Growing Orchids in Water
Over watering is one of greatest destroyers of orchids kept as houseplants. As almost everyone who keeps orchids knows, the roots must be allowed to dry out between waterings, otherwise they will rot and there is a good chance that the plant will die. It will definitely come as a surprise to most orchid lovers that orchids can live and thrive and even bloom when grown in a container of water.
Many indoor gardeners have discovered that orchids can be just as happy in a jar of water as they are in a pot containing the most expensive orchid potting mix. However, orchids cannot just be taken from their pot and placed into a dish of water; if this is done, there is a good chance that the roots will rot and the plant will die. Sometimes the aerial roots of an orchid, those that grow above any kind of growing medium, will be able to adapt to an aqueous existence, but the grower should make sure to watch them carefully to be sure that they do not rot. At the first sign of rot, the root should be removed.
In order for an orchid to live in water, it is necessary for it to develop water roots. The roots on the orchid living in a bark or sphagnum moss mixture have adapted themselves to that condition and will not be able to adjust to another. Usually an orchid is put into water because the regular roots have become diseased or have rotted already. Before putting the orchid into water, the old roots must be completely removed – if left on, they will only rot.
After removing the old roots, the orchid should be placed into a jar or glass with sufficient water to cover the bottom of the plant, where the old roots were. It may be necessary to provide some kind of support for the orchid at this point, and it can be propped with sticks or other material to keep it upright until the new roots can provide support. If the container is tall enough to keep the orchid upright, so much the better.
When growing orchids in water, care must be taken to replace the water lost daily through evaporation. This will also provide a new influx of oxygen. The water in the container should be changed every week as well, which will again oxygenate the container and remove any pathogens that might have started to develop. When the water is changed, it is probably a good time to add some orchid fertilizer. If a bad odor is noticed coming from the water, it means that something is wrong, and the roots should be checked immediately for signs of rot and the water changed.
Just like an orchid grown in the ordinary way, water grown orchids need the correct amount of light and the proper temperature. These orchids can be kept on the windowsill or beneath artificial lighting. Orchids grown in water are just as likely to bloom as any other, and can be given a rest period by lowering the temperature slightly.
The orchid grown in water will need a larger container when the roots are pressing too firmly against the sides. Orchids do like to be rather pot bound, so it is not necessary to change their container often.
Growing orchids in water can be a new experience for the orchid lover and can often give them a way to save a plant that might otherwise die because of rotted roots.