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Orchids are undeniable a gem with their highly attractive blooms. In the past, orchids were rarely cultivated indoors because they’re not that easy to tend. Through time though, people discovered an orchid genus that’s suited for the home environment and that’s Phalaenopsis.
Phalaenopsis (moth orchids) are friendly for beginners. They’re also widely available in the market so you’d find no trouble acquiring one. If you’re having doubts about the success rate of caring for this orchid, hold up and learn from here:
|Scientific Name||Phalaenopsis spp.|
|AKA||Moth orchids, “Phals”, Moon orchids|
|Similar to||Giant pansy|
|Native to||Southeastern Asia (South India, Sri Lanka, southern China to Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea) and Northern Australia|
|Shape||Leaves are almost oval in shape; Flowers look like a moth|
|Maximum size||8 to 12 inches high|
|Light requirements||Bright, indirect light with 60% shade|
|Preferred humidity||High (50 to 80%)|
|Preferred temperature||15-30°C (60-85°F)|
|Soil or Potting Medium||Brick piece/Stone, Leaf mold, Coconut husk, and semi rotten logs in the ratio of 1:1:1:1|
|Fertilizer||Fertilize actively growing and flowering plants every third or fourth watering with a commercial orchid fertilizer|
|Propagation method||Division of keikies|
|Toxicity||Non-toxic to cats and dogs|
|Vulnerable to||Mealybug and scale insects|
Phalaenopsis Orchid Overview
Phalaenopsis is just one genus among 763 genera of the Orchidaceae family. For good reason, it’s also one of the most popular and in-demand among orchid growers. Currently, phalaenopsis orchids are widely distributed globally but they’re native to southeastern Asia (South India, Sri Lanka, southern China to Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea) and northern Australia.
Phalaenopsis are commonly known as “phals’ or moth orchids, producing blooms that are attached to one or two spikes. Colors vary from white to yellow to deep purple and they resemble a moth, thus its name. They are epiphytes which mean that they attach to tree trunks (without harming them) and rely on the air for nutrients and moisture.
Potted phalaenopsis would love regular watering. The moment you see that the medium is almost getting dry, that’s the time to water again. Never let it dry especially during times of low humidity.
One technique to properly water a phalaenopsis orchid is by soaking the pot in water for 10 mins. Do this 3 to 4 times to make sure water is absorbed before you drain the pot. Soaking should be done once a week.
In the wild, phals live under canopies of trees where they are partly shaded. Thus, in an indoor setting, it would need a bright but indirect light. Particularly, at least 60% of the light is shaded.
Judging from the appearance of the leaves, you’ll know when your orchid is getting enough light or not. When it does, leaves would appear light green in color. When light is lacking, leaves would have a dark green and stiff appearance.
You can place the potted phals in an east or west window where bright light is present. Putting in a curtain in between will help diffuse the light. Artificial light is also acceptable for growing orchids at home but make sure they are placed 6 to 12 inches above the leaves for 12 to 16 hours a day.
Humidity & Temperature Preferences
Phals naturally thrive in tropical places and so it prefers a highly humid environment. The high humidity helps them gather more moisture and nutrients. That’s why it’s crucial to maintain a highly humid condition when it comes to this orchid.
Misting is one quick solution to help raise humidity at home. Regularly mist on your phals early in the morning and they’ll surely flourish. If you don’t have the luxury of time, you can just turn the humidifier on and let it do the job.
Peeble trays also do the miracle. Place a tray with pebbles and fill it with water to half, put your potted orchid on top but don’t let the pot touch the water below. This set up will allow water to evaporate and moisture around your plant.
Plant Food and Potting Media
There are several choices of materials that you can use as a potting mix for our phalaenopsis. The National Research Center for Orchids (NRCO) generally recommends using piece/stone, leaf mold, coconut husk, and semi rotten logs in the ratio of 1:1:1:1. This is to provide a mixture that’s well-aerated, has a high water-holding capacity, and is well-draining at the same time.
As for fertilization, you have to feed phals twice a month during its active growth. Use a houseplant liquid fertilizer that’s high in nitrogen if your phal has a bark medium. If not, you can use a balanced fertilizer.
For flowering, use a fertilizer with higher phosphorus content. Dilute it to half of the original strength and apply it during winter. Make sure to follow directions in the label for every fertilizer you’re using to avoid committing mistakes.
Pruning your phals is not much of hard work. You just have to trim down aged leaves or the ones that have turned brown/yellow due to other factors. This will keep the plant healthy.
Pruning after blooming is needed. Cut the spike down to at least half above the swelling portion. This will encourage the re-flowering of your phalaenopsis.
Repot your orchid every two to three years. Look for signs such as outgrowing the pots, roots start wandering outside its container, and the medium is already broken down. By this time, you’ll need to place your phals in a new container and provide a new set of growing medium.
Unpot the phals from its old container by moistening it first for ease. Carefully remove the medium from the roots. Trim the roots and remove the dead parts.
Use a moist potting medium. There are different types of containers you can utilize for your phals including baskets, pots, wood slabs, and barks. Choose the one that’s one size larger than the old one.
You can propagate your own phalaenopsis once they start producing their own keikies. These are baby phals that appear on the stems of your orchid. When the roots of these babies are at least an inch in length, you can cut it off and plant it in another container.
Other modes of propagation include using seeds and tissue culture for mass cultivation. However, employing these kinds of methods would require technical knowledge. It would be impractical for indoor growers to do this.
Pests & Diseases
The usual threats in phal in terms of pests are mealybugs and scales. Always check the underside of the leaves as this is where the scales usually hang out. Mealybugs, on the other hand, roam around the stems, flower buds, leaves, and even the pots.
The quick solution to this would be the manual removal of the insects once spotted. Using pressure spray to wash them off will also do. Or, you can spray them with chemical solutions when they get out of hand.
Another thing to love about phalaenopsis is its non-toxic properties. For pet owners, this is a huge advantage because they need not worry over their pets ingesting any portion of this plant. It’s perfectly safe to be in contact with this plant.
What you need to protect though is not the pets but the plant itself. Phalaenopsis get really attractive especially when blooms start showing. Make sure to keep them away from naughty pets or they might get curious and end up ruining them.
Why is my Phalaenopsis not producing flowers?
Light plays an essential role. Remember that phals need bright, indirect light. If its grown in a relatively dark condition, you cannot expect it to bloom in time. You have to relocate it somewhere well-lit.
Another reason would be the lack of nutrients such as phosphorus. This mineral specifically encourages blooming in plants. Make sure to apply fertilizer higher in phosphorus usually in 30:10:10 ratio.
Why are my Phalaenopsis buds dropping?
This problem is caused by drastic and abrupt changes in temperature. The ideal temperature for phal rages from 15 to 30°C (60 to 85°F). A lower temperature of 55°F is acceptable during autumn since it will help the plant produce spikes.
However, if the temperature gets unpredictable with its sudden rise and falls, the forming blooms get affected. To avoid this premature dropping of buds, protect your phal whenever there’s a forthcoming shift in temperature.
Are Phalaenopsis orchids safe for my pets?
Yes, definitely. No need to worry because phals don’t contain toxic compounds. They’re safe for your pets specifically cats and dogs.
Hopefully, by knowing all this information, you’ll find confidence in raising your phalaenopsis at home. Remember that tending a plant seems a little intimidating only at the beginning. With practice and passion, you’ll surely find success with phalaenopsis orchid.
There’s no greater reward than seeing this orchid bloom. In time, you’ll get to see this happen. Just make sure to carefully follow and apply all the tips mentioned earlier.