How to Keep Your Orchid Alive

Top Tips From Expert Hybridizer Roy Tokunaga

Roy Tokunaga with his four-time Best In Show orchid (Dendrobium Waianae Blush)

Roy Tokunaga with his four-time Best In Show orchid (Dendrobium Waianae Blush)

Meet Roy Tokunaga. Hybridizer of orchids. He creates new varieties and gets to name them. His orchids have been displayed everywhere - from the Smithsonian to Disney World. His home base is Waimanalo, Hawaii but his talks have taken him all over the world - from Brazil to New Zealand.

He’s kinda a big deal in the orchid world. So I sat down with him to pick his brain on how to grow and rebloom orchids. How often should you water your orchids? When should you repot them? Do they need to be fertilized?

What I learned is that it’s not so difficult after all. It’s surprisingly straightforward. Just follow these four tips:

Tip No. 1: Tap Water Kills

Turns out it’s less about how often you water your orchids, as much as it is about what you water them with. Most people don’t realize that tap water - especially the hard water in places like California - kills orchids. The deposits in hard tap water accumulates over the orchids’ roots over time, blocking nutrients from being absorbed into the plant. So avoid giving your orchids tap water. Instead, water them with distilled or rain water. Or if you have a reverse osmosis (RO) system installed in your home, use RO water. This step alone will do wonders for your orchids.

Tip No. 2: South is Best

Orchids like being on windowsills, not coffee tables. The indirect sunlight is critical for reblooming. South windows are best. If not, an east or west window will work, too.

Tip No. 3: A Little Fertilizer Goes a Long way

Many people make the mistake of over fertilizing. Orchids don’t need much. Five drops of Miracle Grow in a watering a can, once a month, is plenty.

Tip No. 4: Resist the Urge to Repot

Many people end up killing their orchids because they try to repot them too early. Resist the urge. So when should you repot? In 2-3 years after the flowering season (Do not repot a flowering orchid). Use gravel for good drainage.  

Me with my namesake (Dendrobium Lori’s star)

Me with my namesake (Dendrobium Lori’s star)