Orchid plants are one of the largest plant species in the world with over 100,000 different varieties, but only small percentage are suitable for growing indoors. A phalaenopsis orchid plant, also known as the Moth Orchid, is one of the varieties that does quite well. There are about 45 species in the Phalaenopsis genus and most are native to India, southern China, and Southeast Asia. A phalaenopsis orchid is a type of epiphytic plant which means, in nature, it grows on the trunks and branches of trees. As a houseplant, and with proper care, a phalaenopsis orchid plant blooms again and again for many years. It has become very popular because unlike other orchid plants, it has no resting period and may flower several times throughout the year.
Phalaenopsis Orchid Plant Description
In nature a phalaenopsis orchid plant sends out aerial roots so it can cling to trees, so as a houseplant most of its roots are above the pot and grow outside the container. This is perfectly normal so don’t cut them off. Tall flower stalks grow out of the leaf joints and produce 3″-6″ wide, flattened flowers. The exquisite flowers grow in a line on long arching stems and can be yellow, white, pink, lavender, purple, cream, spotted, or striped. They often last 2-3 months. The large, leathery, green, succulent leaves, as much as 18” long, are elliptic in shape and grow directly from the roots.
Phalaenopsis Orchid plants are a beautiful, inexpensive replacement for a cut flower arrangement or just an added delight for any room in your home or office. Now that they are being mass produced in greenhouses throughout the world, they are fairly inexpensive and easily available.
There is an orchid plant for almost any lighting condition, but none like being in the direct sun. If an area is too dark, the leaves turn dark green instead of the grassy yellow green they should be and the orchid plant doesn’t bloom. If there is too much light, the leaves turn yellow and develop sunspots. A location near an east or west-facing window is usually the best location. Most orchid plants prefer about 10 hours of light a day.
The easiest way to kill any Orchid Plant is by over-watering. Always allow the top 50% of the potting compost to dry out before watering. Check the roots of an Orchid Plant monthly to be sure they are staying whitish green and plump. Set the plant in a deep saucer of water for about 30 minutes so it can absorb water through the drip holes in the bottom on the pot. Use tepid water that has not passed through a softener (too salty). If your household water has a lot of chemicals in it, allow the water to sit out over night before using it. Type of soil, temperature, time of year, humidity, and pot size all influence an orchid plant’s watering needs. Orchids dry out a little faster in the winter because of the heat in your home and low humidity.
Fertilize weakly, weekly when an orchid plant is actively growing. Dilute your plant food to 1/3-1/4 the recommended strength. Do not feed an orchid plant when it is dormant or when the plant is in bloom. There are excellent orchid plant foods on the market. You can also use a well- balanced houseplant food at 1/3-1/4 the recommended strength.
Orchid plants do well when the temperature is 65°-80°F (18°-26° C) during the day and 15° cooler at night. In the fall, cool night temperatures help the flower spikes develop. Once the orchid buds appear try to keep the temperature constant or the buds may fall off.
High humidity, 50% or better, is essential. Setting an orchid plant in a stand and placing the stand in a tray filled with pebbles and water helps increase the humidity. Be sure the plant never sits directly in the water.
Orchid plants usually flower from December-May and the flowers can last several months. The spectacular blooms can be as small as 1″ or as large as 5″ depending upon the orchid variety. Try not to get water on the flowers.
Aphids, scale, mealy bugs, and spider mites can be a problem. Good air circulation and near a small fan. The slight breeze also encourages flowers to develop faster. The best ways to treat any insects or pests is to dab them off with a Qtip dipped in alcohol or wipe them off with a soft cloth dipped in soapy water.
Orchid plants are prone to viruses, bacterial infections, and fungal infections. Increasing the air circulation around an is very beneficial in preventing diseases.
Orchid plants require a special soil and should never be planted in regular potting soil, it is much too dense. Use a bark-based or peat based soil that retains water, drains well, and allows the roots to “breathe.” Orchid plant soil should contain bark, sphagnum moss, and perlite. There are several commercial soils that are specifically for orchids.
Re-pot only if the potting medium has decomposed and is not draining quickly enough or if the orchid plant pseudobulbs have outgrown the pot. Remove the orchid from its old pot, shake off the soil around the pseudobulbs, place the plant in its new pot, and then fill in with the new potting mixture.
In nature, orchids get much of their food and water from the air, so never cut off any air roots that emerge from the soil. When the flower stalk turns yellow or brown, it’s time to prune. Cut the stalk back to about an inch from where it originated on the main stem. Use a clean razor blade or very sharp knife when pruning. Always remove any dead or diseased sections immediately, otherwise these sick areas of the plant attract more pests and diseases. Another pruning method for is to wait until your plant has finished blooming, look for tiny bumps or nodes on the flower spike. Find the third node from the bottom and cut the spike off 1″ above that node. Pruning an orchid plant helps the plant produce more flowers during the next season.
Orchid plants are propagated by plant division if they are sympodial, such as a Cattleya Orchid, or by stem cuttings if they are monopodeal, such as a phalaenopsis orchid. Read marabout propagation techniques in the Glossary of the website.
Poisonous Plant Info
Allvarietiesof orchid plants are non poisonous and safe to have around cat, dogs, and other pets.
Cut your Orchid Plant stem about an inch from where the flower stem originated on the main stem. Another pruning method is after the Orchid Plant has finished blooming, look for tiny bumps or nodes on the flower spike. Find the third from the bottom and cut the spike off 1″ above this node.
Leaves on an Orchid Plant usually become wrinkled when the plant is very dry and needs water. Alternatively, or you may have over-watered your Orchid Plant causing the roots to die, and now the plant can no longer absorb water. If the pseudo-bulbs of your Orchid Plant that are above the soil are shriveled, give the plant more water. You can also carefully take the Orchid Plant out of its pot and check the soil to be sure it’s not soggy at the very bottom. Orchid Plants do not like wet feet! Orchid Plant roots are healthy if they are greenish white and plump.
One of the main reasons an Orchid Plant doesn’t bloom is insufficient light. Start by moving your Orchid Plant to a brighter location. The leaves of an Orchid Plant should be a light to medium green color. Dark green leaves means an Orchid Plant needs more light. Orchid Plants also need a resting period for a month or so in a low light. cool area. While your Orchid Plant is resting, allow the soil to practically dry out before watering. This resting period helps an Orchid Plant go through the proper growth cycle. After about a month or two, move the Orchid Plant back to its previous spot in your home. Be sure to fertilize an Orchid Plant once it starts producing new leaves.
There are several things that cause bud drop on Orchid Houseplants. The first thing is check the moisture in the soil to see if you may be giving your Orchid Plant too much or too little water. The temperature of the location where the Orchid plant sits may be too hot or too cold. Try to keep the temperature above 55 degrees but below 80 degrees. Avoid placing an Orchid Plant near air conditioners and heaters and try not to move an Orchid Plant too often.
The amount of time an Orchid Plant blooms depends upon the species of orchid plant. A Phaleonopsis Orchid can bloom for 1-4 months while a Cattleya Orchid blooms for 1-4 weeks.