Moving orchids into shadier areas is standard spring care, but don’t put them in the dark! Seeing orchids growing wild in the tropics, I’ve been amazed how many grow in full sun. Sure, Vandas and Epidendrums love sun, but even lower light varieties, like Phals and Paphs, can handle direct sun for part of the day. Sometimes, their leaves turn red from the strong light. Depending on the variety and growing conditions, leaves may be completely purple-red, have red on the edges, or have a subtle reddish tint.
While some orchid varieties will sunburn and fry in these bright conditions, a surprising number can manage if they have regular water and good humidity. Red leaves are a defense from burning, but also a guarantee that the orchid is receiving sufficient light to thrive. Contrast these high light levels with those found in many homes and offices. In dim conditions, most orchids won’t flower. If yours won’t bloom, consider letting the sunshine in. Morning sun is best, since it’s less likely to burn the leaves. Move the plant into brighter light gradually, over 2 weeks or more. Always maintain good humidity and air movement, and provide extra shade on hot days. Cattleyas, Cymbidiums, Dendrobiums, and Oncidiums are a few kinds that like some sunshine. Their leaves don’t need to turn red; a light green color usually indicates that the plant is receiving enough light.
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