Every time someone comes over to my mother’s or my house, they look at our orchids, amazed. We have dozens of them, nearly all gifts, untidily arranged on window sills. Some are heavy with their second or third (or more, who remembers?) bloom; others are silent and contemplating in the rest period.
What’s our secret? Under-caring and patience. That’s right: we don’t fertilize often or regularly, we don’t repot, we don’t flood them with artificial UV bulbs and we wait.
What we do is find a large, well-lit window with no direct sunlight, place them in a clean cache-pot with a layer of gravel, then keep a thin layer of water in the cache-pot (especially if you live in cities with low humidity such as Oslo or Madrid) and spray them with clean water about once a day (but not necessarily). Location is key. The orchids you usually find on sale are plants that evolved in a humid rainforest, attached to large tree’s trunks and branches. Immersed in the understory layer of the rainforest they rarely see the sunlight (and will promptly “burn” if they do in your home) and live in a highly humid environment. Their roots are made to absorb humidity from the air, mainly, not float in pure water. The cache-pot (as opposed to a vase saucer) helps retain the humidity that comes from the evaporating water at the bottom of it; the gravel keeps the vase raised up from the layer of water and actual roots in the air. The spraying helps simulate the highly humid environment. Patience is a gift: your orchid, with the calmness of an overfed sloth, will flower once or maybe twice a year and for the remaining period will just don green, turgid leaves. Treat it as kindly as if it had flowers and you will be rewarded.
The only thing we haven’t quite perfected is how to “force” the buds in an upright position – they always tend to flop downwards, laden with flowers. It’s a very natural position: we soon got used to the effect of the downwards pull of gravity and adapted our movements to their nature.