Orchids are known to live for a long time, especially when they are well cared for. Some even grow to be 20 years or older. However, even though some orchids reach this age, they will still produce noticeably fewer flowers and will become weaker with age. The older the orchid, the more defenseless they become against fungi and bacteria, so this should also be taken into account when figuring out an orchid’s lifespan.
In this article, we will discuss how long an orchid lives, the factors that affect its lifespan, and what plant owners can do to extend the lifespan of their orchids.
Orchid life cycle
Before we dive into the lifespan of an orchid, let us first try to understand the life cycle of the orchid.
The orchid’s life cycle starts the same way as that of most plants, with pollination aided by insects. A capsule behind the flower will start to form the seed immediately after pollination. This small capsule can hold several thousand dust seeds.
The seeds can take a few weeks to up to several months to mature, depending on the type of orchid you are growing. Examples of orchids whose seeds take a long time to mature are Cymbidiums and Cattleyas, while other orchids’ seeds only take weeks to mature.
Unlike other plant seeds that have endosperms to provide nutrition for the seed, orchids need fungi to help their seeds germinate and aid the absorption of nutrients by the seeds.
The process is different for hybrid orchids grown in laboratories. These are bred to form protocorms, which are green tissue clusters that will eventually turn into new plants. The healthy germinated seeds are then transferred to their own pots where they will hopefully grow into a mature plant.
How long does it take for an orchid to grow?
Depending on the type of orchid, it can take anywhere between a few months to a year to reach maturity. This wide range is due to the various different habitats of all the varieties of orchids.
Monopodial orchids produce leaves that fan out from one shoot and will keep growing from its apex, while sympodial orchids have a branched rhizome that produces multiple shoots that cease growing when they mature.
Most orchids will take between eight to twelve months before they are mature enough to start blooming, and because orchids are perennial plants, they will produce more flowers again after eight to twelve months.
How long does an orchid bloom last?
As mentioned above, most orchids bloom once a year only and these flowers will last several weeks or months, depending on the type of orchid. However, there are newly-developed hybrids that are designed to be able to bloom multiple times a year, or even continuously.
Some people trigger blooms by lowering the temperature to below 15 degrees Fahrenheit overnight. This is because orchid blooming is triggered by seasonal changes.
How long does an orchid live?
Orchids have very impressive lifespans, considering their reputation for being delicate and high-maintenance.
When an orchid plant receives proper care, it can live anywhere between 15 and 20 years. You will notice that the orchid will gradually produce fewer and fewer blooms over the years, and that the foliage will also become weaker.
Another factor that can increase the lifespan of your orchid is keeping it safe from diseases and pests. If the plant is kept indoors where diseases and pests will have a harder time getting to it, the lifespan will increase considerably.
Tips on how to lengthen an orchid’s lifespan
- As discussed, the reason orchids can live to be two decades old is the quality of care they receive. Providing the best care for your plant always starts with extensive research on the proper cultural care for that specific orchid species.
- Make sure you place the orchid in a spot where it gets bright, indirect light and never harsh, direct light. It will appreciate the light, but the heat from direct sunlight may be too much for its delicate foliage.
- The temperature of the room where you keep the orchid is also important. Make sure the temperature stays between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature enters the extremes, this can greatly affect your orchid.
- Orchids like their growing medium to be moist from time to time, but their roots need to be able to access air at all times. If the potting medium is constantly wet, this can lead to root rot and encourage the growth of fungi that can really harm your orchid. When watering the plant, make sure the potting medium is soaked, but the key is to ensure that it drains well and fast. As long as the medium lets water drain away quickly, the risk of root rot is greatly decreased.
- The type of medium will depend on the type of orchid you are growing, but it will usually be a combination of coconut fiber, gravel, perlite, bark and sphagnum moss. The medium should give the roots a good drink with every watering, while not allowing the water to overstay its welcome.
- Because most orchids are epiphytes, they are able to absorb water and nutrients from the air itself, which is why they do not need the nutrients found in traditional potting mix.
- The best way to know whether your orchid needs watering is to touch the top of the potting mix. If the potting mix is dry, water the orchid, but if it is still slightly damp, wait one or two days before checking it again.
- Because most orchids are native to tropical forests, they like humid conditions. Usually the 50 to 70 percent humidity inside a house is sufficient for your orchid, but if you live in a place where the air is drier than normal, you may need to take measures to help increase the humidity.
- Winters can also cause the air to become drier than your orchid likes. You may need to mist the orchid every morning, or you can keep a pebble tray filled with water near or under the orchid’s pot. When the water in the water pebble tray starts to evaporate, it will moisten the foliage as well as the potting medium.
- If you have the means, you can also purchase a humidifier to automatically regulate the humidity inside your house without you needing to worry about it.
Which orchid varieties live for a long time?
There really are no specific types of orchids that are guaranteed to live long lives. It usually depends on the care that the plant is given. Being that the lifespan is care-dependent, it could be said that the easiest-to-care-for orchids are the ones that will live the longest.
One of the most popular and easiest-to-care-for orchids is the Phalaenopsis orchid. These are relatively low-maintenance compared with most orchids, and only really like slightly elevated humidity to be happy. Make sure you give these orchids plenty of bright, indirect light.
The Brassavola orchid, or the Lady of the Night orchid, is another type of orchid that is easy to grow and even blooms multiple times a year. Another plus for this plant is its pleasant smell.
As long as you know how to properly care for these orchids, they will be healthy and live long.
Orchids can live up to 20 years old, provided they are given the best care possible. They can keep blooming yearly, but the closer they get to the end of their lives, the more sparse their flowers will be.
Make sure your orchids get lots of bright, indirect light, room temperature, a little higher-than-normal humidity, and water when the potting medium feels dry to the touch.
There are no specific orchid species that live longer than others, but if you want your orchids to live long, choose species that are easy to care for and low-maintenance, so that you do not have a hard time keeping them alive for years to come.
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