Common Name: Moth orchids
Possibly the best advice to give anyone who wants to grow 'Orchids' is to tell them to grow Phaleanopsis simply because they are relatively easy to look after as they can be grown in a typical home without the need for the special facilities that is often associated with the growing of more exotic orchids, and for this reason it is often referred to as “the beginner’s orchid”
Because of their popularity there it is now estimated to be hundreds of phalaenopsis hybrids available to the amateur grower, including intergeneric hybrids such as Doritaenopsis and Asconopsis.
The name " Phaleanopsis" is derived from the greek word for moth "phaluna" due to the resemblance the flower heads have with many tropical moths.
In their natural environment, Phaleanopsis grow in tropical rain forests as epiphytes on the sides of trees.
Similarly, in this environment day temperatures can reach 35°C ( 95°F) and night temperatures only drop to around 25°C ( 75°F)
To try and emulate these conditions Phalaenopsis should never experience temperatures under 60° meaning you should; keep Phalaenopsis indoors in warm, humid conditions.
As hinted above; many Orchids require special growing conditions but for the purpose of this web page we will only use a very basic approach to their cultural needs.
Should you find that your interests extends to the need for more 'in depth' knowledge, then the best suggestion would be to purchase books on the subject, or perhaps join your local " Orchid Society" and meet with like minded people where you can share their extensive knowledge on the subject.
Plants can double in size in a year with the correct growing conditions.
Phalaenopsis bloom from January through May and the flowers can last for around 2-3 months, and in some cases re-bloom up to 3 times a year with ideal conditions.
Phaleanopsis prefer a location where they receive medium to bright indirect light, and a day temperature of 20°-30°C (68-85° F) and a night time temperature of 18°-24°C (65–75°F) .
A sign that the plants are receiving too much light is the leaves begin to turn yellow and / or become covered in spots.
For best results consistent temperatures are desired, especially when in bud, otherwise variable temperatures may cause flowers and buds to drop.
Similarly: Avoid positioning plants in draughty locations as these can create similar symptoms.
While one may think that as a tropical rain forest flower, Phaleanopsis must be accustomed to wet conditions, the fact is that they are an epiphyte,which means that they grow on the trunk of a tree rather than in soil.
With no soil to provide moisture, the plant/s became adept at drawing water from the humidity in the air.
It is best to allow potting mix to virtually dry out between waterings, (this can be determined by touching the potting mix with the tips of your fingers.)
If the compost feels quite moist then leave the watering till later.
Usually a weekly watering is all that is required.
When watering you can sit the container in a saucer of water for around an hour* and the the potting mix will absorb sufficient for the plants needs.
Allow any surplus water to drain off prior to returning it to its growing area.
* Never leave the container standing permanently in water.
Sitting the plant pot on a humidity tray* and or lightly spraying the plant with clean tepid water daily usually provides sufficient humidity.
*A tray filled with pebbles and water.
During the growing phase; apply a balanced fertiliser at one-quarter strength with every other watering.
At bud formation apply a high potashs fertiliser to promote blooming.
When in bloom, feeding is not necessary.
After flowering cut the stem down to just above the uppermost leaves, this will allow to the leaves to nourish the plant in preparation for the following years flowers.
The plants will eventually enter a period of dormancy where the leaveswill stop growing.
At this stage, rest the plants in an area that is slightly cooler and more shaded*.
*Placing the plant by a north-facing window with no direct sun for one to two months can work quite well.
Eventually the plant will start in to new growth, this usually occurs after about two months of dormancy.
If no new stem has started, consider putting the orchid in to a room that remains below 16°C ( 60°F)) to induce a new stem.
Feeding the plant with a high phosphorous fertiliser at this stage can often be helpful.
Once growth has commenced return the plant/s to there normal growing conditions.
Every 18 to 24 months plants may become 'pot-bound' which is often indicated by non-aerial roots growing out of the potting mix.
In such situations the plants will require the compost renewing and quite possibly there will be a need to pot them up into the next size pot.
Plants should be re-potted into the next size pot* with new sphagnum moss or a specific Phalaenopsis potting mix that has been moistened.**
Phalaenopsis are epiphytes, the use of clay pot can inprove compost aeriation.
* Over-potting can reduce bloom initiation and growth.
**Ensure that the potting mixture is not over-wet!
Gently pull the Phaleanopsis root ball from the pot and shake off any loose compost.
Trim off any dead or rotting roots.
Place a cone of potting mixture in the bottom of the new pot and drape roots over it, then top up the pot with additional potting mixture.
The base of the bottom leaf should be at the surface of the medium.
Water sparingly until new roots start.
Feeding is usually unecessary for the first month after re-potting.
Occasionally a flower bud will develop into a small plant with roots which can be cut off and potted up. These may take a couple of years to flower.