Hydroponic Orchid Blueprint Cheat Sheet

This cheat sheet will serve as a handy reference and reminder of what to do and not do to grow orchids hydroponically.

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Hydroponic Orchid Blueprint Cheat Sheet

Download PDF version of the Hydroponic Orchid Blueprint Cheat Sheet

The Basics of Growing Orchids Hydroponically

Growth Stages

  • Growth - The leaves, roots, and stem are growing
  • Flowering - Flowers bloom
  • Resting - No growth occurs, the roots are not shiny and light green, leaves may fall off


  • Use lighting with more of a red spectrum to mimic the sun’s rays
    • 12-14 hours per day for growth
    • 10-12 hours per day for flowering
  • They flower in less sunlight because in nature they do not bloom in the middle of the summer. It is too hot, so they bloom in the spring, late summer, or early fall.


  • The purity of the water you use is of the utmost importance
  • Orchids will accept everything in the water, so any impurities will go into the plant
    • Elements found in our drinking water, like fluoride and chlorine, will decrease the performance of your orchids.
    • A good filtration system for your house is one option for providing clean water to your plants.
    • Another option is to boil the water you will use, and let it sit out overnight.
  • The best option is to purchase distilled water – it is available at grocery stores.
  • The pH of the water should be between 5 and 6. Distilled water’s pH is 5.5.
  • You don’t ever have to change the water
    • There is so little water in the system that it all evaporates periodically
    • You will need to add water periodically because of the evaporation.
  • With a fogger system you will need to add about a quart of water per day.
  • With a pump system just add water as needed to keep it at the optimum level.


  • When growing hydroponically, you must add nutrients to the water to make sure your plants are getting what they need.
  • Use a Potassium based mix with Calciums and Irons to promote root and leaf growth.
  • Use a Phosphorus based mix with potassium, copper, zinc, iron, and calcium for flowering.
  • Fulvic Acid makes a big difference, but is not typically found in orchid mixes.
  • Sometimes you can find pre-mixed nutrient packets that are labeled as being for flowering, or growth, or for certain kinds of orchids.

Benefits of growing hydroponically

  • Hydroponics means to grow without soil – this mimics the way that orchids grow in nature, so they perform very well to hydroponics.
  • You can address your plant’s needs on a constant basis in terms of water, light, and nutrients
  • You can control how much of what nutrient your plant is getting in order to…
    • help it flower
    • help it flower longer
    • help promote root or leaf growth when needed
  • The high humidity keeps spider mites away from the roots
  • When using a fogger system, the fogger effectively gets rid of impurities in the water before getting to the orchids
  • It is customizable for different types of orchids
    • You can leave the water flowing all the time for wet-loving orchids, or turn it off for short periods (you can even use a timer) for the ones that like it a little dryer.
  • They can be built for one or two plants, or for 100 plants.
  • Small systems are easily portable
    • To move a pump system just empty the water first.
    • It is not necessary to empty the water from a fog system.

Different types of hydroponics systems

  • Submersible pump system
    • Good for orchids
    • Pumps water through tubing, water sprays through holes drilled in tubing onto roots
    • If you make your own system, you can drill the holes so that
    • the roots aren’t sprayed directly, but get secondary splash
    • the roots get water on all four sides instead of just one
  • Fogger system
    • Ideal for orchids
    • This system creates a mist or fog inside the container.
    • Because of the atomization of the water, impurities are removed
    • The mist gets to the roots from every angle
  • Deep water culture system
    • Bad for orchids
    • This is actually an aeroponics system, not a hydroponics system
    • The roots are submerged in water all the time, and orchids will get root rot

How to get started with hydroponics

  • You can go to a hydroponics store (or order online) and buy a system for $500 and up.
  • You can go spend about $50 at a hardware store and build your own
    • This option is great not only because of the price and sense of accomplishment, but because you can customize the system to the needs of orchids.
  • In general, hydroponics will work indoors or outdoors
    • If you live in a low humidity climate, and want to grow outdoors, you can use plastic to tent the area, and both the fogger and pump systems will create a humid environment in the tent.
  • When moving an orchid (especially a tall one) from a pot into a black net pot in a hydroponics system, you may want to use bamboo stakes to stabilize it while the roots take hold.

Considerations for different types of orchids


  • Some orchids like more water than others.
    • For orchids that like moisture all the time, leave your pump or fogger on all the time.
    • For orchids that like a little time to dry out, you can set a timer to turn off the pump or fogger for a couple of hours each day.
  • Examples of different orchids and their water requirements: ○ Paphiopedilum, Phalaenopsis, Massdevalia, Miltoniopsis – like moisture all the time ○ Brassia, Cymbidium – like even moisture, let it dry a bit during rest
    • Cattleya – likes to dry out – just a little during active growth, more during rest
    • Dendrobium – let dry out frequently
  • A handy way of guessing how much water your orchid likes, even if you don’t know what kind it is.
    • Look at the size or the pseudobulb – this is the thick base of the stem – it can look kind of like a squash.
    • If there is no pseudobulb, there is nowhere to store water, so the orchid will want constant moisture.
    • The bigger the pseudobulb, the more the plant will appreciate some dry periods.


  • Some orchids like more light than others.
  • Examples of orchids that like high light – 14 hrs/day growth, 12 hrs/day flowering:
    • Pleurothallis, Masdevallia, Dracula, Vanda, Brassavola
  • Orchids that like medium light – 13 hrs/day growth, 11 hrs/day flowering:
    • Miltonia, Cattleya (corsage orchid)
  • Orchids that like low light – 12 hrs/day growth, 10 hrs/day flowering: ○ Paphiopedilum (slipper orchid), Phalaenopsis (moth orchid)
    • Keep in mind that “low” light is still 12 hrs per day for growth, and 10

Hydroponic Orchid No-No’s

  • While orchids are really very rugged plants, there a few no-no’s in caring for them.
  • Do not use a deep water culture system.
    • Your orchid’s roots will be sitting in water all the time and will get root rot.
    • This will kill your orchid.
  • Do not use nitrogen based nutrients.
    • This won’t kill the plant, but you will get weaker, shorter blooms.
  • Do not use dirty water to water your orchids or to fill your hydroponic system.
    • Depending on what’s in the water, your orchid will not be happy or even die.
  • Do not ever move your orchid up more than one pot size at a time.
    • Never go from a 2 inch to 4 inch pot, or 4 inch to 6 inch.
    • They like to move up very slowly.

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