Should You Regularly Mist Your Indoor Orchids?
Are you thinking of misting your orchids as the sole source of providing them enough water for their growth? Orchid watering is sometimes considered more art, than science. In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss examines if misting alone is enough water to keep your indoor orchids healthy, and thriving.
Orchid care, and in particular, orchid watering, is a bit of a nuanced practice. In their native habitat, they are air plants that grow on trees and have fully exposed roots. This is somewhat impractical for a houseplant, and so we generally keep them in specialty pots in the home.
Keeping orchids in containers makes watering them more complicated than imitating the way they are watered in nature, which is often, and a lot, in the form of rain. Orchid roots like water, but they don’t tolerate sitting in it for long. They also like a lot of ambient humidity which can be difficult to achieve in the home,
It’s easy to see why a gardener would deduce from this that misting is a good practice for watering orchids. Let’s discuss misting orchids to serve different purposes, and why it may be , or may not be, a best practice.
The Short Answer
The short answer is yes, misting can be used for watering orchids. But when used as the sole source of water, it is ineffective when compared to other watering methods. You would need to consistently mist your plants several times daily to provide the proper moisture needed for proper growth.
The Long Answer
Orchids kept indoors need a careful watering routine to keep them blooming vigorously. Since overwatering is the biggest killer of indoor orchids, it is important to be consistent and sparing with water. This is particularly true during their dormant period.
The question is, can you mist them enough to provide the right amount of water it needs to thrive? In my experience, the answer is no. This is not an efficient way of watering. You would have to mist several times per day in order to give it enough water.
So, watering orchids entirely by misting is an impractical and tedious practice. And this method of watering will more than likely lead to an orchid with very frazzled and unhappy roots.
Better Methods of Watering
Here are three methods of watering an indoor orchid that are more effective than misting. They are all effective when done correctly. One watering method is not necessarily superior to the others, but they each have different benefits and drawbacks.
Top Down Watering
Orchids take in water quickly through their roots. Watering from the top of the potting medium is effective, as long as you allow the water to run over the roots for a few minutes.
Orchid pots and potting mix drain very quickly, which doesn’t give the plant a chance to absorb as much water. Avoid allowing water to pool in the leaves though, as this can cause leaf rot.
This is my personal favorite watering method. It ensures that my orchid’s roots are getting enough time to soak in that weekly watering.
Watering by immersion involves filling a sink or bucket with water (and fertilizer) and then immersing the entire pot in the water. Leaving the plant in the water for a few minutes will allow the roots to absorb it without having to run water that is just going down the drain.
This is the most controversial orchid watering method, for a handful of reasons. Some believe that the cold water from the melting ice will shock the orchid, which is a tropical plant. Another issue is whether it provides enough water.
Studies have shown that both issues are not really a problem. Cold water does not harm an orchid, and the key to the second issue is to make sure you are using enough ice cubes.
The number of ice cubes should be the equivalent of about ¼ cup of water. Simply place the ice cubes atop the potting medium and as they melt, the water slowly absorbs into the roots.
Orchids need a lot of humidity. The amount varies from one genus to another, but the need is consistent and generally falls between 40%-70%. In their natural habitat, they get consistent humidity at these levels.
In the home, it can be difficult to create this environment. High humidity can be damaging to other items in the home and isn’t terribly comfortable for humans.
Orchids are epiphytic, they grow in trees and so they are, essentially, air plants. Most orchids grow aerial roots which assist them in taking in moisture and nutrients from the air. These little roots collect that humidity from the air and utilize it in nourishing the plant.
Misting creates higher humidity in a space for a few minutes, and then the water evaporates. Here again, misting is an impractical method of raising the humidity level, as it dissipates so quickly, you would spend half the day misting your orchids, and sadly, most of us have responsibilities outside of tending to our plants.
Better Ways to Increase Humidity
There are a few proven methods of creating more humidity for tropical plants inside the home. Let’s dig in and take a look at some of the best methods you can use.
The easiest way to give your plants more humidity is to put them in the bathroom and let them benefit from a hot shower on a regular basis. Bathrooms tend to be more humid than other rooms in the house. They also tend to be better able to handle the high level of humidity in terms of design.
But don’t despair if you don’t have a good bathroom window to provide your orchids with that perfect amount of bright indirect light. There are other ways to increase the humidity around your plants.
A humidifier is the obvious choice. It is foolproof, and you can see the humidity being created and dispersed into the air so it gives a certain feeling of security. Humidifiers are great for plants and people. Sleeping with a humidifier in the room has lots of benefits to the health of all living things.
The most important factor here is cleanliness. It is necessary to clean out your humidifier regularly, or mold can grow and that isn’t good for you or your plants. A moldy humidifier can lead to very sick people and possibly, sick plants as well.
A pebble tray is a great way to add some humidity to your orchid’s environment in a low maintenance, and safe way that won’t cause any damage to other objects in the home.
A pebble tray is basically what it sounds like. A shallow dish with water in it, and pebbles. The pot sits atop the tray, elevated above the water by the pebbles, and as the water evaporates, it creates a little humidity bubble for the plant. Easy Peasy!
In Addition to
The final question is whether it is beneficial to mist your orchids in addition to providing them with adequate water and humidity. The answer is, not really.
If the air circulation in your environment is very good, misting won’t likely cause any harm to the plant. It can be a good way to give your orchids a little fertilizer boost as well if you keep them outdoors.
However, if your air circulation is not optimal, misting can cause problems. Orchids are very susceptible to rot, their roots in particular are vulnerable, but their foliage can be as well. If water pools in the junctures of leaves, and isn’t able to evaporate, it can cause leaf rot.
Some orchid owners swear by misting as their chosen method of watering, fertilizing, or humidifying. But the experts are nearly unanimously opposed to misting because it tends to be ineffective and can be harmful to the health of the plant.
The occasional spritz from your water bottle while misting your other topicals is not likely to harm an orchid, but in terms of using misting to provide sufficient water or humidity for your orchid, it’s not the best practice.