How to Grow Orchids Indoors?

Blooming orchids look so ethereal that it's hard to believe you can grow them inside your home. Provided they have proper growing conditions, it isn’t difficult to learn how to take care of orchid plants

Downy Rattlesnake Plantain orchids (Goodyera pubescens)
Downy Rattlesnake Plantain orchids (Goodyera pubescens)

My next wild orchid encounter happened while hiking through Mill Bluff State Park in Wisconsin. A cluster of Goodyera pubescens (Downy Rattlesnake Plantain orchid) was in full bloom right next to one of the lightly trafficked trails. There are four species of Goodyera orchids native to North America: G. pubescens, G. oblongifolia,  G. repens, G. tesselata. As I travelled west, I luckily had the chance to encounter a couple different Goodyera species!

https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=GOPU

Also known as the Downy Rattlesnake Plantain orchid, G. pubescence can be found across many eastern and central states, growing in the acidic soils of upland woods. The orchid's common name refers to the fine downy hairs that cover all parts of the plant, especially its bloom spike (the latin genus name is a reference to 17th century English botanist John Goodyer. 

Mill Bluff State Park
Lightly trafficked trails in Mill Bluff State park, near where G. pubescens was found

G. pubescens blooms with a tightly-packed inflorescence bearing dozens of small white flowers. Another distinctive feature is its brightly colored foliage, which stays green even through...

Epipactis helleborine in bloom
Epipactis helleborine

I came across this native orchid almost entirely by happenstance. I had stopped at a beach access point to look over at a placid Lake Michigan coastline.  Although many different flowers were growing along the coast, one particular shrub caught my eye.  There was something different, something familiar about it.  I jumped the fence to get close, and my suspicions were confirmedthis was, in fact, a wild orchid! Further observation identified it as Epipactis helleborine.

Lake Michigan Upper Penninsula coastline
Lake Michigan shoreline--E. helleborine was growing just to the left out of view

So what do we know about this species? E. helleborine is a terrestrial orchid species that grows in wooded areas, swamps and riverbeds around the world, including parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America. In fact, in the US, it's sometimes known as the "weedy orchid" because of its propensity for invading lawns and flowerbeds.  An audacious little plant!

E. helleborine distribution in the US (Adapted from: https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=EPHE)

A recent study (May et al (Micorrhiza) 2020) provides insight into how this species is so successful across many terrains.  Like many orchids, E....


After almost a decade spent living in NYC, I am moving to the opposite coast.  A journey that covers 14 states and almost 4000 driven miles, with stops in nearly a dozen state and national parks across this beautiful landscape.

In the next series of posts, I will spotlight some of the wild orchids I encountered along this journey of a lifetime.