Growing Orchids In Water: Caring For Orchids Grown In Water

Orchid Growing In A Wall Hanging Glass Vase
water orchid
(Image credit: Gardening Know How)

One of the more collectible plant families are the orchids. Orchids grown in water are a new cultural adventure for serious collectors. Hydroponic orchid growing is also called water culture and may prove to be the solution for an ailing orchid. The method is actually quite easy and fairly foolproof, requiring only an appropriate container, water, sterile tools, and a little patience. Learn how to grow orchids in water with this quick tutorial.

Can I Grow Orchids in Water?

Orchids can be pretty fussy about their growing environment. Soggy or infected media can cause health deterioration and other issues if improperly maintained. Most growers use a bark mixture especially made for the plants, but there is another method that is even more effective and quite surprising…water culture. While you may wonder, "Can I grow orchids in water," this technique is simple enough even for a novice and it may help improve the health of your plant. Orchids are primarily epiphytic, but some are terrestrial. Each variety will have its own media preferences but, on average, any type does well in a good orchid mix. Plants that come directly from a nursery, however, may have their roots wrapped in sphagnum moss. This is good at keeping the roots moist but bad at letting them dry, and can also harbor pathogens. If you see your orchid looking peaky, it may be time to un-pot it and examine the root condition. Visual inspection is the easiest way to determine if the plant has any root or pseudobulb issues. Hydroponic orchid growing may be the solution to a plant that is remaining too wet. It relies upon a rotation consisting of two days of soaking in water and five days of drying out (usually, but each plant is different). This more closely mimics the plant's wild experience and lets roots breathe.

How to Grow Orchids in Water

Orchids grown in water experience what epiphytic forms of the plant might undergo. Epiphytic orchids grow in very little soil and grab much of their moisture out of the air. This means the moisture is consistent, in most cases, but never excessive or boggy. Growing orchids in water provides the plant with a cultural situation that allows just enough moisture during the soaking and then allows the aerial roots to dry to prevent pathogens. Simply un-pot the plant, remove any media (including moss and bark bits) and gently tease the roots out from their tight little tangle. Then rinse the roots well and, using sterile pruners, gently cut away any discolored or rotten material. Your plant is now ready for its water bath. Some growers like to use an anti-fungal powder, hydrogen peroxide, or cinnamon to further clean the roots. This is not necessary in hydroponic orchid growing unless your plant has a serious rot problem. You can place your orchid in any container with enough room for roots to grow, but it is fun to use glass so you can observe the progress of the plant. The container doesn't need to be very deep but high curved sides can help support the plant and keep it from flopping over. Many hydroponic orchid growers also use clay pebbles in the bottom to help support roots and raise the crown from the moisture to prevent rot. The medium might seem to be straightforward – isn't it all just water? There are good and bad types though. Some municipalities treat their water until it is laden with chemicals and can be quite toxic to plants. A better route is using rainwater, or distilled. It is important to use tepid water to avoid shocking the plant. Another note...some growers simply leave their orchid in the water all the time with weekly or biweekly water changes. Others swear by soaking the orchid for two days and then allowing it to dry for five days, but you can actually do it either way. Observe your plant carefully for cues on its continued growth and health.

Bonnie L. Grant

Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.