The Art of Orchid Care

For all of their magnificent beauty, you may think orchids are hard to care for, but with just a little bit of attention, phalaenopsis orchids (the kind you see in the grocery store) are relatively easy to keep happy and blooming for months. Here is a beginner’s guide from Newfields’ own award-winning orchid specialist Ian Wilhite. 



Set yourself up for success by choosing a healthy orchid from the store. You can find phalaenopsis orchids in The Museum & Garden Shop this time of year (members get a 10% discount!), and in grocery stores year-round. Here are some things to look for: 

  1. A stem with 1-2 flowers open and lots of buds. This will give you months of blooming flowers. Avoid really tight yellow buds, as they are likely to fall off before blooming.  

  1. Healthy green leaves.  

  1. An orchid free from bugs. We love pollinators, but not on our indoor orchids!  

  1. Fresh potting media. Orchids are typically planted in Sphagnum Moss because it keeps the roots of the orchid moist. You’ll want to make sure the moss is looking fresh, not decomposed which will have a mushy brown look and feel.  


When you’ve found the one, you want to make sure you place it in the perfect space in your home. While phalaenopsis orchids aren’t super fussy when it comes to light, Ian recommends bright east facing light in Indiana. Take care not to put it in direct sunlight, however.  





The trickiest part of orchid care is watering. What orchid care tags will say is “Let dry between watering,” but what does that mean? Ian says the best way to know if your orchid is dry is it will feel physically light when you pick it up. If you are unsure, wait a few days and check again. If it is light, you are ready to water. 

  1. Run under the sink with room temperature warm water until water runs out the bottom of the pot.  

  1. Give the leaves a dash of water. Orchids are epiphytes which means they absorb moisture and nutrients from their leaves as their roots, so don’t skip over this step! 

  1. Don’t not to let water pool in the leaves of your orchid, as it could cause rot on the new growth. Avoid this by gently pouring excess water out of the leaves.  

Whatever you do, don’t water your orchids with ice cubes, says Ian. Orchids are native to warm, moist Southeast Asia where he notes, “there are no glaciers!” 


  • Rain, distilled and/or reverse osmosis water are the best water to use when watering your houseplants. City and softened water have minerals and additives that your plants don’t encounter in the wild.  

  • Give your orchid a boost with a balanced orchid-specific fertilizer. 

From March 23 through early May Newfields will come to life inside and out for Spring Blooms. Hundreds of thousands of plants blooming in The Garden, and guests will find orchids in the IMA Galleries, Lilly House and in the Madeline F. Elder Greenhouse.


Art in Bloom is presented by Fifth Third Private Bank. Lead support provided by Joanna & Miles Batchelor; the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Indianapolis Chapter; Meg Coyle; and Barnes & Thornburg LLP.