Rescue an orchid and jazz up your bathroom on a budget

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by AmeliaJane

bathroom orchidsNot so long ago, Megan asked about plants that do well in bathrooms. Well, may I introduce you to the "Orchid Rescue and Relief Society," AKA: my bathroom.

A few years ago I visited Hawaii to see some friends who are now living it up in paradise. While I was there, I absolutely fell ass-over-tea-kettle in love with orchids. I HAD to have one of these gorgeous plants — but how?

Well, my trip to the local flower shop and home improvement store turned up some orchids, sure — for $25.00 a piece. OUCH! So what's a poor girl to do? Well, I did what I usually do in cases where I can't afford something: I dumpster dive!

It turns out that when plants (especially orchids) lose their blooms, these fantastic plants end up in the dumpster or on serious clearance… I'm talking a $25 orchid for under $5! Most people don't want a plant that doesn't have flowers on it, but hey — I'm not picky.

Once I got my orchids home, I realized I had absolutely no space for them. Not only that, but my super-dry apartment was going to slowly kill my little friends. My solution: the bathroom.

I started keeping these guys on the sink or in hanging pots, and they went BONKERS. Since I have a window, they get plenty of indirect sunlight, plus humidity and heat from steam! These plants have been super low-maintenance and they flower on a regular basis. So, if you are looking for a bathroom-friendly plant, look no further than rescued orchids.

Here are my suggestions for orchid rescue:

  1. Never pay full price. Plants without blooms need love too!
  2. Orchids need air. In fact, they have little "air roots" that they send out to capture moisture from the air when they are happy. So pick a pot that has open holes or sides so your plant can expand its roots.
  3. As for soil, my orchids have done best when planted in wood chip mixes (ask your local garden supply store). This lets them drain easily and allows moisture and air into the roots.
  4. Make sure your plants get some indirect light. Don't keep them too close to window that gets full sun because they WILL BURN!
  1. Awesome! One question – would this work if your bathroom does not get natural light, though? I'd love to do this in my own bathroom (we live in a VERY arid climate, and the bathroom would be the only place we could possibly have an orchid or three), buuuuut we have no natural light in the bathroom, so the poor things would be in the dark. I'm fairly certain the answer is "No," but on the off-chance that someone has tried it and can give me anecdotal stories or empirical data….?

    • There is an orchid I have noticed in the windowless bathroom of a tea house I frequent. It had flowers on it. Of course, I don't know that management didn't swap it in the from somewhere with natural life but maybe there is hope for you!

    • I think I would tend to a fake one (some of them look quite real) in that case. I'm definitely not an expert but my orchids have always done best in full sun or at least partial but most of the day sun.

      But it might be worth a shot, especially if you find a good rescue! Rotating could be a good idea too, as Bonnie said. The blossoms hold a really long time so once you get them going, they would definitely last.

    • Hey! This is really awesome question. Orchids do need light to grow, you can purchase a grow light rather cheaply (and put it on a timer so you don't run up your electric bill) I also have grown plants in rooms like my kitchen where it is really warm and the lights stay on most of the day because it is the most used room. As long as you can provide some kind of light it should grow just fine but again make sure it is far enough away that you don't burn the plant (it will be fairly obvious the leaves will develop little brown scabs)

  2. Oh my rescuing orchids. Out of 12 orchids I own I payed full price for two of them and nothing for most. Many were about to be thrown away bc they had no roots left. Orchids can survive a long time with out water (but the flowers die fast if the plant is forgotten) so if you find an orchid without roots, it is not a problem. In the humid environnement of tha bathroom they have the time to grow them back, but be patient. An other place where you can get the orchids not too expensively, is your local florist. When the plant lost it's flowers we can't sell them anymore. Some florists nuture them untill they flower back, but those who don't have the light or the space often don't know what to do with them. I saw some sitting for years in the backstore untill I asked if I could have them. So you could look around leave your phone number and negociate a price, and the next time they are stuck with one it's yours. But you have to be patient.

    Also, if you take them on sale in a hardware store (but this also applies to any new plant you plan on buying) be especially careful for bugs, look at the plant closely. And when you come home set your plant aside for a few weeks. Inspect again. Contamination to your others plants can be disastrous.

  3. Orchids are dangerous… I have 50-some-odd of them crammed into my tiny house 🙂 They are in bathrooms (with grow lights,) the kitchen, on shelves, in windows, hanging from the ceiling in baskets, etc. All different varieties. It's pretty much a jungle in here.

  4. I manage to keep them alive, but only once have I had one rebloom. Any tips? It hadn't occurred to me to put them in the bathroom – maybe the humidity will hep them bloom?

    • I second what AmeliaJane said. If the plant is in great shape just not flowering:
      Plants are not used to be in stable conditions in nature. Too much care makes them feel so much at ease that they don't feel the need to reproduce. They needa little stress to kick start. The easiest and safest way is to work on temperature. A few weeks with cooler nights is the trick beacause it simulates tropical winter.
      specifically for orchids phalaenopsis (those are the most common orchids) drop the temparature to around 15degrees celsius at night for a few weeks. I just do it around october (when nights reach 5-10 degres ouside), and simply open the windows at night. Ajust dates to your local climate, and if you live in a hot climat, AC is your friend as long as it is far from your plants and not venting direcly on them. Be patient, about two months later they start growing a new flower stem. Not all plants flower every year (I always have one or two who focus on growing roots or leaves like crazy, but most do. Obviously if youinherited a damaged orchid, avoid stimulating flower growth as you want it to be strong enough first. When the flowering is over, cut at the third knot, it may suprise you with more flowers.
      Also. it is not a must at all, but orchids like rooms facing east best (like most plants) an the morning light tends to make them flower a bit more. But they will still flower in other lighting.

      • Thanks for the fabulous info (and to AmeliaJane, too)! We drop our temp at night to just a few degrees above that anyway, so we'll try dropping it even lower… and since we live in a pretty dry climate (our house humidity has been hovering around 10 % for the last few months), the bathroom will be a great improvement in humiditiy.

  5. Hey there!
    Ok so getting your orchids to bloom, or rebloom is a common question. The answer is pretty simple though. Run through your houseplant check list and make sure your plant is happy.

    1) Water : orchids like humidity this does NOT mean douse your orchid in water all day every day. This means giving it water but also letting the soil drain and dry between watering. But humidity comes from the air as well! Put that sucker in your bathroom and take a hot steamy shower! (win win) or mist it with a spray bottle every day, I've also used indoor fountains placed nearby to add moisture to the air. Also if you notice your plant drying out quickly double check to make sure it's not sitting next to or under an air duct as that is a great way to zap moisture from the air!

    2) Light: Is your plant getting enough light? If not think about investing in a grow light or moving your plant to a bathroom with a (larger?) window

    3) FERTILIZE: Easily one of the most overlooked steps! Plants will eventually use all of the nutrients in the soil that they have so please please add some back in! You can do this with compost, liquid fertilizer or a host of other options go ahead and talk to your local greenhouse or nursery, they should be able to help you out!

    4) Patience: Plants are not on our time. You may have an orchid that blooms regularly (I have one I lovingly refer to as my 'christmas' orchid because it blooms the week before christmas like clockwork) and I have some that rarely bloom at all. It all just takes time. Another thing to note though is that blooms can change! I have some that have gone from yellow/purple blooms to straight purple and another that someone was watering with blue dyed water before I rescued it and when I took it home it bloomed white!

    Good Luck!

  6. What perfect timing for me! I've been trying to kill a $5 grocery store orchid for at least a year, and the little guy just won't die. But at this moment, he's looking very sickly. I've got to get some wood chips! And I'll try moving him the kitchen to the bathroom – it's very dry in our house in the winter.

    • In very dry houses sphanum moss is best bcause it holds the humidity longer. Can you describe you sickly plant? How do you water it? In what it it growing?

      • 99% of the time an orchid problematic the problem is a misunderstanding of it's needs. The most commonly sold orchid the phalaenopsis is relatively easy once you get how it lives. When in doubt, talk to the staff your local garden center or search the net like mad for orchid care. Generally the problem is watering.

  7. When my husband and I were dating, he bought me an orchid from a pet store. This poor thing has gone through so much abuse, but is still ticking along (although much scragglier now). It lost its leaves one winter when I left it on the window sill and it got too cold. The next year, I got a kitten who loved to tip the pot over off the highest shelf in my home. Two years later, once it grew back 3 thin little leaves, again I left it on the window sill, but the sun was too direct and hot, and the leaves got sunburned. It took two more years to nurse it back to about 6 leaves, and then I moved to Europe and my dad took care of it for me by placing it in his gecko habitat – geckos love to crash around on the plants in their habitat!
    So now I am back to nursing it to health, 6 years after I got it, and it hasn't bloomed since. I don't even remember what the flowers are supposed to look like. I'm hoping that with some more love & care I can get some leaves and maybe a shoot of blooms this year. It seems happy right now, with a few baby leaves and some root shoots popping out.

  8. Probably the main reason I'm itching to get skylights in our upstairs bathroom (our main bathroom) is so that we can hang/put some of our orchids, staghorns and tillandsia in the space. I LOVE bathrooms with plants!

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