The amount of light an orchid needs depends on the type of plant, but here are general guidelines that will help optimize the health of your plant and coax it to flower.
Light is necessary for all life, but plants have the unique talent of being able to harness sunlight energy and turn it into food. It is vital for a plant to get enough light in order not only to survive, but also to reproduce.
And luckily for us, flowering plants accomplish reproduction by producing blossoms. For orchid lovers, enticing your plants to flower is the name of the game. The amount of light your orchid receives will largely determine whether or not it will bloom.
Orchid Light Requirements
As a general rule, most orchids do best in medium light, in an area that receives about 4 hours bright light daily. Light is probably the most crucial factor in determining whether or not your plants will flower.
Producing flowers is very energetically expensive for any plant. The right amount of light is necessary for your orchid to store enough energy to fuel the production of blossoms.
Without the right light levels, a plant either can’t produce enough food energy to power a blooming cycle (too little light) or it may get scorched and stressed from rapid water loss (too much light).
Ideal Light for Orchids
You can roughly determine how much light an orchid needs by the color of its leaves. For most orchid plants, the leaves should be light green in color.
When exposed to sufficient light, the foliage of some orchids will darken with reddish pigments. These pigments are essentially the plant’s sunscreen, protecting it from burning.
If the leaves of your orchid begin producing red pigment, it means that the plant is getting as much light as it can stand and is trying to protect itself from burning.
This is the type of reaction to sun that you want to see to optimize the chances that your plant will bloom.
Too Much Light for Orchids
If the plant is getting too much light the leaves become very yellow, and may wither and die. If you find this happening, move the plant to a shadier location.
Sun scorching may also cause brown splotches on the leaf tips or folds. An extreme amount of light can actually fade the leaves or create leaf spots that are a bleached beige in color, a clear indication the plant is not thriving.
Not Enough Light for Orchids
When orchids do not receive sufficient light, the foliage often has a “healthy” dark, rich green appearance. Although this is very attractive, it is a sign that the plant is not getting the amount of light necessary for it to produce flowers.
Your robust looking plant can live indefinitely with light that is lower than ideal, but it won’t bloom. Try moving it to a location with more light, and watch for a change in the color of the leaves.
Beyond lighting requirements, orchids have specific needs for humidity, temperature, air movement, growing medium and water. But don’t get overwhelmed, see the Orchid Article Series for all the basics.
Orchids are generally very forgiving and it’s not difficult to keep them alive long enough to stumble upon the perfect combination that will reward you with a breathtaking floral display.
Additional Orchid & Gardening Information
If you are an orchid novice, start things off right by purchasing a healthy plant and a variety of orchid that is easy to grow. Supplement your knowledge with one of the many excellent books and web sites devoted to orchids, including the American Orchid Society (AOS).