Seasonal Care

This is another one of those "value adding"" pages, or at least I hope it is. I'll be listing different events in your orchids life cycle and what you can expect in the season ahead. Listings include which commonly grown orchids should come into flower, repotting time, the aspects of care you'll need to either increase or decrease, etc.
I genuinely hope you find it helpful and don't be shy to look at the upcoming seasonal sections as your seasonal changes might start a little earlier than expected, and you might need to adapt. Be sure to keep in mind that some seasons might be fussy and make vengeful comebacks so keep that in mind before making sudden conditional changes.
Please keep in mind that the seasonal flowering sections are related to the specific orchid species' natural flowering cycle. This, however, does not mean that you will not find these orchids flowering in offseasons as they could have been induced to bloom. Besides that, orchids might surprise us with offseason blooms which are always a bonus.

Spring - 23 September

Although we've started celebrating spring on the 1st of September, spring only officially begins on the 23rd of September. Either way, it is still an exciting time in the orchid world. The increase in daylight and temperature means we can start shedding our winter coats and start getting out hands dirty.

Some Cattleya, some Coelogyne, Cymbidium, some Dendrobium like kingianum & hybrids, nobile or other deciduous (FYI: deciduous = shedding of leaves) Dendrobium, Epidendrum, Encyclia, Laelia, Masdevallia, Paphiopedilum, Phalaenopsis Hybrids, Phragmipedium, Psychopsis, Sarcochilus, Vanda

Before we get our hands dirty, please remember to make sure your plants are done flowering before you consider repotting them. With that in mind, you are more than welcome to repot other orchids in this period as many, if not most, have new growth by now. Be sure to check all of your orchids' potting medium while you're at it, as the cold winter months make it difficult for the medium to dry out properly, particularly if it contains fine material that could turn sour or degrade quickly
The last tip I can give is something that I have heard from a very well known grower in the cape. He said that you should repot your orchids 6 weeks before or 6 weeks after the equinox which is on the 23rd of September. Those dates would take you to either 12th of August or the 4th of November respectively.

The following winter bloomers can be repotted :
Brassavola, some Catasetum types, some Coelogyne, Cymbidium, Dendrobium, Odontoglossum, Oncidium, Phalaenopsis Hybrids, Paphiopedilum

With the increase in daylight and temperature, orchids start with their new growth, and that means they need more water and more food to fuel the process. It is crucial to remember that summer is not here yet, so don't drastically increase watering and feeding. Just take it as the season comes. What's more important is to try and get yourself back into the routine of checking your medium more regularly compared to winter. This process will help you increase watering naturally as the medium would dry out quicker with the increasing temperature. As watering increases, adapt your fertilising.
In winter I fertilise with every fourth watering. (Yes, I know you might do it differently, but this is what works for me.) Come spring, I'll keep the same routine, but as the time between watering decreases with the medium drying out quicker, my feeding automatically increases as well.
I want to point out that you should keep an eye on some species like Catasetum that go through a dormancy period in winter. They should not be watered straight off the bat, but should only start getting water once the roots have grown to between 5 and 8cm. A great way to test if they are ready is to spray some water on the roots and see if they, ever so slightly, change colour. If they do, you know that the dos are capable of absorbing water and may commence with watering.

  • Be careful not to shock your orchids with sudden increases in light or dramatic temperature changes. Spring might be here, but nights can still be cold.
  • Be on the lookout for pests like aphids that might accompany the warmer temperatures.
  • Clean up your orchid by removing old leaves and inspect them while you are at it.

Summer - 23 December

Summer is here, people! Time to hit the waves and enjoy us some cocktails with those colourful stereotypical little umbrellas. Well that and we basically need to be on 24/7 orchid standby.
Keeping an eye on your precious beauties will be key to your success in summer as spotting possible pests, fungal or bacterial diseases and regular watering will be high on your priority list.

Oncidium, many Cattleya's, Dendrobium Phalaenopsis (no, I didn't forget a comma), Epidendrum, Miltonia, summer Phalaenopsis species , Stanhopea, Vanda & related

Please remember to make sure your plants are done flowering before you consider repotting them.
You are more than welcome to repot other orchids in this time if they are not in bloom and require it. Many if not most orchids have started with their new growth, but the orchid should recover just fine from the little stress it might go through with the potting.

The following spring bloomers can be repotted:
Catasetum, Coelogyne, Cymbidium, Dendrobium, Odontoglossum, Oncidium, Phalaenopsis Hybrids, Paphiopedilum

It's summer, need I say more? Water away, my friends. It can be a good idea to compartmentalise your orchids by dividing those that need even more water, such as Dendrobiums and Catasetums that almost require a constant drink, from the others. Mounted specimens might need the same treatment as they would not have much, in terms of medium, that retains water.

  • Stay vigilant sensei! We aren't the only living beings that like summer. Mites and other pests are all around and having a good time too.
  • Humidity levels - Please read our section on humidity here
  • Try and avoid getting water on foliage while watering. It might result in water spots or burn marks as water droplets magnify light
  • I should not have to say it, but direct sunlight is not your orchids friend!
  • Watch for shrivelling leaves or pseudobulbs as they are telltale signs of a lack of watering

Autumn - 23 March

With the ever shorter days, now is the time we start holding thumbs that our hard work over the summer growing period will pay off. Many of our plants are maturing, and some might even begin pushing spikes as autumn and spring are our most colourful seasons. The main reason for this is autumn being the start of drastic weather changes. As primitive as you might think they are, plants pick up on temperature and daylight hour changes which trigger certain inner clocks. If you are growing orchids indoors, as I am, it might be a good idea to leave a window or two open at night so that they can start picking up on these changes so that they start developing their spikes when they should. I will, however, say that even with windows open, I have seen many other species bloom earlier than mine, but I suspect that they might be growing outside and are influenced by these changes more drastically than my specimens.
Anyway, the orchid shows are scheduled and open days are lining up. There is much excitement in the air!

Catasetum, Cattleya hybrids & related, Asian Cymbidium, some soft cane Dendrobium and many Australian Dendrobium, Dendrobium Phalaenopsis, Epidendrum, many Oncidium & hybrids, Paphiopedilum hybrids, Phalaenopsis, Phragmipedium, Psychopsis, Stanhopea, Vanda & related

Mmmmm... you might push your luck with this one, but I'm sure if your orchid needs to be repotted it should be fine. If a spike has started developing, however, I would not suggest it as the stress combined with the seasonal changes might influence the outcome of your flowers, or cause the spike to die. I would recommend either leaving it till about mid to late August or wait till spring comes around.
Personally, I leave my yearly repotting till mid to late August/September.

As difficult as it might be, it’s time to start adjusting your watering schedule. Cooler evenings and more overcast days mean that mediums aren't going to dry out as quick as they did a few weeks back. We will, nonetheless, still get a few good days in between which you should look out for.
With regards to fertilising, I'd say keep it going till it gets colder, perhaps until April, after which you can slowly start cutting it down to once in three weeks as you begin cutting back on watering.

  • Keep a fixed eye on the weather changes and adapt your schedules to it.
  • he cooler temperatures have a good chance of producing spikes.
  • Get your winter holding area(s) ready and cleaned up if you make use of them.
  • Go out and support your local orchid society's autumn show. The members are eager to help and give advice. Don't just look at the flowers, but look at how they are grown.

Winter - 23 June

Brrrrr that's mostly all I can say. By now the taps are pretty much closed, many of our orchids are dormant, and the waiting game is on. This time of the year, however, I find myself looking at my orchids with a magnifying glass as summer new growth should be nearing maturity and spikes may appear out of nowhere.

Brassavola, some Cattleya & hybrids, some Catasetum types, some Coelogyne, Cymbidium, Encyclia, some Dendrobium, Oncidium, Ludisia, Paphiopedilum, Phalaenopsis hybrids, Phragmipedium

If it isn't dying or riddled with pests, fungal or bacterial infections I'd suggest you wait it out, friend. Autumn is around the corner.

Now is the time to take your time. Many orchids are going through a winter rest and require close to no water. Others need minimal watering as temperatures are low and water takes longer to evaporate. Less is, in this situation, more.
Orchids grown indoors will have different needs and water might evaporate much faster as indoor temperatures are usually warmer throughout winter.

  • Try and keep water away from the orchid and its leaves as rot can take over in the blink of an eye.
  • Try and water away from the plant's core/crown as the water in that area takes even longer to evaporate — water on the outer section of the pot.
  • Keep an eye on resting orchids as they might need some water. If the pseudobulbs are starting to shrivel/wrinkle spray some water or run a little water through it.