When properly cared for, orchids can last several decades, putting out flowers for about 2-3 months every year. When watering orchids, it is important to mimic their natural conditions as much as possible. So can you water orchids at night?
You can water your orchids at night if you live in an area where night temperatures stay above 60 °F (15.5 °C). But if night temperatures drop significantly, you should avoid watering your orchids. While orchids like moisture, they can develop root rot if left to sit in water excessively.
This article will discuss when to water orchids and list the signs of overwatering and underwatering. Let’s get started.
Best Time of Day to Water Orchids
Growing orchids in areas with high humidity levels is a great way to ensure they thrive and grow as expected. But what is the best time to water your orchids?
You should water your orchids in the morning, more so if you live in an area that receives a lot of sunlight. Watering early in the day will allow the orchids time to absorb and use the water, while excess water evaporates before temperatures drop at night.
If you water your orchids at night when the temperatures are low, the water won’t evaporate and will instead stagnate in the pot. This increases the chances of root rot or even suffocation if the water is in excess.
Orchids are fairly hardy plants and can handle a lot of neglect, but they are adapted to live in tropical rainforests. In these regions, rainfall is frequent, but the high heat ensures that excess water evaporates and remains in the air, keeping humidity levels very high.
So orchids would never sit in soggy soil in their original habitats, though the soil and air would likely be incredibly moist and humid. To keep your orchids healthy, you should try and mimic these conditions. Ideally, orchids should be in a medium that stays moist but never soggy.
Overwatering orchids is very easy since they require little soil volume or potting medium to grow. Even if temperatures go above 60 °F (15.5 °C) at night, you might accidentally add too much water that may not evaporate despite the temperature.
Helping your orchids recover from overwatering is harder than preventing it in the first place. This explains why it is crucial to water your orchids at the right time of the day. Only water your orchids at night if night temperatures are very high in your area and the medium is drying out.
Another essential thing to consider is using a well-draining substrate. I recommend using a mixture of coco peat, fir bark, and perlite. This mixture can greatly help reduce the risk of overwatering regardless of what time of day you water your orchids.
4 Signs That Your Orchids Are Overwatered or Underwatered
You can determine whether you should water your orchids at night based on how overwatered or underwatered they are. If your orchids appear underwatered despite regular daytime water and humidity, you might also need to water them at night.
Typically, the signs of overwatering and underwatering in orchids are similar, and it’s difficult to tell what the issue is unless you pull the plant out of its medium.
Overwatered orchids will have brown and rotting roots instead of healthy white ones. Additionally, overwatered plants are more likely to move around in their potting medium due to weak roots.
Well-watered orchids with strong roots will remain well-anchored in their pots.
Here are four signs that your orchids are water-stressed and need a different schedule.
1. Shriveled and Leathery Leaves
Shriveling occurs when the cells of the orchid’s leaves lose water and scrunch up, so they lose their plump and shiny appearance. The leaves will feel textured and leathery instead of smooth as the roots struggle to pull up water to the plant’s cells.
2. Blackening Leaf Tips
When the leaves don’t receive water, they might start dying at the tips. This usually manifests as brown or black patches at the tips. Leaf browning is a common symptom of water stress in many plants and is commonly referred to as ‘leaf burn.’
Your orchid will likely develop brown tips if underwatered, especially when planted in a low-humidity environment.
3. Stunted New Growth
Among all the parts of the plant, new growth will be most impacted by either underwatering or overwatering the orchid. New leaves will shrivel up before they grow to their full size, and your orchid will certainly not put out any new blooms.
Without adequate water, your orchids cannot transport nutrients around or perform photosynthesis, which will stunt any new growth.
4. Black Rot and Other Diseases
Plants sitting in stagnant water tend to be more susceptible to disease, even if they’re grown in water as the main growing medium, such as hydroponics.
Pathogens for black rot, also known as Pythium root rot, are water-borne, which means they’re transferred through water. There are several such bacterial and fungal infections that are water-borne and can infect orchids sitting in excess water.
Infected plant parts must be cut away with a sharp, sanitized blade and discarded immediately to prevent the further spread of the disease.
Orchids may recover with proper treatment, but everything from the potting medium to the pot must be sterilized and replaced to prevent reinfection.
Factors to Consider When Watering Orchids
Watering your orchids the right way can help ensure that they don’t succumb to the symptoms of overwatering and underwatering. Instead of following a strict watering schedule, it’s best to observe the weather and your orchid’s appearance to determine the best watering time and techniques.
More importantly, there are a few essential factors you must consider as the orchid species and environmental conditions play an important role in determining the best watering routine:
There are over 20,000 species of orchids globally, but they’re classified into two major types based on where they grow: epiphytes and terrestrials. Another characteristic worth noting is the texture of the leaves.
Epiphytes Prefer Slightly Dry Soil
Epiphytes grow on tree bark in their native habitat, requiring moisture mainly from the rain and air. They have specialized tissues called velamen around their roots that facilitate efficient moisture absorption from the supporting plant.
As houseplants, epiphytic orchids can grow in loose potting mix and be allowed to dry out before the next watering session. However, the humidity should be kept around 60% at all times to avoid dehydration.
If the humidity is low (around 40%), you must compensate by watering your orchids before the soil completely dries out. It means that you can even water your plants at night, especially when it’s hot and dry during the day.
As the weather gets drier, in the winter or summer, your orchids will benefit from a good misting. A light misting in dry weather will briefly raise the humidity around your orchids to keep them happy.
Be careful to keep the temperature around the orchids fairly warm and use room-temperature distilled water. Also, avoid misting the flowers, as the excess moisture on the flowers for several hours can leave unattractive spots.
Terrestrial Orchids Like Moist Soil
Terrestrial orchids grow in the ground. As houseplants, they need a potting mix that remains moist but never soggy. A good rule of thumb is to water again when the top 2 inches (5 cm) of the soil are dry, especially when using a fast-draining medium.
You can water your orchids at night during hot days, especially when you feel like waiting until the next morning can dehydrate your plant. Check your plant’s leaves for signs of dehydration, such as shriveling or wrinkling. Without these signs, it’s best to wait until the following morning.
Succulent Orchids Need Less Water
Succulent orchid species can hold extra moisture in their thicker leaves than non-succulent types. Therefore, it’s best not to water succulent orchids at night because they can handle dryer conditions.
You can also focus on aeration and drainage when choosing a potting mix for these types of orchids.
Epiphytic and terrestrial orchids naturally prefer different types of substrate. For novice gardeners, you can focus on drainage and aeration for epiphytic orchids and a balance among aeration, drainage, and moisture retention for terrestrials.
Fir bark is the most common substrate for orchids. This substrate typically takes a longer time to soak in moisture but dries out more quickly. So when using them as potting mix, it’s best to bottom water your orchids for 10-30 minutes, depending on the size of the pot.
As long as the nighttime temperatures remain above 60 °F (15.5 °C), you can bottom water your orchids after sunset. Still, it’s best to water your orchids in the morning so that the substrate has enough moisture during the hottest part of the day.
You may also need to water your orchids more frequently (about once every 3-5 days), especially in hot weather. Conversely, you can reduce the frequency (once every 5-7 days) during cold seasons.
Either way, check the bark with your fingers to see if they’re dry enough before adding water. If it’s still moist, you can wait a few more days.
Coco Peat and Perlite
A mix of coco peat and perlite provides an excellent balance of aeration, drainage, and moisture retention for your terrestrial orchids. In this case, you can add enough water until it runs out of the drainage holes, then let the excess drain out before putting your pot back on the saucer.
Once you’ve soaked your orchids, you can leave them be for about a week or so. Don’t let the potting medium dry completely before the next watering. For media with better moisture retention, you can wait until the top 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm) are dry.
Pro-tip: This substrate mix typically doesn’t have or hold nutrients, so you’ll need to fertilize your orchids weekly during the growing season with liquid fertilizers for faster absorption.
Orchids, like most plants, are sensitive to tap water, especially if it has fluoride. Collected rainwater is ideal, but you can also use distilled water so long as you supplement it with a balanced fertilizer, especially during the growing season.
You can water your orchids at night if the nights are warm and the humidity levels are very low to ensure that the potting medium stays evenly moist and the plant well-hydrated. If you live in a cold area or in a region that’s very humid, you’ll be better served by watering your orchids early in the morning.
When you water your orchids, make sure to saturate the medium completely. Increase the humidity by turning on a humidifier or misting the leaves if necessary, and only water when the medium starts drying.