Phalaenopsis Orchids have grown to be one of the most popular plants to give as a gift because of their showy long-lasting blooms, wide green leaves, ease of care, and their ability to grow indoors in almost any location. Since Phalaenopsis Orchids grow well at normal room temperatures, they make attractive living centerpieces in the kitchen, living room, and anywhere that sunny but indirect light brightens a room. They can even be grown under grow lights in an interior office or dorm room. In short, the beautiful and adaptable Phalaenopsis Orchids can be grown in any home or indoor location with bright light and average indoor temperatures between 69 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can also grow Phalaenopsis Orchids outside in USDA Zones 10 to 11, and indoors in Zones 4 to 11. They like high shade and an area sheltered from strong wind. In nature Phalaenopsis Orchids grow wild on tree trunks in tropical regions, where they attach to tree bark with their strong roots. When grown in a pot, a Phalaenopsis will often grow toward the pot edge and attach itself to the outside of the container surface. This is normal and can make for some very interesting mature plants, as each Phalaenopsis Orchid will grow in a unique way over time.
Phalaenopsis Orchid Care
Phalaenopsis Orchids are also called Moth Orchids. One of the most important factors for a healthy, happy Phalaenopsis or Moth Orchid is proper light. Phalaenopsis Orchids need bright but indirect light for most of the year. Place them near a window that gets either bright morning or afternoon sun so they can absorb the reflected light. Do not put them on a winow sill that receives harsh, direct sunlight in spring, summer, or fall. In winter months you can place your Phalaenopsis Orchids in a spot with more direct winter sunlight, but be sure to rotate the pot ¼ turn every day to maintain even growth.
When potting a Phalaenopsis Orchid, use an orchid pot with multiple large holes for areation and drainage. Phalaenopsis Orchids like a coarse, well draining mixture of bark, perlite, and charcoal. If you are growing your potted Phalaenopsis Orchid indoors, add 1-part sphagnum moss to every 3-parts of orchid potting medium and mix well. Plant the new orchid so that the main stem and all leaves are above the potting medium surface, and most of the roots are inside the pot and covered by the orchid potting mix. Fertilize with slow-release, osmotic orchid fertilizer once every 4 months, or with half-strength, liquid orchid fertilizer once a month.
Phalaenopsis Orchid Watering
Wild Phalaenopsis Orchids grow on tree trunks and branches in tropical areas that are high in humidity, have exceptionally warm climates, and receive torrential rains. This combination of weather and the growing habits of the orchids cause them to be alternately drenched, then quickly drained and soon dry. Phalaenopsis Orchids will not tolerate their roots being constantly damp. Water them fully using lukewarm water about once every two weeks in most locations. The important thing to remember is to only water them again when the roots and potting medium have dried out completely.
Another factor to consider is water composition. Any naturally occurring water source such as rain water, spring water, or well water is great for orchids. However, municipal water that is treated with chlorine can quickly damage and even kill orchids. Phalaenopsis Orchids seem to be particularly sensitive to chlorinated water and they should never be watered with any water containing this chemical. Catch rain water or use bottled spring water to water your Phalaenopsis Orchids and they will thank you with month-long blooms and healthy green leaves for years.
Phalaenopsis Orchids send out flower stems between their leaf bracts and the flower stems can be up to 18-inches long and have between 8 to 14 flowers on each spike. Healthy plants will sometimes send forth multiple flower spikes and when this happens you are in for a show. Since the flower spikes are so long, you may need to support them using small bamboo or plastic stakes. Loosely tie flower spikes to the slim stakes using cotton string or coated wire ties.
Phalaenopsis Orchid blooms can last for a month or more. As the blooms mature, the oldest flowers will dry and fall off first, followed by the others, usually one at a time. Once all of the flowers on a spike have fallen off, allow the spike to remain on the plant as long as it is green. Once the flower stem had turned brown and dried, you can cut it off using heavy-duty, sharp, sterilized scissors or hand pruners.
What pests affect Phalaenopsis Orchids?
Spider Mites and Mealy Bugs can become established on Phalaenopsis Orchids, but this is rare for plants growing indoors. Spraying with diluted Insecticidal soap will rid your plants of these pests quickly.
I heard that I should water my Orchids with ice cubes. Is this true?
Orchids are tropical plants and they never encounter ice in their native habitat. However, two University studies showed no adverse effects to orchids watered with ice cubes. Doing so may not harm the orchid, but it is no better than traditional watering. What is more important is not overwatering.
When should I repot my Phalaenopsis Orchid?
Pot new orchids in 6 to 8-inch orchid pots using 3 parts coarse orchid potting mix and 1 part sphagnum moss. Phalaenopsis Orchids can remain in such a pot for up to 2 years before repotting.
Are Phalaenopsis Orchids cold hardy?
No. Phalaenopsis Orchids are tropical and will not tolerate frost or freezing conditions. In semi-tropical locations you can grow Phalaenopsis Orchids outside, then bring them indoors if temperatures fall below 40º F.