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Orchids – Growing Phalaenopsis

white phalaenopsis (orchid)

white phalaenopsis (orchid)

The Phalaenopsis genus is one of the most popular orchid groups. And for good reason – they’re attractive and easy to grow. Most orchids have the reputation of being hard to care for. That’s justified in some cases. But the Phalaenopsis is very forgiving. And they produce flowers that simply say ‘orchid’.

They do well with modest to bright light, but take care not to overdo it. Direct sunlight that lasts more than a few minutes can damage the leaves, as it will many orchids. Many are epiphytes – they cling to trees and hence get natural shade. Whether grown in the home or decorating the office, they’ll do very well in an east or west facing window. If you put them in a south facing window, make sure they are shaded.

They’ll do very well in a warm climate where the daytime temperatures range from 75-85F/24C-29C. But they’ll do best if the nighttime temperature dips down to produce a 15-20 degree Fahrenheit difference, not too much more nor less. For areas where the summer nights can cool off to 45-55F (7C-13C), it’s best to keep them indoors or in a greenhouse.

Like many orchids, they like it humid. Between 60-70% would be uncomfortable for many people, but these plants thrive in those moist conditions. If your natural environment doesn’t supply that, it can be easily supplemented by the judicious use of a watering tray and/or automatic mister. That keeps the air around them moist without affecting the larger area where you stand to enjoy them.

Unlike some other types, Phalaenopsis is happy with a lot of water. Their roots shouldn’t be wet all day every day. But, also unlike some other orchids, they don’t thrive when the roots dry out between waterings. Continual moisture will be highly appreciated. Watering once a week is usually sufficient. Just be sure to separate the pot and tray with a few pebbles to prevent overwatering.

Feeding once per month with a high nitrogen fertilizer is ideal. Just dilute one teaspoon in a gallon of water and you’ll have plenty for weeks.

A medium-grade wood bark in the form of chips will provide a great growing medium. The bark provides support but not nutrients. Just repot every other year in order to keep the roots from becoming congested. They’ll tend to grow up, rather than out, so you probably won’t need a larger pot.

Once the flowers drop off after three months, just cut the stem back halfway. Then watch it grow again and produce new blooms next time. That may take a year, but they will often bloom twice per year.

Provide simple care and you’ll be rewarded with huge flowers of pink, white and other colors. Sometimes known as ‘moth orchids’ the name comes from the shape, not their tendency to attract the insect. Still a little bit of spray can help keep pests away.

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