How Long Do Orchids Live Outdoors?

Orchids are one of the loveliest of all flowering plants, with many different species available for cultivation. Many orchid growers prefer to keep these beauties indoors to control their environment, but are they suitable for growing outdoors as well?

Depending on the orchid species you choose, and the climate of your region, orchids can last for many years when grown outdoors, with some plants living for 100 years! The key to their longevity is selecting species suited to your growing zone and providing them with optimal conditions.

Can You Put Your Orchid Outside in the Summer?

Even in climates with cold winters, you can move potted orchids outside when warmer weather arrives. In fact, spending the summer months outdoors will help them grow more vigorously.

How Do You Care for an Orchid Outside?

Orchids evolved in the shady understory of tropical rainforests, where they are accustomed to moderately moist conditions, especially in the summer months. They often grow on the trunks and branches of trees, so they’re used to a well-drained growing medium.

In your garden, keep your orchids out of the direct sun on a shady patio or under a tree. Plant them in a very loose soil mixture and water them regularly.

Can You Grow Orchids in Your Garden?

If you live in a tropical climate, you can grow orchids outdoors year-round.

While some tropical orchids are terrestrial and will thrive in soil, most species are epiphytes, having evolved to grow with exposed roots attached to tree trunks or branches. If possible, finding a spot as close to the native conditions of that species will give it the best chance for long-term survival.

How Long Do Garden Orchids Last?

How Long Do Garden Orchids Last

Given perfect growing conditions, garden orchids can easily live for decades. One specimen in a Singapore public garden is more than 150 years old!

The flowers themselves can last for weeks or even months before fading until the next year.

In hot, humid climates like Florida, species such as Vanda and Epidendrum grow well, while Mediterranean climates like Southern California are better suited to species like Cymbidium.

In zones 5-9, species such as Bletilla and Calanthe are popular choices.

What is the Lowest Temperature an Orchid can Tolerate?

Tropical orchids will not tolerate temperatures lower than 40°F (4.5°C), but there are cold-hardy species that can survive freezing temperatures during the winter.

Can Orchids Live Outside in the Winter?

While tropical orchids cannot live through cold winters outdoors, there are some orchid species that have evolved in regions with frigid winter conditions. The Lady Slipper will survive and even thrive in a zone 2 northern garden. In fact, they will bloom better with 3 months of temperatures at or below 41°F (4.5°C)!

Can Temperatures Be Too Hot for Orchids?

Many orchids may be tropical natives, but that doesn’t mean that they can take extremely hot temperatures for any length of time. In their native rainforests, their shady habitats stay relatively cool.

Generally, the hottest temperature that they will tolerate for a brief period is 90°F (32°C), and 85°F (30°C) for longer stretches. They will do better if temperatures drop 10 to 15°F over night, and will require frequent watering to reduce their stress until the heat wave passes.

In fact, if you live in a region with extremely hot summers, you may find that plants that live happily outdoors in warm winters may need to be brought into a cooler indoor environment in summer!

Will Orchids Die in the Direct Sun?

If orchids don’t get killed by prolonged exposure to the direct sun, they will certainly sustain serious damage.

Whether they grew on tree trunks or on the forest floor, orchids evolved in shady conditions with the harsh tropical sun filtered by the tree canopy.

You will know if your orchids are getting too much sun if their leaves start to turn yellow, followed by white and then brown spots. Find a shadier spot for them, and trim off the damaged leaves.

Where is the Safest Location to Place an Outdoor Orchid?

Where is the Safest Location to Place an Outdoor Orchid

Overall, you can’t go wrong with a shady spot for your outdoor orchid, whether it stays in a pot, or you plant it out in the ground or find a tree to let it climb with its epiphytic growth habit.

If you have a patio or deck with a shade canopy, you can place a pot where it can get some early morning sun but is protected from the harsh midday rays. In a garden setting, plant it under a tree with a thick canopy that will keep the direct sun off of its delicate foliage.

Final Thoughts

While many people are intimidated by the thought of growing orchids, one of the best ways to ensure healthy, beautiful plants is by letting them spend at least part of the year outdoors. Choosing the right species for your climate will increase the chances of your success!