They're not as touchy as you've heard. Here's what to look for and how to care for them.
Orchids are native to every continent except Antarctica. That's good news because it means that for any given setting and environment, there's probably an orchid that will feel at home. These beautiful plants may appear to be fragile and delicate, but they're actually quite durable. In fact, many orchids are even easy to care for. Before you bring one home, though, know what its light and care requirements are so you can give it exactly what it needs.
Here's what to look for when shopping for one:
The showiest orchids come from the humid equatorial regions of the planet, and once you get your plant home, much of your work will consist of approximating its natural environment. Here's what you need to do:
Although orchids enjoy being root-bound, they'll need to be repotted when the potting mix has broken down, usually every two years. Choose a time after the orchid has finished blooming; flowers could fall because of the stress of repotting. Here's how to do it:
1. Remove the plant from the pot, using a kitchen knife to separate the outside of the rooting medium from the pot. (It's a good idea to first dip the knife into alcohol and water to make sure it's sterile.)
2. Remove all the old potting medium from the roots, remove obviously dead roots (they feel soft or hollow) and dunk the root mass in a tub of water to finish cleaning.
3. Select a pot that's only a little bigger than the one the orchid has been in. The pot should just accommodate the root mass. Plastic pots are usually used in nurseries, but terra-cotta pots are a good option because they dry out quickly. Ample drainage holes-preferably in both the bottom and the sides-are desirable.
4. Use fir bark -- never potting soil -- to half-fill the pot, arrange the roots in the pot, and then add the rest of the bark. Tamp to settle.
5. Water so that the water comes to the surface of the pot; let it drain through, and repeat two or three times.