall health of the plant. How much dead, decaying or diseased tissue is on the orchid? Are there dead flower spikes that need removing? Do the leaves need cleaning because they are covered in a layer of dust? This morning, I have allowed the orchid to soak in a weak fertiliser solution to give her a bit of a boost. I cleaned all of her leaves with a mild soapy solution and clean cloth, then cut away all dead or damaged leaves. For the sake of aesthetics, I cut the tips of the leaf into a tapered edge to help make it look a little more natural.

Sometimes the orchid can be in such a poor state that there are very few roots drawing up moisture to sustain the plant. I have a post about promoting orchid roots, which you can read here.

After this, I check for pests and diseases. Fortunately, I can see no signs of bugs living on this orchid or in its pot, but this does not mean that they aren’t there. Both of these orchids will be separated from the rest of my collection for at least a month, until I am satisfied that there are no pests happily chewing away on them.

Next, I look at the condition of the media. With these two, I know they were re-potted last year (because I did it for my relative), so the media should be in good condition for a little while longer. I will add these to my notes, so that I can keep a check on when they need to be re-potted. If I did not know when they were last re-potted, they would be given a treatment of hydrogen peroxide 3% and fresh media to limit the chances of rots, disease or pests from affecting their roots. I’ve also washed out her ceramic pot she came with.

The final step with this orchid was to spritz the leaves with a fine mist sprayer, to increase the humidity and moisture around the plant. There are some orchid growers who do not use a bottle sprayer with their orchids. I personally think it benefits my Oncidium type orchids and they are the only ones who have this treatment.


She is now set up in my living room with enough bright shade to keep her happy, and looks in much better condition. I’m hopeful that she will bloom this year as there appears to be some maturing pseudo-bulbs developing – time will tell.

Happy growing!



6 thoughts on “Adopting orchids: what to do when you bring them home”

  1. I have a phal orchid who is in full water culture and currently putting out new roots. She has been with me for about a year. I have always been afraid of crown rot and thus I haven’t been brave enough to try giving her a “bath” because her lower two leaves are wrinkly and in addition to all her leaves being slightly dusty. I’m not exactly sure if washing her will help rejuvenate her wrinkly parts. How would you recommend drying her to ensure no moisture stays behind? Flipping her upside down on a towel?


    1. I think it might be best for me to address this question by creating a blog post about it. Would this help? Then I can talk about reducing stem / crown rot and how to help dry your orchid off in a bit more detail than I am able to in a comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Also, I forgot to mention my phal is a mini orchid. I don’t know if that makes the plant slightly different in care from regular sized phal orchids but I thought to mention this just in case.


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