Growing Orchids Hydroponically – a Full Guide

Introduction to growing Orchids hydroponically

Hydroponic Orchid growing is also known as water culture and may prove to be the solution for an ailing Orchid. The method is quite easy and fairly foolproof, requiring only an appropriate container, water, sterile tools, and a little patience. Orchids can be difficult to grow, as they need just the right temperature ranges and humidity to thrive. In regions with cooler temperatures, Orchids grow indoors as potted plants or as hydroponic plants. In this article we also discussed the following topics;

  • Hydroponic Orchids growing conditions
  • Hydroponic Orchids nutrient requirements
  • Hydroponic Orchid growing medium
  • Orchid varieties for hydroponics

A step by step guide to growing Orchids hydroponically

Orchids are a high-value crop that is increasingly grown using hydroponic methods that afford complete control over nutrients, temperature, and other aspects of cultivation. Orchid plants come in an extraordinary variety of sizes, colors, shapes, habits, and fragrances. Although Orchids are tropical or temperate plants, the enormous variety of species means that they have environmental differences in how they grow. Give a pH level of 5.8 which is excellent for most Orchids.

Orchids varieties suitable for growing hydroponically

Not all Orchids are suited for the hydroponics system. Epiphytic Orchids are not suited for the hydroponic system. Terrestrial Orchids are well-suited for hydroponic growing, as they grow in moist, loose soil and need constant food and moisture to thrive, which is supplied with a hydroponic growing method.

Selecting varieties suitable for the growing conditions in your hydroponics improves chances of success. Phalaenopsis (moth Orchids) and some Paphiopedilum varieties (slipper Orchids) are especially suited for successful hydroponic growing.

Hydroponic systems for growing Orchids

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Hydroponic systems for growing Orchids.
Hydroponic systems for growing Orchids.

The simplest way to grow these beautiful plants is going to be a wicking system or the Kratky method. It’s not a good idea to grow them in systems that allow for multiple plants, because you’re probably growing many different varieties of Orchids, all of which need their specific nutrients or growing media. On top of that, the last thing you want to do is let disease, fungus, or bacteria prey on the entire garden in one fell swoop. Growing Orchids in a hydroponic is a great way to enjoy marvelous, gorgeous flowers.

Passive hydroponics for Orchids

The hydroponic system uses water with added nutrients instead of soil to grow Orchids. A passive hydroponics system is a preferred method of growing Orchids, as it offers the same natural growing conditions provided by nature. The method consists of an inert and wicking growing media, such as perlite, clay pebbles, gravel, rock wool, and charcoal. This type of hydroponics uses a capillary system to bring water and nutrients to the Orchid plant roots. The substrate is flushed with tepid water when the solution reservoir is low and contains small air pockets that deliver oxygen to the plant roots. Though, Orchids can be planted in any non-glass container with 3 or 4 drainage holes in the side and a water reservoir in the bottom to wick moisture to the plant roots.

Requirements for growing Orchids hydroponically

  • Orchid plants are classified by the temperatures they prefer. Warm- growing Orchids, such as Phalaenopsis, Doritis, and some Paphiopedilum and Dendrobium, grow best in temperatures between 18-26°C.
  • Cool-growing Orchids, like Cymbidium, Odontoglossum, Miltonias, and some Paphiopedilum and Dendrobium, prefer temperatures between 12-21°C. Most of the remaining varieties require intermediate temperatures of 15-23°C.
  • Humidity is important to Orchid plants. A relative humidity level of 40 to 80% is suitable. A gravel tray containing water can be placed under the plants to increase humidity levels around the Orchid plants. Make sure the bottoms of the pots are above the level of the water and daily misting is also helpful.
  • The frequency of watering depends on the size of the plant and pot, type of pot such as plastic or clay, potting medium utilized, relative humidity, and amount of mist. Orchids prefer to dry out well between watering. If the plant roots are kept wet for more than a few days they may rot. Seedlings or plants with fleshy roots or soft foliage prefer constant moisture.
  • For hydroponic Orchids, the water should also be replaced with new on a basis o ensure the health and growth of the plant. By changing the water at least once a week, you also remove pathogens the can harm the plant. It is also the time to add plant food or Orchid fertilizer.
  • Fresh air and good ventilation are necessary for Orchids under lights. High humidity necessary by Orchids is an ideal breeding ground for fungus. Good air movement using a wall or ceiling mounted fan will also help to eliminate fungus and viruses while circulating the air. And, to keep humidity to a maximum, walls can be draped with plastic for a greenhouse effect. The benefits are two-fold when white plastic is used; humidity retention and increased light intensity.
  • Many of the traditional hydroponic growing media work well for Orchids. The inert, sterile media with good air retention make ideal anchors for these Orchid plants. Young seedlings can be transplanted into the hydroponic growing medium at any time making repotting a simple process.
  • While expanded clay pellets are uniform in size and quite porous allowing Orchid plants to easily stabilize while providing great capillary action. Available in a variety of sizes, clay pellets are a great environment for Orchid plants with thick roots and don’t breakdown so it can be reused for years.
  • Perlite and Vermiculite are heated natural minerals that can be used individually or a mixture of peat and bark as a soilless mix. Perlite and vermiculite have a light and fluffy quality that won’t get waterlogged. These media are well suited for Orchid plants with thin, airy roots. Rockwool is a spun rock fiber, obtainable in cubes, slabs, and granulated form. Rockwool has enormous water retention capacity while permitting plenty of air to reach the plant roots.
  • A mixture of various growing media can be tailored to suit individual Orchid plant requirements. Experiment with one or two plants at a time as you can find that changing the medium may also alter other aspects of the plant’s care.
  • Multi plant hydroponic systems are not encouraged for Orchid plant growers. Then, the risk of transmitting disease and bacteria through recirculating water is too great. Individual two-part hydroponic culture pots work best. These contain a decorative outer shell and an insert with holes that excellent drainage. A water level indicator lets you know when it’s time for watering making it impossible to overwater.

Lighting for growing Orchids hydroponically

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Lighting for growing Orchids hydroponically.
Lighting for growing Orchids hydroponically.

As with any hydroponic system, the goal is to mimic a plant’s natural growing conditions and, if possible, improve on them. For Orchids, you want to replicate the airflow, water, light, nutrition, and humidity that they get in nature. For most Orchid plants, a 400w high-pressure sodium or metal halide light will work just fine. If particular species prefers lower light, just place them further from the center of your lamp.

Select grow lights that put out a lot of blue light for the vegetative growth phase, and switch to a warmer light bulb when they begin to flower. After your Orchids flower, you can take them out from under the light and place them on display anywhere (and everywhere) in your home. Growing Orchid plants under powerful lighting causes them to use more water, so be sure to water more often. You’ll know when you should water Orchids when the roots are nearly dry. They also use up more nutrition due to their increased growth rate, so you should feed them more often. A high-quality hydroponic nutrient will be important.

Orchids need a good deal of fresh air and air circulation, especially when grown under high-intensity lighting. They require high humidity, which makes them susceptible to various types of fungi and molds. To keep the humidity high, you can put plastic sheeting on the walls to trap in moisture. If you select white sheeting, you also have a side benefit of light reflection. It is mandatory to add a fan to your hydroponic Orchid garden to keep air moving so these pathogens and diseases don’t develop on Orchids.

Orchids in hydroponic need oxygen

Hydroponic Orchid plants grow through their roots. Orchids need oxygen. The roots and the leaves absorb the oxygen and transported to all parts of the Orchid plants. In a hydroponic culture type of growing Orchids, the plant may lack the needed oxygen because the plant roots are submerged in water. To help the plant, the experts recommend using air stone to supply consistent oxygen.

Growing media for hydroponic Orchids

The most popular growing media types work well for Orchids are given below;

Expanded Clay Pellets

Expanded clay pellets are the most popular choice and they’re uniform and porous, with good water retention as well. You can purchase them in a few different sizes as well based on the growth of Orchids. Because they’re expanded clay, you can reuse them time and time again in the garden, unlike other mediums.

Perlite and Vermiculite

Perlite and Vermiculite are mixed with other media, like peat or bark. They’re so light that they need something with more water retention and mass to give Orchid roots something to cling to. Both of these are a great choice if you are growing Orchid plants with thinner roots.


Rockwool is a good choice if you are having trouble with water retention, as it holds a massive amount of water. This is one of the problems of using it, that is, you may waterlog your roots if you don’t water carefully. Nevertheless, it’s still a popular growing medium for hydroponic Orchids.

Grow Orchids in a hydroponic system

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Grow Orchids in a hydroponic system.
Grow Orchids in a hydroponic system.

Orchids are primarily epiphytic, but some Orchids are terrestrial. Each plant variety will have its own media preferences but, on average, any type does well in a good Orchid mix. Plants that come directly from a nursery, though, may have their roots wrapped in sphagnum moss. This is good at keeping the roots moist but bad at letting them dry and can harbor pathogens. If you see Orchid looking peaky, it may be time to un-pot it and examine the root condition. Visual inspection is the easiest method to determine if the plant has any root or pseudobulb issues. Hydroponic Orchid growing can be the solution to a plant that is remaining too wet. It relies upon a rotation consisting of 2 days of soaking in water and 5 days of drying out (generally, but each plant is different). This more closely mimics the plant’s wild experience and lets plant roots breathe.

Orchid plans grown in water experience what epiphytic forms of the plant might undergo. Epiphytic Orchids grow in little soil and grab much of their moisture out of the air. Then, this means the moisture is consistent, in most cases, but never excessive or boggy. Growing Orchids in water provides the plant with a cultural situation that allows just enough moisture during the soaking and allows the aerial roots to dry to prevent pathogens. Simply un-pot the plant, remove any media (including moss and bark bits) and gently tease the plant roots out from their tight little tangle. Then rinse the plant roots well and, using sterile pruners gently cut away any discolored or rotten material. Your plant is now ready for its water bath and some growers like to use an anti-fungal powder, hydrogen peroxide or cinnamon to further clean the roots. This is not essential in hydroponic Orchid growing unless your plant has a serious rot problem.

You can place Orchid in any container with enough room for roots to grow. Then, the container doesn’t need to be very deep but high curved sides can help support the plant and keep it from flopping over. Many hydroponic Orchid growers also use clay pebbles in the bottom to help support plant roots and raise the crown from the moisture to prevent rot. It is very important to use tepid water to avoid shocking the plant. Some growers simply leave their Orchid plant in the water all the time with weekly or biweekly water changes. Others swear by soaking the Orchid for about 2 days and then allowing it to dry for 5 days, but you can do it either way. Observe your Orchid plant for cues on its continued growth and health.

Advantages of growing Orchids hydroponically

Growing Orchids hydroponically offers many advantages. Since hydroponics uses no soil, growers can enjoy Orchid plants in any climate and have complete control over the growing conditions. Then, this takes the guesswork out of watering and fertilizing the Orchid, which can die with too much or too little of either. The hydroponics system provides the humidity necessary for these tropical plants. Hydroponics system also virtually eliminates the risk of soil-related fungus, bacteria, and Orchid pests such as thrips, aphids, slugs, and snails.

Disadvantages of Growing Orchids hydroponically

Growers should acquire the knowledge and skill associated with setting up a hydroponic growing system. This means understanding how hydroponic growing works and understanding the nutrients, sunlight, and humidity necessary for a specific type of Orchid. Costs to set up a hydroponic system are higher than growing a plant in soil, but once established, nutrient recycling helps reduce water costs and nutrient costs. While fungus and disease are not a problem in a hydroponic system, if the Orchid receives too much water or inadequate lighting, fungus such as Botrytis can be a problem.

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