How to Grow a Phalaenopsis Orchid

Written by s. a. holt
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The phalaenopsis orchid is one of the easiest orchids to grow in the home. It is also one of the most beautiful. Its impressive blooms were originally thought resemble moths, and thanks to the diligence of breeders around the world, these orchids are available in many colours. Phalaenopsis orchids enjoy a location that offers bright, gentle, indirect light so an eastern exposure is perfect. They also thrive in humid conditions. Don't be concerned if the green, fleshy roots of the phalaenopsis orchid start to climb out of the growing medium and into the air. These orchids are often epiphytic when growing in the wild. This means that they like to grow on or near trees. The medium they grow in commercially is often composed of small wood chips and pebbles. These characteristics make this orchid an exotic plant, but one that can be a good friend that will thrive in your home for many years.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Orchid soil
  • Acid loving plant fertiliser
  • Window with an eastern exposure
  • Saucer
  • Pebbles
  • Spray bottle

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  1. 1

    Evaluate your orchid seller before you ever buy an orchid. Orchids can be delicate flowers and even a little harsh treatment can kill one quickly. The store selling you an orchid should be experienced in keeping them healthy. It should carry a regular stock of orchids and have a plant specialist who understands plants, not just a clerk who waters plants occasionally. Home improvement and variety stores carrying seasonal orchids should be your last choice unless you have some indication that they understand orchids and know how to care for them.

  2. 2

    Inspect any phalaenopsis orchids you are considering for insects, overall health and good treatment.

  3. 3

    Look for the largest plants you can find. Larger, more mature plants will have larger root systems and bigger, more abundant blooms.

  4. 4

    Avoid plants with torn or split leaves.

  5. 5

    Avoid plants whose pots have water in the bottom.

  6. 6

    Purchase a plant with as many buds on the blooming spike as possible. Most orchids that are sold are in bloom. Although a spray of orchid blossoms can last up to three months, you will get the maximum benefit from the spike on a new plant if some of the buds haven’t opened.

  7. 7

    Inspect the root system of the plant and limit your selections to plants with many fleshy, green roots nestled in the growing medium. Many retailers display plants in a decorative pot with a clear liner through which you can see the plant's roots.

  1. 1

    Supplement the humidity in a dry room by spritzing your orchid daily to help keep the air moist, particularly in winter.

  2. 2

    Fill saucer of pebbles with water to create more humidity around the plant.

  3. 3

    Water your orchid once a week to once every ten days. Check the potting mix before watering by testing it with your finger. Feel the medium at a depth of about two inches. It should feel dry. If it feels moist, wait and test it again in a couple of days.

  4. 4

    Avoid wetting the crown or the blossoms of the plant and always use warm water.

  5. 5

    Fertilise every other watering when the plant is blooming and once a month when it is dormant.

  6. 6

    Repot your phalaenopsis orchid once a season. As the wood chips in the potting mixture start to break down, they retain more moisture and can harm the plant's root system.

Tips and warnings

  • The phalaenopsis orchid is commonly known as the moth orchid. It comes from the family Orchidaceae.
  • Most orchids bloom once or twice during a season. Often their signal to start blooming is a change in temperature. If you are having trouble getting your phalaenopsis orchid to bloom, determine whether it’s a spring or fall bloomer, and try adjusting the temperature for a few weeks to encourage blooming. The temperature may need to go up or down depending on the variety you have.
  • The roots of phalaenopsis orchids are seldom exposed to water for long periods. They are designed to quickly extract the water that reaches them and have few defences against damage from prolonged exposure. It's important to limit the amount of water coming in contact with their roots. Never let a phalaenopsis orchid sit in a dish of water.

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