Orchids are a wonderful way of adding dramatic colors and flowers to your houseplant collection. And in some areas of the United States, you may be able to grow orchids outside as well. In this article, we’ll explain how to grow orchids outside.
Can Orchids Grow Outside?
Although orchids grow best as houseplants, you can grow some species outside. In fact, several types of orchids are actually native to the US. However, some types of orchids are better suited to growing outside than others.
Orchids are usually divided into two types; epiphytic orchids and terrestrial orchids. Epiphytic orchids don’t need much soil because they attach themselves to host plants, whereas terrestrial orchids grow in soil. In general, terrestrial orchids grow better outdoors than epiphytic orchids. Some types of orchids are also suitable for growing in water.
The types of orchids that you can grow outside also depend on your climate. Most orchids can grow in USDA Zones 8 to 12. However, some terrestrial orchids can grow in areas as low as Zone 4. Keep in mind that most orchids cannot handle frost or extremely cold temperatures (for more, see our in-depth guide to orchid plant care in winter).
Tips for Growing Orchids Outside
With proper care, orchids can live for years to come.
When growing any type of orchid outside, it’s always best to grow it in a container. Orchids are extremely sensitive to environmental conditions, so having them in pots allows you to move them around. You can also move them indoors on cooler nights to protect them.
Always wait until the final spring frosts have passed and nighttime temperatures stay above 55ºF before placing orchids outdoors. In warm, humid areas, you can place indoor orchids outdoors during the summer.
Position orchids in areas that receive partial sun for most of the day. Try and provide sunlight during the morning rather than the afternoon. Intense direct sunlight can burn orchid leaves and also hamper your reblooming efforts.
Container orchids can be at risk of becoming waterlogged, so always make sure that the pot has drainage holes. Use specialized orchid soil mixes to provide the right balance of aeration, drainage, and water retention.
Orchids need moist but not waterlogged soil, so be mindful of overwatering. Water your orchids when the growing medium feels dry to the touch. Water in the morning whenever possible (we generally recommend not watering orchids with ice cubes). This prevents orchids from sitting in water during cooler temperatures at night. During hot periods, you may need to water more frequently.
Always maintain the right humidity levels for your orchids. Most orchids need relatively humid conditions and are at risk of drying out too much in hotter areas. Regular misting can help maintain the correct humidity.
Regularly check your orchids for signs of diseases or pests. Common problems include aphids, spider mites, and leaf spot diseases. Use horticultural oils, insecticidal soap, and fungicides to deal with any infestations.
Most types of orchids can be grown outdoors in containers during the warmer months. Always protect orchids from direct sunlight and frost. Choose types of orchids that suit your local climate zone.
For more, see our essential guide to caring for orchids whilst you’re away or on vacation and everything you need to know about orchid plant care after they finish blooming, and how to deal with orchid plants dropping leaves.