top of page

Give Your Orchid a Vacation

By Paul Wood, Dakota County Master Gardener

Orchids are like school children. They have been cooped up in your house all winter. They have treated you well, stayed healthy, and maybe even treated you to blooms; for that they deserve something special: a vacation! It is easy; you don’t need a travel agent, an airline reservation or even a hotel room: just set them outside. Read this article by avid orchid grower, Paul Wood, to learn how to safely grow your orchids outside in the summer.

Give Your Orchid a Vacation

The orchids in your house are not native to Minnesota so being outside is like a foreign country to them; they need some orientation and acclimation to feel comfortable and really enjoy their vacation.


Prime Vacation Time


Orchids like to take their vacations most any time after our night-time temperatures stay above 50 degrees. They can stay on vacation until the temperatures start dipping below 50 at night.




For the most part, when you put your orchids outside, they should be in dappled light. Putting an orchid that has been inside all winter into direct sunlight will burn its leaves.  This is particularly true if you have Phalaenopsis (Phal) because they grow in the lower story of the forests so they don’t get a lot of light even in nature. 

The dappled light comes in many forms. My orchids spend the summer on the back deck in the shade of a birch tree and do quite well. There are pot clips you can buy for ceramic pots that allow you to hang the orchids right in the tree.

If you don’t have a shady spot, you can use shade cloth to protect your orchids. The level of shade depends on the orchid, but for Phals it is 70-80%. You can build a supporting structure for the cloth, but if you have a pergola you are ready to go.

Some orchids like Cattleyas, Dendrobiums or Oncidiums prefer more light than a Phal, but that doesn’t mean direct sun light. Bright diffused light is called for. Be sure to harden them off before leaving them in the brighter light.


Spa Treatments


Orchids, like any other plant, are subject to pests and disease. While your orchids are outside, it is a great time to give them “spa treatments” to keep them healthy. You won’t find orchid specific pesticides, but any pesticide that can be used on tropical plants will be OK for your orchids.


Systemic pesticides are best for sucking pests. Safari ®, Malathion ® or Imidacloprid work extremely well. Mix them with water and soak the roots. Both Safari and the chemical Imidacloprid are neonicotinoids, but there are no pollinators visiting your orchids so from that perspective they are safe to use. Horticultural oil can be used for scale as well.


Fungicides are best applied when the orchids enter the spa. The copper-based fungicides or a fungicide with chlorothalonil as the active ingredient work well. Remember that fungicides are preventative, not curative, so prevention is key.

There are more natural solutions to pest control than what I noted above. These are best used when the orchids return from vacation.


Libation Station


What is a vacation without some libation!  When your orchids are outside you need to continue to water and fertilize them, but you also need to consider the weather conditions. If it has been hot and dry, they might need to be watered more than once a week, particularly if they are in a small pot. Conversely, if it has been hot and humid or very rainy, you might want to hold back on the watering. Under hot conditions, they enjoy a misting to cool their leaves.


Orchids prefer their libations straight up, they don’t like mixes such as chlorine or pH increasers (e.g. city water). Watering from your rain barrel or using RO water will go a long way towards keep your orchids healthy.


In summary, don’t be afraid to move your orchids outside in the summer; just be sure to keep them shaded and out of direct sun. While on vacation they still need to be watered and fertilized, just be cognizant of the local weather conditions. While they are outside, use this time to treat them with pesticides to keep them healthy and pest free. Treating them also lessens the chance of bringing pests indoors when the vacation time must come to an end and they return to their job of being a flowering indoor plant for your enjoyment.


!!!!!! WARNNG- Orchids can become addicting!!!!!




How To Care For Orchids Outdoors - Everyday Orchids

Heat Stress (

Outdoor Orchid Care - American Orchid Society (

Photo credits: (All Creative Commons) (1), Paul Wood (2,3)

bottom of page