One who is new to the world of orchids is likely to have a chance encounter with some eye-catching orchids at a supermarket, florist shop or horticultural show. Nowadays, those orchids on display are most likely to be the latest cultivars from a genus of orchids called Phalaenopsis, which has furnished many modern decors, elegantly forming a lively staple of contemporary interior designs whilst being elevated to the status of a generic but desirable houseplant. Compact, long-lasting and shade-loving, countless living specimens of Phalaenopsis or moth orchid have undoubtedly become one of the most popular and ubiquitous potted plants to be admired in everyday life.
For example, at the inhouse florists of some hospitals, Phalaenopsis orchids are the only permitted or available potted plants on sale, alongside cut flowers and bouquets. Even though Phalaenopsis orchids have often been sold as disposable flowering plants as an alternative to cut flowers, they can be kept growing indefinitely under proper care and maintenance.
Containing more than 60 species, the genus is native to southern China, Taiwan, the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia (including Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia), New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, and Queensland. The significantly large area of distribution contrasts dramatically with the modestly small genus, rendering the systematic collection of scientific data concerning the ecology, distribution and biology of species Phalaenopsis orchids considerably difficult. Matters regarding both the quality and quantity of data collection aside, there are also ongoing issues of sustainability resulting from deforestation, environmental degradation and climate change.
The genera Doritis and Kingidium as well as the Doritaenopsis hybrids have been annexed into Phalaenopsis on account of DNA evidence, even though not every specialist in this field accepts these taxonomic changes.
Species Phalaenopsis aside, there is now an astonishing variety of Phalaenopsis hybrids, cultivars and clones available for all and sundry to acquire at reasonable prices, especially since the advent of the twenty-first century. Therefore, it is no longer beyond the means of many folks to keep a sizeable collection of Phalaenopsis.
Furthermore, individual collections can be as varied as their owners. There are those selective growers who largely avoid coloured Phalaenopsis and specialize in exhibition white Phalaenopsis (with coloured lip or blushes) to increase their chances of winning awards at orchid shows and societies, or to pay homage to the original white species as a symbol of purity and virtuousness. There are the purists who deem buying specimens to be a form of cheating, and prefer to restrict their collection to Phalaenopsis orchids that they have specifically bred and/or found in the wild. Then there are avid collectors who increase their stock by scouting particular shows and markets, visiting specific gardens and landscapes, or purchasing from shops and nurseries (whether directly or online). There are the upwardly mobile cultivators who use Phalaenopsis as a gateway to harder or dearer orchids. There are even the born-again Phalaenopsians who finally decide to settle upon growing no other orchids but Phalaenopsis, blissfully enjoying what they believe to be superior rewards and incomparable advantages afforded by the genus.
During a visit to any of the abovementioned venues, one is also likely to make their first purchase of a potted Phalaenopsis as a present for a romantic occasion such as Valentine’s Day, or as an endearing gift for a beloved mate, or as a living token of appreciation for a special person, such as one’s mother, who is likely to adore an orchid even more than a chrysanthemum, the latter being the traditional gift given on Mother’s Day 💐🎁, as the following examples demonstrate.
Of course, one may do a lot more than just purchasing a potted Phalaenopsis for one’s mother on the special day. Those who intend to shower their mothers with a rich combination of exciting treats and memorable delights may choose to celebrate the occasion with not just sentiments, songs, quotes, messages, poems, prayers, gifts, crafts, recipes and articles, but also flowering orchids via beautiful presentation of Photos📷, Videos📹, Computer & Web Graphics🖥, Paintings🖼, Floral Arrangements💐, Artistic Displays🎑, Ornaments & Decorations🎍, Shows & Markets🏬.
oO*♥*ೋღ 💗 HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY 💗 ღೋ *♥*Oo ☘☘▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ஜ۩۞۩ஜ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬☘☘ ▀███▄─▄███▀▄███▄███▄▀███▄─▄███▀ ─▐███████▌─█████████─▐███████▌ ─▐█▌▀█▀▐█▌──▀█████▀──▐█▌▀█▀▐█▌ ▄███▄─▄███▄───▀█▀───▄███▄─▄███▄ ☘☘▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ஜ۩۞۩ஜ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬☘☘
Mother’s Day is most commonly celebrated on the second Sunday of May, a date adopted by the greatest number of countries, nearly 100 in total. For countries with pronounced seasons in the northern hemisphere, this date occurs in late spring, which is within the peak flowering period of most Phalaenopsis. In contrast, those who live in the southern hemisphere may have few or no flowering Phalaenopsis unless they happen to live in the warmer tropics or have a greenhouse with temperatures being maintained between 16°C and 28°C (61°F and 82°F), the ideal range of temperatures for producing optimum growth in Phalaenopsis throughout the year.
The ideal temperature is 21°C (70°F) to 27°C (81°F) during daytime and 15°C (59°F) to 18°C (64°F) during night time.
Many Phalaenopsis orchids require daytime temperatures declining below 27°C (81°F) for flower initiation. In general, daytime temperatures of approximately 25°C (77°F) lasting several weeks are very conducive to triggering the growth of spikes. There is a definite inhibition of flowering at temperatures exceeding 29°C (84°F), though some Phalaenopsis with yellow flowers are able to bloom well at higher temperatures. Being exposed to a temperature of 32°C (90°F) even for a short time may prevent spiking.
Once spiking is well underway, if the average temperature remains too cold for a long period, the inflorescence will stop growing or grow very slowly.
Phalaenopsis orchids cultivated in very warm climates may stop growing in peak summer, and are more prone to sunburn or poor health in prolonged, elevated temperatures. In general, refrain from exposing Phalaenopsis orchids to temperatures above 35°C (95°F) even when they seem to tolerate such temperatures. Heat stress can be alleviated using air conditioning or misting. Damping down by wetting the floor and walls is usually only practicable in a greenhouse.
Conversely, heating should be provided when temperatures drop below 10°C (50°F) to prevent the occurrence of cell damage, cold shock and abscission (leaf drop). Reduce watering at temperatures below 18°C (64.4°F) to prevent root rot.
It is definitely worthwhile to maintain flowering plants in good condition by avoiding excessive temperature fluctuations and minimizing exposure to fumes and pollutants whilst ensuring adequate humidity and good ventilation, considering that Phalaenopsis orchids are well known for their long-lasting flowers, which can be enjoyed for about three months, occasionally even longer.
In general, aim for 50% to 80% humidity, even though lower humidity may often be tolerated indoors. Raise the humidity by using a humidifier or choosing to grow most if not all Phalaenopsis orchids in the dampest locations indoors, such as bathrooms or kitchens. Alternatively, half-fill saucers or trays with water to partially submerge a layer of gravels or pebbles, on which the potted Phalaenopsis can sit without contacting the water.
The higher the humidity, the better the airflow must be to avert rots or blemishes caused by certain fungi, such as Botrytis cinerea, a gray mold that can readily trigger flower blight, to which Phalaenopsis orchids with white blooms are most susceptible. Inadequate ventilation can also cause soft watery bacterial rot on flowers and leaves. Some experienced growers remedy or improve the situation by applying fungicide(s) and/or sanitizer(s) as well as increasing natural ventilation and/or switching on fans.
Having durable blossoms aside, a seedling Phalaenopsis can start to flower in about one and a half years, sometimes even sooner. Indeed, a well-grown Phalaenopsis specimen imparting a floriferous and spectacular display can be achieved in just a few years, so much so that one may lean on the cheerful spirit of Mary Poppins and sing a little ditty to tout the profuse nature of the genus as follows:
A strong, mature and well-grown Phalaenopsis is able to produce plentiful flowers in the ripeness of time, and to sustain those flowers for months. Many Phalaenopsis orchids may flower more than once a year. On exceptionally well-grown plants, flowering can be almost continuous for much of the year.
On the one hand, if a Phalaenopsis orchid becomes weak for any reason, or has less than four leaves, or its leaves are becoming flaccid, then all of its flowers and racemes should be promptly removed so that the plant may recover and not perish. On the other hand, an inflorescence that had produced flowers in the past can remain viable and be left on a healthy plant so that it may grow additional raceme(s) and bear flowers after a few months. Nevertheless, one should bear in mind that flowering repeatedly over long period(s) can considerably weaken a plant, not to mention that a Phalaenopsis orchid in flower is unlikely to make much vegetative growth until the flowering is over.
Stake any inflorescence that is very long, branched or heavy to prevent unnecessary movement, overbending or damage, especially in a crowded or windy area.
To prevent yellowing or dropping of buds (commonly called bud blast) and premature withering of blooms from happening to a flowering Phalaenopsis orchid, avoid inadequate light, excessive humidity, polluted air, severe temperature fluctuations, drying out too much between waterings, or reorientation of the pot if the light is very unevenly distributed or mainly available from one aspect of the growing area.
A blooming Phalaenopsis orchid is usually entered into a horticultural show held by an orchid society for judging under a competition class when the majority of its flowers are already open. Early abort of buds or flowers is always a risk to be avoided, given that if there is even one flower that is damaged or absent, then the plant is no longer fit for the competition show bench. Floral perfection is always difficult to achieve unless a Phalaenopsis destined to be judged at a show has been grown indoors or in a greenhouse with adequate protection from the ravages of pests, diseases and weather. The form and presentation of the raceme or inflorescence of a Phalaenopsis is also important. Ideally, a budding plant should be turned or repositioned sparingly or not at all so that the orientation of the flowers towards the source of light can remain the same.
Some Phalaenopsis specimens destined for amassing resplendent glories and top awards at orchid shows have been deliberately deprived of their normal flowering for two or more years by their ardent growers, who diligently remove their flower spikes as soon as they appear so that the plants may fully concentrate their energy on producing unadulterated vegetative growths capable of supporting massive floral sprays at the right time to compete at certain designated shows later.
Those who would like to learn more about precise manipulation of the timing of flowering may read the post entitled “Flower spike initiation in phalaenopsis”.
In an orchid show, the Phalaenopsis genus is always given its own competition classes, except in the novice section, where it is usually grouped with other orchid genera. An example is shown below:
- Exhibition type
- White and White with Coloured Lip and also Blush type
- Pink, Lavender, Reddish Purple
- Stripes, All Colour Combinations
- Spotted, including Fine Spots, French Spots, Harlequins, etc. – All Colours excluding Yellow
- Novelty type – All Other Colours – Red, Bronze, Blue, Orange and Violacea types
- Miniature Multi-Floral type
- Yellow and Yellow with Spots
As can be seen, the classification is mainly based on the colours and markings on the flower. The species and hybrids found within the genus of Phalaenopsis are diverse enough to afford even larger and more complex classification so as to include other floral characteristics, such as having scented flowers or possessing peloric blooms, the latter being a result of mutation whereby the petals assume the morphological structures of the labellum, leading to the flower developing three lips, which impart additional complexity, symmetry or beauty. Other features of interest can include variegated leaves, or being so tiny a plant as to be deemed a miniature. Regardless of the classification, it is a common practice that species and hybrid Phalaenopsis orchids compete separately.
Taken by Kerri Roland with NIKON D5100 camera at the 2013 Spring Show and Leo Li with NIKON D300 camera at the 2014 Autumn Show held by the Queensland Orchid Society, the following photographs provide some excellent examples of Phalaenopsis specimens exhibited under the aforementioned competition classes:
Click any image below to see gallery images displayed in a full-size carousel view, where individual photos can be commented on by anybody who wishes to admire, critique or identify the orchid specimens.
That Phalaenopsis orchids are very satisfying eye candies😍 is a foregone conclusion, as one can amply gauge and ascertain from the myriad photos and videos presented here. That they can consistently humour the nose with scents and smells👃 remains hopeful at best. The renewed interest in breeding orchids specifically for their fragrance as well as the worldwide progress achieved in fragrance classification, competition and judging will result in more perfumed cultivars being available to orchid enthusiasts and the public in the future.
Some hybridizers are endeavouring to introduce scent into Phalaenopsis. Consider yourself to be lucky if you own a slightly scented Phalaenopsis, as most are quite odourless, having no detectable fragrance to even the keenest human nose. Whilst a few species Phalaenopsis are mildly fragrant, their flowers last only one month, though some of these species can indeed delight us visually with their mottled leaves and purple undersides, which are lacking in most of the modern cultivars, having only plain green leaves. All in all, it is still somewhat ironic that the widespread and long-lasting flowers of Phalaenopsis are largely unscented, whereas the specialist and short-lived blooms of Stanhopea orchids are prodigiously fragrant.
Phalaenopsis bellina has been noted to smell like freesia, lily-of-the-valley, rose cologne, with a touch of velvet or lemon.
Except during very early morning or late afternoon, Phalaenopsis should never be subjected to direct sunshine unless the daytime illumination has been filtered by a curtain or shade cloth. Scorching, yellowing leaves or tissue necrosis is the result of too much sunlight or insufficient shading, whereas overly dark green and lanky growths result from inadequate light or too much shading.
As a comparison or general rule, Phalaenopsis prefers just slightly more light than that required by Saintpaulia (African violet), around 12,000 to 20,000 lux, which can be achieved by providing 70% to 80% shading from the full sun. As a rough guide, 20,000 lux is equivalant to a shade illuminated without direct sunlight by the entire clear blue sky at midday. Exposing Phalaenopsis orchids to light intensity between 20,000 and 25,000 lux is fine as long as the plants can remain healthy and bloom well.
If necessary, adjust the amount of light or shade according to annual cycles or seasonal variations. 10 to 16 hours of illumination is usually sufficient.
Water a potted Phalaenopsis orchid when the growing medium inside the pot has partially dried out or when the pot definitely feels less heavy when lifted by hand since the previous watering. In other words, use the weight of the pot to gauge whether the plant needs to be watered. Judicious watering will ensure healthy roots and thus avoid root rot caused by overwatering.
During the cooler months, it is advisable to prevent rot or infection due to excess moisture by watering Phalaenopsis in the morning so that any lingering water on the orchid, especially in the crown, has fully evaporated before sunset.
As a rule of thumb, increase the frequency of watering during warm, dry and/or windy days; reduce the frequency of watering during cool, cloudy, humid and/or rainy days.
During the wet season, the amount of manual watering should be flexibly adjusted for Phalaenopsis orchids grown outdoors and exposed to rain.
The growing medium of a potted Phalaenopsis orchid must always be partially moist between successive waterings, and therefore should not be allowed to dry out completely, given that Phalaenopsis, unlike sympodial orchids such as Oncidium Intergeneric (Dancing Lady) Orchids, does not have above-ground storage organs called pseudobulbs.
A Phalaenopsis orchid showing flaccid leaves (and protruding nervation) is not always a reliable indication of underwatering or dry potting medium, as it can be a sign of weakening plant or rotting roots caused by overwatering, overfertilizing, overblooming, deteriorating potting mix, and/or diseases.
Apart from manual watering, Phalaenopsis orchids can be irrigated with an automatic watering system, provided that the coverage of the automated spraying is sufficiently even so that there will be no plant receiving too much or too little water.
To reduce workload and to facilitate expediency and efficiency in watering, a collection of Phalaenopsis orchids can be sorted according to watering frequency and grown in separate groups.
Those who are adventurous may try the novel method of wick-watering or (semi-)hydroponics.
Since most growing media suitable for cultivating Phalaenopsis orchids in pots contain little nutrients, regular feeding is indispensable to sustain healthy growth and promote flowering.
Fertilize weekly and weakly at half or a quarter of the recommended dose or concentration. In general, fertilize more regularly when the weather is fine or warm, less when cool or overcast. Apply less water and fertilizer during cooler months or seasons, unless a plant is still vigorously growing at peak condition.
Wherever possible, use a combination of tonics (such as seaweed extract or worm juice) and balanced fertilizers (containing roughly equal ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) in rotation to promote robust growth and better health.
Occasional foliar feeding can be beneficial but not essential.
Some seasoned growers occasionally add dolomite, calcium nitrate, magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts) and silica to impart stronger constitution to their Phalaenopsis orchids.
Alternating with or switching to a bloom booster, high-phosphorus fertilizer or tomato-type fertilizer is advisable during the initiation of flower spikes, or when flowering is anticipated.
Refrain from overfeeding to prevent uncharacteristic growth, yellow or brown discolouration, and root burn. If possible, avoid using fertilizers containing a low-grade source of nitrogen called urea. Flushing the growing medium of a potted Phalaenopsis with water over a saucer, sink or bath tub can remove excess salts and accumulated chemicals.
Ordinary garden soil or loam is unsuitable since Phalaenopsis orchids are epiphytic plants requiring a growing medium with good aeration and moisture retention. A suitable growing medium should be adequately porous to supply air, water and nutrients to the roots of Phalaenopsis. It must also provide physical support and firm anchorage to the orchid growing on it.
Depending on personal preference, watering regime, growing conditions and climate, Phalaenopsis can be successfully cultivated in pots filled with sphagnum moss or a bark-based mixture. Since sphagnum moss can retain moisture much longer than a bark-based mixture, it is usually more suitable for growers who wish to water less frequently, or who live in warmer or windier climates, or who wish to mount rather than pot up their Phalaenopsis orchids.
Any suitable growing medium for cultivating Phalaenopsis successfully does not have to be used on its own. Other ingredients can be added or used in varying combinations to create a composite growing medium to suit differing growing conditions or purposes, as well as to enhance or harmonize with the aesthetic appeal of some decors or surroundings. For instance, bark may be mixed with charcoal, pearlite, expanded clay beads, polystyrene or polyurethane foams, whereas sphagnum moss may be combined with peat, diatomite, pearlite, scoria, bark, charcoal, activated carbon, dolomite and trace elements.
Some experienced growers always pretreat some or all ingredients of their potting media by rinsing and then soaking bark, coconut coir and other media with a commercially prepared sanitizing solution (usually enriched with organic acid, calcium, magnesium, potassium, colloidal minerals and silica) for a few days to remove soil and contaminants as well as residual phenols, tannins and sodium salts routinely found in certain organic growing media.
Those who delight in trying more unusual approaches to cultivating Phalaenopsis orchids can venture into the hydroponic realm, as shown in the post entitled “Self-Watering: Circulatory and Hydroponic Systems with Planting Pipes, Glass Bowls and Biological Ponds”.
Phalaenopsis may be grown singly or collectively in a pot. A non-porous pot is better than a porous one as the former retains moisture longer, and is less likely to have roots clinging to its interior surface, thus reducing root damage caused by the action of repotting at a later time. The pot should have at least one drainage hole at the bottom and an optional saucer for catching excess fluid, unless the Phalaenopsis is intended to be grown hydroponically or cultivated in a bowl, bottle garden or terrarium.
Renew the growing medium or potting mix if it starts to deteriorate or decompose, thus becoming sour or soggy. Choose a non-porous pot that allows the mature plant(s) to grow for one to three years, after which the mature plant(s) should be repotted or divided, preferably in springtime or after flowering. Use medium-grade media for mature plants and small-grade media for seedlings.
Repotting is not the same as dividing. The latter, namely dividing, is done when divisions of a potted specimen or clump are required for propagation or for giving away; or when a potted specimen or clump is considered too large and reduction in size is required.
Start repotting by carefully tipping the plant out of the old pot. Remove all rotted roots and old medium, then gently wash the remaining roots (as well as leaves if necessary) under running water. Spread the cleaned roots evenly inside the new pot. Fill the pot with fresh medium right up to the bottom of the lowest pair of leaves, which should preferably be placed at about 1cm or more below the top of the pot. Water the plant and keep the fresh media slightly drier than usual for a month or two, then resume normal watering.
Repotting is also required when a Phalaenopsis orchid is potbound or rootbound, regardless of how long the plant has stayed in the pot. Renewing the growing medium is unnecessary if both the roots and the medium are in good condition. If possible, gently tease out some of the tightly woven roots before placing the whole root ball into a new pot whose diameter is at least 20% larger than that of the old pot. Then add fresh growing medium into the space between the root ball and the new pot.
After repotting, some of the old growing media that are still in reasonable condition may be recycled and used singly or in combination with other growing media for cultivating other orchid genera or garden plants.
A Phalaenopsis orchid will occasionally produce aerial roots from its leaf axils. Dangling above or outside the pot, these adventitious roots are best left to their own devices, as they may deteriorate or perish not long after being pushed into or buried under the growing medium. If the aerial roots become very long, they should be trained carefully and handled sparingly as they are brittle and prone to breakage.
Transparent or translucent pots can be used to suit one’s decor or taste. On the one hand, the roots of Phalaenopsis orchids growing in transparent or translucent pots can photosynthesize as they are exposed to light. On the other hand, the transparency or translucency of the pots enables one to easily observe the growth and check the health of the roots. In addition, one may appealingly feature the decorative textures and colours of the growing media being used to cultivate Phalaenopsis orchids in a stylish fashion.
Hybridizations of Phalaenopsis orchids are best left to experts having the necessary conditions and laboratory skills to cultivate new plants by crosspollinating flowers and waiting for seeds to mature (4 to 8 months), germinating dust-like seeds and growing seedlings in flask culture of sterile agar followed by several stages of transplanting young plants (6 to 18 months), then maturing and flowering the adult plants en masse (6 months to 2 years), and carefully selecting and registering the best strains or forms to produce viable cultivars and superior clones. The whole process can take 16 to 50 months.
The most reliable and efficient methods for propogating Phalaenopsis are meristem cloning and in-vitro seed germination, both of which are well beyond the means of the average growers.
Occasionally, Phalaenopsis may produce a keiki, a small plant growing from one node along the flower stem, especially when the plant has been induced by prolonged exposure to high temperatures during the final phase of spike growth, or when the node has been treated with keiki paste containing cytokinin hormone. The keiki can be left to grow on its own or air-layered with sphagnum moss to promote root growth, and then detached to be potted up when it has sufficiently matured to thrive on their own with at least three leaves and three roots, each at least 3cm in length.
In addition, some Phalaenopsis can produce basal keikis at the base of the orchid. According to some anecdotal evidence, the occurrence of basal keikis may be enhanced by the application of seaweed extract. These keikis can be left attached to the mother plant if a large specimen clump is desirable. Alternatively, they can be detached and grown separately when they become sufficiently large.
In searching for the definitive answer to what causes a Phalaenopsis to grow a keiki, Maria, a biomedical research scientist and an avid orchid enthusiast living in New York, has reached the following conclusions, which are condensed as follows:
The internet has many claims about what causes an orchid to make a keiki, but offers little evidence in support. And even in the research literature, I struggled to find a definitive answer.
… I found a common claim that if a phalaenopsis with a new spike (<4 inches) is exposed to temperatures above 28C (82F), then the spike will develop keikis instead of flower buds.…
However, when I tried to find the original source for this claim, its evidence is weak. Sakanishi et al is a 1980 paper describing the Effect of Temperature on Growth and Flowering of Phalaenopsis amabilis. However, this paper never actually reported any keikis!
In fact, the authors found that high temperatures caused flower spikes to abort growth and flowering.…
What does keiki paste do?
A number of companies sell a product called “keiki paste” which when applied to a dormant node on a flower spike can help induce growth of a keiki. The active ingredient of keiki paste is a chemical called BAP, or benzyl adenine. BAP is a synthetic plant growth hormone. It stimulates activity from flower spikes, and can produce either flowers or keikis depending on environmental conditions.
Which still does not answer our original question about what conditions make a Phalaenopsis develop a keiki instead of flowers.
The final verdict?
I don’t think we actually really know the answer to this question.
Orchid research is not particularly interested in this question. Commercial growers optimize conditions to produce flowers, not keikis. And keikis are an inefficient way to reproduce orchids on a commercial scale, leaving little incentive to study keikis when there are important questions to be worked out in meristem cloning and in vitro seed germination techniques.
Since the health of Phalaenopsis cannot always be fully guaranteed, it is prudent to detect and identify various signs and symptoms of Phalaenopsis orchids looking subpar or suffering from degenerating health caused by flaws or oversights in cultivation.
Withered leaves and spent flowers as well as other dying, rotting or diseased plant material and debris should be removed to keep the orchids (and any companion plants) as well as the growing area clean and tidy in order to discourage the spread of diseases and the hiding of pests.
If cutting into living tissues is required, then refrain from using any cutting tool on different plants without thorough sterilization to prevent the spread of diseases. In other words, always sterilize the tool after using it on one orchid before using it on another. As a precaution, seal any fresh wound on Phalaenopsis with cinnamon powder without delay.
Plants affected by viral diseases are incurable and should be discarded to spare healthy plants from being infected, though any diagnosis of viral infection is by no means straightforward, conclusive or definitive without laboratory testing.
Whilst commercial or professional growers tend to spray their collection on a regular basis to treat or ward off pests and diseases, such regimented procedures can easily exceed the modest experience, means and willingness of many novices and amateurs, not to mention that protracted exposure to chemicals and pesticides in close quarters can be hazardous to the health of humans and pets.
In any case, prevention is better than cure. One should aim to care for their Phalaenopsis orchids as best as possible since well-grown specimens are more resilient to damage and disturbance than their weaker counterparts.
Be vigilant about the presence of small pests such as ants, scale insects, mealy bugs, aphids, thrips, whiteflies, caterpillars, slugs, snails and (red) spider mites, as well as larger pests such as rodents, cockroaches, grasshoppers and locusts, especially during warmer seasons when most pests are more active and numerous, and also when one has neglected their Phalaenopsis orchids (and companion plants), or when one has just received or procured new plants.
If possible, always quarantine new plants for at least a fortnight before introducing them to an existing collection of orchids, so as to guard against the transmission of pests and diseases.
Moth orchids, easily found at Trader Joes and some other groceries, are relatively easy house plants. You could not have convinced me of that several years ago.
Years went by when I admired orchids, but wouldn’t bring one home. I assumed that something so beautiful and exotic looking needed specialized care in a greenhouse from a master gardener in order to survive.
I credit Trader Joes, and their continual display or beautiful orchids right inside the door, for giving me the confidence to try growing my first Phalaenopsis, or Moth orchid, several years ago. Since orchids of all colors, sizes, and varieties are right there within sight of the coffee and bananas, I finally chose a beautiful little purple orchid, in a 3″ pot, priced at just under $10.00.
I brought it home very gingerly, holding it to protect the flowers, and immediately went to the internet to research the finer points of its care. I even ordered Steven Frowine’s Orchids For Dummies somewhere along the line to make sure I didn’t miss any crucial tidbits for keeping my little orchid alive.
And I learned…. it’s just not that complicated.
Moth orchids are epiphytes, living in the branches of trees in tropical forests. Most of these orchids originate in tropical China, India, Papua New Guinea, and tropical areas of Australia. Taiwan has a huge nursery trade in orchids, but more and more are propagated right here in the United States, which is one reason the price has come down and the selection increased.
Knowing that orchids live in the canopy of rain forests tells us they don’t need much room for their roots to grown in a pot, they like heat and humidity, and they are naturally tough plants.
For all the delicate beauty of each blossom, these flowers are much sturdier, and longer lasting, than most other flowers we might buy on a potted plant. An individual orchid blossom can be expected to remain beautiful for several weeks. The spray or flowers may remain in bloom over a period of months.
Although an orchid may bloom for months, once the bloom is finished, the plant will require a long rest. An individual plant may only bloom once or twice a year, if that. Coaxing an orchid back into bloom can take some effort, which is why many people quietly discard their orchid once the blooms fade.
I’ve never easily discarded a plant, especially while it is still alive, and so I simply move the orchid plant and continue caring for it when the blooms fade. And by doing that, I’ve learned that the moth orchid will rebloom, if I’m simply patient and allow the plant to recover its energy. To rebloom, orchids require sufficient light, sufficient water, sufficient nutrition, and a difference of about 20 degrees between daytime and night time temperatures for several weeks. Lacking any of these, they may not set buds.
Moth orchids appreciate bright sunlight, but can’t take a day of direct sunlight. They need a bit of shading, especially in summer. If the leaves of your orchid begin to elongate, or turn very dark green, it is an indication that more light is needed. Orchids on display, away from bright lights, need to be moved back into the light to recover when the display is dismantled.
Most growers plant orchids in sphagnum moss. While the moss holds the roots in the pot ( or more likely in a little plastic drinking cup), the moss offers the plant little or no nutrition. I’ve found that keeping the orchid in a west or northwest facing window, keeping it moist, and feeding with a dilute solution of orchid food will allow it to rebloom. Leaving the bloom scape in place, once the actual flowers have fallen off, may hasten reblooming. More than once, new buds have formed on an old bloom scape.
Although most of an orchid’s roots remain in its pot, Phalaenopsis will also grow silvery aerial roots. These roots can absorb humidity directly from the air. They would normally help anchor the plant on the branch of the tree where it was growing. If you move the moth orchid out of a pot into a wooden basket, or onto a branch of wood for display, these roots will help anchor the plant in place. I like the unusual appearance of these roots which grow as the plant matures.
Many orchids respond well to a good soak once a week or so, and then several days to dry a bit before the next watering. Orchids require a little more water while buds develop to sustain their blooming, and less water during their period of rest.
Most orchids are purchased while in bloom, and the bloom scape is supported by a thin stick of wood or wire. Little spring loaded clips hold the bloom scape against its support. When the bloom is finished, I remove these supports, and save them for use again later. The bloom scape doesn’t naturally grow straight up for a tall display of blossoms.
When the plant begins to grow a new blooming stem, you might want to replace the support and gradually train the scape up the support. If you leave it to its own devices, it will probably grow horizontally, or even hang down under the weight of the flowers.
Orchids can be displayed in a variety of ways. While they look pretty even in the little nursery pots they are purchased in, I also like to work them into more elaborate arrangements. I will sometimes construct an arrangement with ferns, ivy, small Rex Begonias, and orchids in a pretty bowl. While the other plants are removed from their nursery pots and planted into potting soil in the bowl, I leave the orchid in the little plastic cup from the grower.
With a base of gravel in the bottom of the bowl for drainage, I’ll leave space to set the orchid, in its cup, on the gravel, and then fill in around it with small stones and potting soil. It is important that the orchid get good drainage. It shouldn’t sit in water or overly damp soil. This allows you to have some control over how much water you give the orchid, versus how much water the other plants in the arrangement get.
In several weeks, when the orchid has finished blooming, it is easy to pull the plant out in its cup. The orchid can go in a window sill to rest and recover, and you can pop a fresh orchid into the arrangement to keep it fresh.
A blooming orchid is such a special joy during winter. My eye always turns towards the orchid display in January and February, when very little is blooming out in the garden. During this stark season, when the world has melted into browns and greys, a bright orchid brings so much energy and freshness. Orchids demand very little from us, and bring such happiness. If you don’t already have an orchid in your home, I hope you’ll consider adopting one to bring flowers back into your home for the remainder of the winter.
- Moth Orchid (forestgardenblog.wordpress.com)
- Culture Characteristics for Phalaenopsis (amebse.nchu.edu.tw)
- Phalaenopsis (en.wikipedia.org)
- Beginner’s Series 23 – Phalaenopsis Part 4 (aos.org)
- Phalaenopsis Orchid Care (orchidweb.com)
- Caring for Phalaenopsis Orchids (stonybrookorchids.com)
- What is a phalaenopsis? It might not be what you think (mariasorchids.blogspot.com.au)
- 2017 New York Orchid Show: Phalaenopsis (mariasorchids.blogspot.com.au)
- What causes a phalaenopsis to grow a keiki? (mariasorchids.blogspot.com.au)
- New York Orchid Show 2013: Phalaenopsis (mariasorchids.blogspot.com.au)
- Phalaenopsis flower spikes update (mariasorchids.blogspot.com.au)
- Second phal keiki removed from mother plant (mariasorchids.blogspot.com.au)
- Potting the first of the phal keikis (mariasorchids.blogspot.com.au)
- Repotting Phalaenopsis keikis into finer media (mariasorchids.blogspot.com.au)
- Which are the hardiest orchids: Darwinian orchid care, part 2 (mariasorchids.blogspot.com.au)
- Potting Media (ranwild.org)
- Flower spike initiation in phalaenopsis. (plantorchid.wordpress.com)
- Phalaenopsis care (plantorchid.wordpress.com)
- Phalaenopsis Orchids Plant Care Guide (proplants.com)
- Phalaenopsis orchids Temperature (plantorchid.wordpress.com)
- Phalaenopsis, Doritis and Doritaenopsis (plantorchid.wordpress.com)
- Transparent Pot (clear pot) (plantorchid.wordpress.com)
- Self-Watering: Circulatory and Hydroponic Systems with Planting Pipes, Glass Bowls and Biological Ponds (queenslandorchid.wordpress.com)
- Bark Products from New Zealand and South Australia for Growing Orchids in Australia 🇦🇺 (queenslandorchid.wordpress.com)
- Celebrate 2015 Mother’s Day with Orchids, Arts, Gifts and Shows 💐🎁 (queenslandorchid.wordpress.com)
- Celebrating 2014 Mother’s Day with Queensland Orchid Society (queenslandorchid.wordpress.com)
- Glorious Orchid Specimens in 2013 Spring Show Competition (queenslandorchid.wordpress.com)
- Leo Li and His Exceptional Orchid Photography 📷📸 (queenslandorchid.wordpress.com)
- Orchid Blooms as Eye Candies 😍 (queenslandorchid.wordpress.com)
- The Scents and Smells of Orchids ❀👃✾ (queenslandorchid.wordpress.com)
- Orchid Mantis: Imitation and Disguise (queenslandorchid.wordpress.com)
- Ikebana Lessons with Orchids: Minimalist Flower Arrangement 🎍💐 (queenslandorchid.wordpress.com)
- Celebrate Valentine’s Day with Romantic Orchid Display, Art, Poetry and Game 💝🕊💌💘 (queenslandorchid.wordpress.com)
- Decorating with an Orchid Flower or Two ✾ (queenslandorchid.wordpress.com)
- Mother’s Day (pottedplantsociety.wordpress.com)
- Mother’s Day Preview in the Store (pottedplantsociety.wordpress.com)
- Mother’s Day (queenslandbegonia.wordpress.com)
- Mother’s Day Preview in the Store (queenslandbegonia.wordpress.com)
- Mother’s Day (rhsq.wordpress.com)
- Mother, May I? (stephaniemartinglennon.com)
- Blossom (dailypost.wordpress.com)