Phalaenopsis orchids really have to be my favourite plant. You can’t move in garden centres and gift shops for these wonderful moth orchids, so other people must be as in love with them as I am.
Common name: Moth orchid
Botanical name: Phalaenopsis
Flowers: All year round (be prepared to wait a long time between flowering)
Height and spread: I am particularly fond of the double-stemmed orchids. They used to be around £9.99, but now they are more often around the £14.99 mark. Don’t be tempted to pay too much more – I am told that they all come from just one or two sources!
Conditions: They thrive on bright light, but don’t let them sit in direct sunshine. Phalaenopsis orchids need a minimum of 16°C
One of the main reasons that the phalaenopsis orchid fails to re-flower is because the plants are resigned to the darker corners of houses once they have finished flowering. These orchids do not like to be moved. If they have happily flowered in one position of your house, leave it well alone to re-flower in the same position. When the sunlight is hot through windows, move the orchid to a spot that is out of direct sunlight.
If you run your thermostat on the lower side, your Phalaenopsis will not be happy. During the night, don’t let the temperature drop below 16°C. Another tip here (if you are choosing the orchid rather than receiving it as a gift!) if the shop you are buying from keeps their orchids near the door, stay clear! (this applies for all flowering houseplants really). Phalaenopsis orchids do not like draughts or change. Check the buds on the plants, not just the one you want to buy. Buds should look glossy and be firm. If they are yellow then they are likely to fall soon.
My grandmother once kept an orchid in flower for nearly 9 months! This is not the norm though, and I have never been able to replicate this. When it comes to cutting back the plant after flowering, there are two veins of thought. One is to cut the plant right back to it’s second node. The other line of thought says cut back to the next healthiest node. I have tried both and they both seem to respond. The problem with plants grown indoors is that they can be confused about seasons. If your plant is not re-flowering, then you will need to replicate a ‘winter’. Put the plant in an area where the temperature will be about 5 degrees lower for a month. This should do the trick.
Watering, humidity and feeding
Watering your Phalaenopsis orchid is crucial to get just right. The best way to explain this, I’m afraid, is mainly in ‘don’ts’
- Don’t get the leaves wet
- Don’t let the roots dry out
- Don’t let the plant sit in water
- Use a feed in the water ¾ of the times that you water
- Reduce or stop feeding during the winter.
The main issue that hits phalaenopsis orchids is mealybugs. These horrible little creatures will cover your orchid in no time with their white bodies. The only real way to deal with these on a phalaenopsis orchid is to pick them off. Try using a cotton bud on a stick. If they are on the flowers, then the flower is most probably irrevocably damaged. Remove the orchid from the area and give any other plants in your house a good drench in an insecticidal soap.
To find out more, have a look at the website for The Orchid Society of Great Britain
Enjoy your orchid!