Phalaenopsis orchids are among the most popular orchids world wide and can be found in numerous homes, offices and hotels. These orchids are native to Asia and northern Australia. In Asia, they grow from the Himalayan Mountains to the Philippine Islands.
Phalaenopsis orchids have a so called monopodial growth habit and grow upward from a single point. The plant consists of an erect rhizome that will produce one or two leaves from the top each year. Phalaenopsis leaves are thick and fleshy and their shape is elliptical. As new leaves are produced, old leaves will fall off. This systems means that a Phalaenopsis orchid normally has 4-5 leaves at all times. Very strong and well established orchids that grow in ideal conditions can however have over 10 leaves simultaneously. Unlike many other orchids, Phalaenopsis orchids produce no pseudobulbs.
The genus Phalaenopsis contains about 60 described species and there is also a wide range of cultivars. Phalaenopsis orchids are extremely popular in the floral trade, partly due to the fact that these orchids can bloom for several weeks and are known to last 2-3 months indoors if you give them proper Phalaenopsis orchid care. Phalaenopsis orchids can also bloom more than once a year.
Phalaenopsis orchids are also known as “Moth Orchids” and the scientific name Phalaenopsis is believed to be derived from the genus Phalaena, a genus containing a type of big moths. The flowers of some Phalaenopsis orchid species look a bit like large flying moths.
As mentioned above, Phalaenopsis orchids do not fare well if left with “their feet wet” and it is therefore important to water no more than what is necessary to keep the potting medium moist just below the surface. In most cases, watering your Phalaenopsis orchid once a week will suffice.
A lot of people erroneously believe that the more fertilizer you give your Phalaenopsis orchid, the more flowers it will produce. This is not correct and force feeding your orchid vast amounts of nutrients is not good Phalaenopsis orchid care. In most situations, giving your Phalaenopsis orchid a mere teaspoon of fertilizer per month will be enough. Dilute the fertilizer well and separate the dose into several servings instead of just one big ration. A high-nitrogen fertilizer can be used year round.
Wild Phalaenopsis orchids often grow on tree branches in humid lowland forests where they are shaded by the thick canopy. This means that they prefer indirect light to scorching direct rays. The standard indoor lighting conditions appreciated by humans are usually adequate for Phalaenopsis orchids as well and you are therefore not required to purchase any special plant lamps to provide them with proper Phalaenopsis orchid care. Intense light, especially mid-day light (11 am to 3 pm) can burn the leaves of a Phalaenopsis orchid.
Wild Phalaenopsis orchids are most common in humid lowland forests but some species live in environments where they encounter dry seasons or cool seasons. The preferred day temperature for Phalaenopsis orchids is 75-85° F (24 – 29˚ C), and they appreciate having the temperature lowered during the night, as long as it does not reach below 60° F (15.5˚ C).
An occasional accident in the form of an open window when it is freezing outside can usually be tolerate by a well established Phalaenopsis orchids, but should naturally be avoided if your want your orchids to thrive. The bud is much more sensitive to temperature extremes than the rest of the plant and special care must be given to budding plants. It should also be noted that to low a temperature can cause your Phalaenopsis orchid to stop budding altogether.
A majority of the Phalaenopsis orchids are epiphytic and grow on trees, but some are lithophytic and grow on stones. What both types have in common is the fact they do not grow with their roots submerged in soggy soil. Planting your Phalaenopsis orchids in a medium that does not drain well can therefore cause their roots to rot and decay. Ideally use a fast draining potting medium such as medium grade wood bark for your Phalaenopsis orchids.
A Phalaenopsis orchid grows upwards without spreading and these orchids will therefore not outgrow their pots. It is however still a good idea to repot them every other year to give them a fresh medium. After repotting, it is best to water scarcely to give the new roots a chance to establish themselves. Your Phalaenopsis orchid needs to be repotted right away if the potting medium starts to smell bad, looses its normal draining capacity, or becomes infected by mould.
When the blooms of your Phalaenopsis orchid have faded, you can cut the spike above the highest node. If you are lucky, this will cause the plant to develop a new flower spike or even a keiki. Keiki is the Hawaiian word for “baby” and an orchid keiki is a small baby plant that can be placed in its own pot. Sometimes a keiki will flower while still attached to its mother plant. Orchid keikis are always exact clones of their mother since they are not the result of sexual reproduction.
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