Today a beginner asked me “how do I look after my orchids” and with limited time I had to try and impart some knowledge that would keep the Sarcochilus she just bought alive.

I chose to talk about watering – I think watering your orchids is the most important skill any orchid grower can master.

With my Sarcs I use the “tag test” to do this I pull out a tag from a plant and feel the tip – is it wet, moist or dry. With Sarcs the aim is to get “almost dry” before watering again. Of course its a bit of a balancing act because we have too many plants to water individually so it has to be an average score across a few plants….


Once you have mastered the tag test the next thing to look at is the weather. Added to the basics of the tag test I also try and avoid watering on the coldest days in winter and spring if I can so perhaps for example based on a tag test today is the day to water but overnight temps will drop too low┬áI will wait till the next day if that is better conditions. In the photo above (today’s weather forecast – Thursday NOV 10 2016) if you have a look at Fridays forecast – the low temp is the overnight temp ie Fridays low is Thursday night into Friday morning when the sun rises and warms things up. 8 degrees is not too bad but still the next 2 days with minimums of 13 and 11 are better than 8 so if my plants were dry today (Thursday) I would wait until tomorrow to water. It is generally the overnight lows that we have to worry about in Melbourne – aiming not to have the plants sopping wet on the coldest mornings. In the middle of winter the lowest lows are often 4 – 6 degrees – a bit nippy and well worth avoiding having your plants too wet on these mornings if you can.

– at the height of summer watering becomes about cooling the plants, contrary to what you read elsewhere like “do not water the plants if its hot” “do not water at night” etc when its hot I water ALL the time – over 30 degrees this could be twice a day, three times a day on those high 30s 40s+ scorchers- see my other posts about growing Sarcochilus for more info.

The tag test can be used for other genera too – its then about learning what your new genera wants ie for native Dendrobiums I would tend towards watering as soon as the tag is dry while some others need a dry rest for weeks / months at a time.

Watering does depend a bit on what area you grow in, what media and pots you use and if your plants are open to the rain but generally I imagine that the tag test would work everywhere – let me know if you have a different system that works! (you can comment on the post below)