One of the most popular and easiest orchids to care for, Phalaenopsis’ (Phals), help to create an exotic and elegant atmosphere. “Everyone should have an orchid in their home or office,” says Millie Lee, an avid orchid grower and co-owner of Atlantic Avenue Orchid and Garden. By itself or placed in an arrangement, Phal blooms can be enjoyed for three and up to six months. They are without a doubt the longest lasting blooms within the orchid family. Though the average Phal blooms once a year, some phals have been known to bloom two to three times a year, depending on the plant’s health and breed.
Phals are a monopodial orchid, or “one-footed” in Greek, meaning they grow from a single point and cannot ever be divided like other orchids such as the Lady Slipper or Cattleya. In nature Phals attach themselves to trees making them an Epiphyte orchid. They do this in order to receive brighter light than they would by growing on the forest floor. Their aerial roots absorb rain and nutrition in the debris from trees above. They are not parasitic and do not steal any nutrition from the actual tree they cling to. As the gallery below illustrates, phalaenopsis orchids are offered in an array of patterns and colors. Scroll down to learn how to care for an orchid!
Phalaenopsis Orchid Care
While our homes are not identical to a tropical forest where orchids thrive in the wild, home and office environments are able to mimic the temperature, light and humidity they need to thrive. With proper watering, you too will find that orchids are quite easy to care for!
Lighting and Temperature
Phals prefer bright, indirect light such as an east facing window. While the buds are developing, it is important that they receive full and consistent lighting (and temperature); otherwise the buds will drop and not open. This being said, also avoid placing an orchid with buds directly on a window pane. This area tends to change in temperature throughout the day and night, causing buds to drop as well. Once the blooms are all fully opened, the plant can be moved to a spot that receives less lighting. Phals enjoy a warm climate with temperatures similar to what you would enjoy. They can withstand temperatures as low as 50 degrees and as high as 80 degrees.
Watering a Phalaenopsis
The watering schedule for Phals depends entirely on the medium it is grown in. If planted in bark, a Phal should be watered once a week. If planted in sphagnum moss it should be watered roughly once every two weeks. This is because the sphagnum moss retains moisture unlike the bark. Never over water a phalaenopsis, as this can cause the roots to root. Take care when watering orchids; never allow water into the center of the orchid because this can cause what is known as “crown rot” and kill the plant.
For proper watering, there are two methods that we recommend. The first is to submerge the roots in water (never the leaves or base of the orchid) for about ten seconds in a sink or bowl full of water. The second is best for an orchid that is in an arrangement and not easily removed from its container. For this method, take a turkey baster and squirt water around the roots of the Phal. You can then use the turkey baster to suck up any residual water out of the bottom of the container. Water your orchids in the morning. That way they have time to dry out before nightfall.
Once your Phalaenopsis orchid blooms have dropped, you can trade in your plant at Atlantic Avenue Orchid and Garden for a credit towards a new orchid (if you originally purchased it from our greenhouse). If you would like to keep your plant with the intention of getting it to rebloom, you’ll need to give it just a little extra care while it is dormant. Growing orchids requires a little patience, but is very rewarding.
Dormant Orchid Care
Many of our customers come to us with questions about how to care for an orchid after it has lost its blooms. After it has flowered the first time, cut the stem just below the node where the first flower bloomed. From the top node a new flower stem should emerge within 2 months. If the flower stem turns brown, the orchid has gone dormant. At that time you will need to cut off the stem down to the base of the plant.
Don’t be in a hurry to repot your Phal, as this should be done only every two years and only after there are more roots climbing outside your pot than inside it. Orchids like to be snug in their containers, so even though it is being repotted, that doesn’t mean it necessarily needs a larger pot. Keep your orchid in a pot with slots on the side to allow proper air and ventilation for the roots. Also, don’t be alarmed by the roots you see climbing out of the container. As noted earlier, orchids naturally grow on trees with aerial roots and so the roots you see are just trying to climb and find more air. Fertilize your orchids once a month with a well balanced fertilizer meant for orchids. Leaving orchids outside in the early spring and fall months is often very beneficial for them. Just make sure that they are in a bright but covered location such as a back porch.
Re-blooming an Orchid
The most rewarding part of growing orchids is getting them to bloom again! In order to encourage your Phal to rebloom, leave it outside for four to six weeks during late summer or fall when the temperatures are 50-60 degrees at night and 70-80 during the day. Then bring your plant back inside. The period of the change in temperature between night and day causes the plant to “spike” and soon after you’ll have a beautiful blooming orchid again!
Remember to avoid these things that orchids do not like: wet leaves, over-watering, cold drafts, placement near a heat source, strong light, and dry stuffy air.
Phalaenopsis orchids are one of the easiest types of orchids to grow. Their simple care requirements make them ideal for both the beginning and advanced gardener. With a little extra care and the right timing, anyone can re-bloom a Phal. Or, if you just love to keep their blooms around, our staff is always available to switch out a new blooming orchid in your container. Please come see our abundant selection of orchids today! In addition to phalaenopsis orchids we always have a great selection of oncidiums and lady slippers. We also regularly carry other varieties of orchids including cattleyas, dendrobiums, vandas and more!