Tackle the task of growing a dendrobium orchid—you won’t be disappointed. Dendrobium orchids form the second largest group of orchids, boasting well over 1,000 species and countless hybrids. You can find a dendrobium orchid that flowers in nearly any hue, so there’s definitely one to match your favorite color. If pink, purple, orange, brown or green blossoms aren’t your cup of tea, consider classic white dendrobium orchids, which infuse any setting with elegance.
Dendrobium orchids hail from a wide variety of native settings, including tropical cloud forests where they grow as epiphytes on tree limbs high in the forest canopy. Others thrive in environs with strongly alternating wet-dry seasons. Some dendrobium orchids are evergreen, and others are deciduous, losing leaves as winter arrives.
Because the dendrobium orchid group contains so many diverse members, it’s tough to describe a consistent set of growing conditions to suit each dendrobium orchid. The most popular and commonly sold dendrobium orchids share some similar care needs, such as high light to induce flowering. One of the most common reasons dendrobium orchids fail to flower is that plants aren’t receiving strong enough light.
Indoors, tuck your dendrobium orchid near a bright east, south or west facing window. Take care to shade plants during the hottest hours of the day, when sunlight is most intense. In their native habitats, many dendrobium orchids grow attached to deciduous trees. This means that during winter, when leaves fall from trees, the orchids receive brighter sunlight. In winter, maintain high light levels. In the low-light regions of the north, where winter reduces sunlight dramatically, consider using supplemental lighting to encourage growth.
Maintain 50 to 60 percent humidity around dendrobium orchids. Consider running a humidifier or setting plants on a gravel-filled tray. Keep water in the tray at a level that’s just below the gravel surface.
Ideal growing temperatures vary based on dendrobium orchid type. Do your homework to make sure you’re providing just-right conditions to yield strong growth. Many of the most popular types want night temperatures—in winter—in the 45°F to 55°F range.
Keep the orchid potting mix lightly moist while the plant is actively growing. When growth slows, reduce watering. During the plant’s resting season, aim to water just in time to keep the orchid potting mix from drying out. If, at any point during the growing year, you notice that the pseudobulbs appear to be wilting, water.
Most dendrobium orchids grow best in an orchid potting mix that drains well and yet has a capacity to hang onto a touch of moisture. Composted fir bark makes a strong addition to an orchid potting mix, as does peat moss and drainage-enhancing materials, like expanded clay or perlite.
Fertilize dendrobium orchids year-round, unless you have a dendrobium orchid type that goes dormant for part of the year. Otherwise, for regular feedings, use a balanced plant food like 20-20-20, but mix it at half strength.