Orchid Lighting – Tips for Novice Growers

If you're new to growing orchids you may already already read that getting the light conditions correct is tremendously important if you hope to grow healthy plants. While it certainly is important, it's not necessary as difficult as you might think. While the best orchid lighting conditions are those that closely resemble the original, natural environment of the species, many orchids will tolerate a little variation to those conditions. Artificial lights can also be employed to adjust the conditions if you can not achieve the right duration and strength of light by natural means.

Do not fall for the fallacy that all orchids require strong tropical sunlight. The fact is many would suffer in those conditions. Terrestrial orchids in particular, may be genetically accustomed to being shielded from harsh sunlight by a dense forest canopy. It's always best to establish the level of light that the particular species of orchid you have requires.

That said, here are some general tips for checking and adjusting the lighting conditions for your orchids:

  • Examine your plants for any signs that they are being over exposed to light or not receiving enough of it. Symptoms of over-exposure can include scorching on the leaf tips or reddish spots on the leaves. A plant that is not receiving enough light is likely to have very dark green foliage. It might look healthy, but the foliage of most orchid varieties should be closer to a lighter, brighter green.
  • If it's evident that your plant is over or under exposed to light, consider whether you might be able to make a few natural adjustments. Can you reposition the plant to receive more or less light? Perhaps you can position something similar that will decrease the strength of the light or move something that is currently blocking the light.
  • For indoor plants, consider whether your orchid is too close to a window, or not close enough. Keep in mind that sunlight shining through glass can be particularly intense.
  • No natural solutions? You might need to consider artificial lighting. You'll need to establish the correct level of lighting for the species of orchid you are growing. You'll find that this is measured in foot candles so when you're buying orchid lights, look for a match. You'll also have to consider the duration of light your plants receive so investing in a timing device to turn the lights on and off for you can help prevent any forgetful mishaps.
  • If you want to measure the light levels your orchids are exposed to now, or the level of light you already have indoors, you can purchase a light meter which measures the light in footcandles.

Orchids need light – it enables them to transform carbon dioxide into valuable nutrients. Having insufficient light can hamper your plants' ability to produce flowers and create healthy new growth so it really does pay to get it right.