Outdoor Orchid Care

Outdoor Orchid Care

Anyone can grow orchids outdoors if the weather is good enough!  For folks who live south of the 37th parallel, the weather is more likely favorable for the larger part of the year.  For the rest of us, growing orchids outside is restricted from late spring through summer to early fall.  Unless you are placing orchids outdoors when it is raining daily, for every day that it does not rain, you will have to water, regardless of where you are.  Orchids grown in climates with lower humidities may need to water twice a day.  Though beware, pests and critters can be of concern, do check-in on your orchids regularly.

Which Orchids Should Be Grown Outside?

Any orchid can be grown outside, depending on your conditions and your commitment to care.  Though, it is advisable to not grow miniature orchids or orchids that cannot dry out outdoors.  Instead, try to grow orchids that are more bulky or succulent-y, such as Cattleya, Dendrobium or Cymbidium, which are more hardy anyway.  In more tropical climates (or climates that rain daily), you can put almost any orchid outside, as long as it’s in the right space.

Where Outside Should They Be Grown?

Nearly all orchids should be grown in half to full shade.  If moving from a greenhouse, give them one step down for sun exposure.  If they are full sun plants in the greenhouse, put them outside in part-shade.  If they are part shade (or a few hours of direct sun) plants, put them in full shade, and if they are full shade plants in the greenhouse, they should remain in full shade outdoors.  Ensure that they are in an area that can be easily watered when it does not rain, and where creatures, like squirrels, can’t get to them.  If you can set up an automated sprinkler system, that will greatly reduce the watering work you will have to do.  Outdoor plants should be watered daily, regardless of region.  If in drier climates, consider watering twice a day.

When Should They Go Outdoors?

Orchids can go outside depending on the cold hardiness of the species.  Knowing which species or hybrid you have is the best, but generally, Cymbidium are the most cold-hardy of the cultivated orchids, followed by Pleurothallids, followed by everything else.  The most important sign of when to place your plants outdoors is the nighttime low temperature.  You can put Cymbidiums outside when the lows are 40F/4.4C or higher consistently.  For everything else, wait until the nighttime lows are 55F/12.7C or higher to bring them outside.  In the fall, start bringing all plants indoors or in greenhouses when the nighttime low reaches 55F/12.7C for the first time.  It’s better to be more cautious in the fall – frost damage can never be repaired, and may kill the plant.

Why bring an orchid outdoors?

Bringing orchids outdoors can be a “shot in the arm” or a breath of new life to them.  Orchids that may not have bloomed indoors can sometimes be found blooming if spending a few months outside.  Others may grow larger or recover from ailments faster if brought outdoors.