PHALAENOPSIS ORCHID CARE
The Genus Phalaenopsis (or “Moth Orchid”) is comprised of some 70 different species from areas as diverse as Southern China through the Philippines and the Indonesian Archipelago. They are characterized by their large, colourful flat flowers on arching racemes and their broad flat green foliage. Their low light requirement and dislike of cold temperature makes them a perfect indoor plant.
LIGHT REQUIREMENTS – Phalaenopsis are a low light orchid. By low, we mean that 1000-1500 foot candles or in practical terms, in the middle of the day your hand should not cast a shadow when held just above the growing area. Direct sunlight should always be avoided at all times. Some growers increase the light levels during mid Autumn to increase the flower production on their plants. It is the first cool nights of Autumn that initiate the flower spike.
WATERING – Phalaenopsis have no pseudobulbs or means of storing water. This means that moisture needs to be available at the root zone at all times. This does not however mean a wet or waterlogged potting mix. As a general guide, depending on the potting substrate, up to 2-3 times a week for a coarse bark mix in summer or every 2 weeks for the spongy sphagnum moss. For winter, less watering is required. The leaves of the plant whilst supple in appearance should be firm and held out roughly horizontal when the plant is well hydrated. If growing indoors, remember that the relative humidity inside is usually low and this may necessitate more frequent watering/misting. Try not to get water into the crown of the orchid where the leaves join, as water can be trapped and cause rotting. Best to water from the sides.
FERTILISING – We recommend a growth style (Higher Nitrogen, lower Potassium) liquid feed after flowering has finished applied 1-2 times per week through to late Summer, and then a blossom booster style (Lower Nitrogen, higher Potassium) liquid feed once per week throughout the rest of the year.
RE-POTTING – To accommodate growth, try to work on re-potting your orchid every 2 years or so. The best time to re-pot is in autumn or early spring.
POTTING MEDIA – Phalaenopsis are also epiphytic (“Tree growing”) and prefer a free draining potting mix that is moisture retentive but does not stay too wet. For most plants, a medium grade of treated orchid bark is sufficient. Some growers find the addition of 8-10mm size charcoal is beneficial, along with polystyrene balls or coarse perlite. Some growers also use sphagnum moss.
TEMPERATURE – Phalaenopsis are a true tropical plant, and consequently enjoy moist, humid conditions between 20 and 30 Degrees C. Short term variations outside of these temps while not fatal are undesirable. Plants do need a short term temperature drop to initiate the flower spike and some growers leave their plants outdoors in Autumn until the flower spike begins to appear and then replace it indoors for the spike to continue developing. Sharp temperature drops while the plant is in bud may cause the buds to abort.
AFTER FLOWER DROP — After the flowers drop from the orchid there are three choices: leave the flower spike (or stem) intact, cut it back to a node, or remove it entirely. Remove the flower spike entirely by clipping it off at the base of the plant. This is definitely the route to take if the existing stem starts to turn brown or yellow. Withered stems won’t produce flowers. Removing the stem will direct the plant’s energy toward root development, which makes for a healthier plant and increased chances for new bloom spikes.