Coming from tropical forests, orchids are a beautiful plant which can flower multiple times a year depending on the species and the care given. In their natural habitat, they grow attached to trees – giving them the characteristic of being ‘epiphytic’. A common question asked by beginners is how much sunlight does an orchid need? – this can be answered by judging the environment the plant is from.
Dense canopies in the forest mean only filtered and indirect light gets through to the orchids, providing them with enough light to grow beautifully. It’s crucial that we try and recreate these conditions as accurately as we can in our own homes; while also focusing on other factors such as temperature, humidity and water.
Without light, our orchids would not be able to grow and would die. They wouldn’t be able to produce energy in photosynthesis needed for developing and maintaining their cells, leading to death. But, with too much light, you’ll find that orchids will become sunburnt and unhealthy. This is why finding the perfect balance in a home is essential!
The Importance of Light
As mentioned before, light is one of the most important factors for orchids to grow and survive. However, light is also a critical factor in determining if an orchid will bloom or not. If an orchid doesn’t get enough light, it won’t be able to throw out its beautiful flowers due to its lack of energy.
If you’re noticing symptoms such as your orchid presenting a lack of flowers or a very dark green color appearing on the leaves of your orchid, it might be possible that your orchid isn’t getting enough light. On the contrary, if you notice that the leaves are beginning to turn yellow or reddish, this can signify that your orchid is getting too much sunlight.
It’s important to fix these mistakes as soon as possible. If your orchid isn’t getting enough light, then it might be worth moving it somewhere, such as a north-facing windowsill, where it should get an optimal amount of light (this is where I keep my orchids!). This is the same if your orchid is getting too much light – move it to a position in your house which only receives around 6-9 hours of indirect light. Direct sunlight can be very bad for orchids.
How Much Sunlight Does an Orchid Need?
Some species of orchids will need more light than others, while some require 6-9 hours of indirect sunlight.
Low Light Orchids
Low-light orchids are the orchids which will require a lot less intense light compared to other orchids. These types of orchids will become sunburnt a lot faster and easier, so they must be kept away from positions such as south-facing windows. Instead, opt for something such as an east or west windowsill or somewhere a few feet away from a window receiving direct sunlight.
Orchids that prefer these low-intensity light conditions include:
Medium Light Orchids
These are the type of orchids that are able to tolerate a bit more light than low-light orchids. However, they should still be kept away from direct light sources as they can still be sunburnt.
Orchids that prefer this type of light include:
High Light Orchids
High-light orchids are orchids which can tolerate light that is a lot more intense than other orchids can handle; however, they still need to be kept away from direct sunlight for long periods of time. These will do best on south-facing windowsills with a curtain to filter light or on west-facing windowsills.
Orchids that prefer this type of light include:
- Dendrobium (able to handle medium and high light)
How do I know if my orchid isn’t getting enough sunlight?
When our orchids aren’t getting enough sunlight, it can be difficult to diagnose compared to when they’re getting too much. This is because the leaves usually turn a darker green colour, which we typically associate with being healthy and a normal thing for an orchid.
The dark green colour is due to the orchid trying to hold onto as much chlorophyll as possible to carry out photosynthesis as a consequence of the low light conditions.
It should be noted that if your orchid is exposed to low light conditions, it will be much less likely to bloom. If it does, it’s expected that your orchid won’t produce as many flowers as usual, which is quite an easy sign to spot.
Read more about how to revive an orchid.
There are many ways to ensure your orchid is getting enough light. Below, I’ll describe and explain some methods you can use to ensure that your orchid is receiving enough light, allowing it to grow well and put out prolific blooms!
- Grow Lights. Although this might be a bit hardcore for new orchid growers, grow light can be an excellent investment – especially if you cannot reach the required light conditions for your orchids. These are especially helpful if you live in apartments with a lack of windows that receive a good amount of light!
- Correct positioning. Always make sure that you assess the surroundings before moving your orchid somewhere new. Is it going to receive at least 6 hours of light per day? Is the sunlight too intense? Is it easily accessible to water? These are all essential questions, and they’ll make your life much easier if you can meet their demands. Many beginners like to put their orchids in unsuitable positions in their homes, such as bathrooms – however, they likely won’t receive enough light.
How do I know if my orchid is getting too much sunlight?
When an orchid is getting too much sunlight, it’s usually relatively easy to tell. The leaves will turn a yellow or reddish color, indicating that the leaves have been sunburnt.
Over time, the leaves may start to develop brown patches or eventually become entirely brown, suggesting that the leaf has completely died. The leaves may deform and become wrinkled, indicating that you should move the orchid to a lower-light position.
It should be noted that when your orchid is moved to a position with too much light, you might see some benefits, such as increased blooming at first, but it’s essential to put the overall health of your orchid first before prioritizing flowers.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How much light does an orchid need?
As a general rule of thumb, your orchid should receive at least 6-9 hours of sunlight daily. The light should ideally be filtered or indirect, keeping your orchids away from direct light. Direct light may burn your orchid’s leaves, so it’s always best to avoid it, especially if you need clarification on the species of orchid you own or have minimal experience.
What is the best position to put an orchid in my house?
In houses, orchids should ideally be placed somewhere that gets enough light, has a temperature between 12-23 degrees and has high humidity. I keep mine on a north-facing windowsill where they do brilliantly; however, if you do this, make sure that the orchid does not directly touch the window. Cold windows can cause temperature shock for orchids, causing them to die quickly. Orchids should also be kept away from doors or windows frequently opened, as these large temperature drops can shock an orchid.
How often do I need to water my orchid?
You’ll find that orchids need watering around every 7-10 days. However, their water demand may fluctuate depending on the season or what’s occurring, such as flowering. Plants in flowers will have a higher water demand, as they need it to keep the blooms going and develop seeds. Some species may require more or less frequent watering, so it’s always best to research before you buy!
Should I mist my orchid?
Absolutely! Just make sure that you do it early in the day. Misting towards the end of the day means that the orchid won’t be able to dry off in time, meaning that the water could rot the leaves. Orchids don’t like wet leaves, so you must wipe them down if any gets on them later in the day. When watering, ensure that you water the soil, not the leaves or the crown of the orchid. Watering the crown can lead to rot, killing your orchid quickly.