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How to Grow Phalaenopsis Orchids
by Yale Bernstein
An introduction to Phalaenopsis orchids
Phalaenopsis orchids are one of the easiest orchids to grow in the home. The name "phalaenopsis" comes from the Greek phalaina, meaning "moth" and opsis, meaning "like". For this reason this orchid goes by the nick name "Moth Orchid".
These orchids are very easy to grow and flower as long as care is given to recreate their natural growing environment as much as possible.
Where should I buy my orchid?
Avoid buying cheap plants. Although you can find orchids for sale at many home centers for under $15, they are usually not in very good condition. They may have been forced to flower prematurely which weakens the plant. It is also unlikely that they have been given proper care during their time in the store which can lead to root rot and other conditions.
Your best bet is to find a reputable grower in your area. Many local orchid societies have shows and exhibitions which are open to the public. This is a great opportunity to buy plants and find local dealers. Here is a list of www.orchidmall.com/society.htm to get you started on your search.
If you choose to do your research online for your orchid, www.orchidmall.com is a good place to start gathering information.
What potting medium is best for Phalaenopsis orchids? Orchid Bark? Sphagnum?
There is some debate on the subject of potting medium for phals orchids. Orchid bark is generally recommended as home growers may unintentionally over water, are less likely to rot the root system due to the better drainage of the bark mix.
Many commercial growers prefer sphagnum moss as it keeps the roots evenly moist and dries more uniformly. If you choose to go with the sphag you need to be careful to avoid over-watering.
How often should I water my Phalaenopsis orchid?
When the potting mix is almost dry it's time to water your plant. You'll usually need to water your plant about once or twice a week. The watering schedule will change with the temperature. The warmer the temperature, the more often you will need to water.
How often should I fertilize my orchid?
As the old saying goes, "Weakly - Weekly". Use a balanced fertilizer, diluted to 1/4 the manufacturer recommended strength, once a week for three weeks skipping the fourth week of each four week cycle. By skipping the fourth you help flush any residual fertilizer from the plant during normal watering.
Always water your plant before fertilizing.
What humidity level is needed?
Phals enjoy around 50% humidity. Often, keeping your plant in a bathroom provides sufficient humidity. If the humidity is too low you can use a humidity tray. Humidity trays can be found at your local garden center or you can make one at home by filling a shallow container with pebbles and water and placing your potted orchid on top of it.
What is the ideal temperature for my Phaleanopsis Orchid?
In order to ensure healthy blooms, orchids require a temperature fluctuation of 10 - 15 degrees F between night and day.
The temperature should range from 70 to 80 degrees F during the day and go down to between 55 to 65 degrees at night.
What lighting conditions are ideal for Phalaenopsis orchids?
Phalaenopsis orchids prefer eastern lighting. An alternative is shaded light from a south facing window. For proper flowering Phalaenopsis orchids require 1000 - 1500 foot candles of light. Here's a useful tip on measuring light levels with an SLR camera
Keep your plant out of direct sunlight as it can burn the leaves. Plants grown in dim light will develop floppy dark green leaves and will rarely flower.
Should I cut the flower spike after blooming?
Phaleanopsis orchids will often re-bloom from the same flower spike. After the initial blooming you should cut the spike about halfway back, just above one of the nodes. You should see new blooms within 8-12 weeks.
Cut the spike off entirely by mid-summer to allow your plant to regain its strength for next year’s blooms.
Seal the cut with melted candle wax or a dusting of cinnamon powder (a natural fungicide) to prevent bacterial infection.
How often should I re-pot my orchid?
Re-potting an orchid is like spring cleaning. It gives you an opportunity to replace decomposed potting medium, remove dead roots and remove residual fertilizer salts. To keep your plants healthy you should re-pot your orchid every 1-1/2 to 2 years.
Following these simple tips will give you happy, healthy Phalaenopsis orchids for many years to come.