Phalaenopsis Care

“on-SID-dee-um”

 
 
 

Location: The genus Phalaenopsis is widely distributed across Southeast Asia and includes South India, Sri Lanka, southern China to Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and northern Australia. These plants are epiphytic in nature, meaning they cling to trees with their roots. This genus has approximately 60 different species.

Light: Phalaenopsis prefer bright shade conditions. Morning light is the coolest, so in the home an eastern or southeastern window will provide enough light. These orchids can tolerate lower light levels in the 1000-2000 foot-candle range. If placed in a western or southern window, take care as not to allow leaves to burn by placing plants behind a sheer curtain to filter light. As a rule of thumb, gradually expose plants to increased light levels or the shock will surely damage them. If leaves receive too much light, they may blush red and/or yellow and crisp at the tips.

Temperature: During the day 70-90 °F is preferable to the plant with a nighttime temperature of 65-70 °F. To trigger flowering in Phalaenopsis a temperature fluctuation of approximately 10 °F should do it for a mature plant. The lowest temperature they should ever be exposed to is 55 °F for prolonged exposure to cold temperatures may adversely affect the health of the plant.

Water: Phalaenopsis are okay with drying slightly between waterings, but should never be allowed to dry out completely. Therefore they should be kept evenly moist without being kept in a soggy state. To water, run tepid water through the pot soaking the roots and media really well until it rushes heavily through the drainage holes. Please for the love of all things orchid-related, NO ICE CUBES. During the warm spring and summer months, watering twice a week in the home should be sufficient. If the plants are outside in a shaded area, watering may have to be done more frequently due to increased airflow and higher temperatures. In the cool autumn and winter months, plants may only need watering once a week in the home. Always test the mix if unsure; if it’s wet, don’t water, if it’s slightly dry, water mix thoroughly.

Humidity: Keep it at least 50%, but higher humidity is better. Morning mistings are highly recommended, especially during the winter months when homes are heated depleting moisture in the air. Sometimes if the humidity is too low, flower buds may brown, shrivel, and drop.

Air Circulation: Not only Phalaenopsis, but for all orchids, movement of air is beneficial. The air should be humid to prevent desiccation and the flow should be gentle. Small muffin-type fans are useful for growing areas in the home. Good air circulation tends to result in quicker drying of potting media, which is essential for healthy roots allowing them to breathe. 

Fertilizer: A half-strength balanced fertilizer or Michigan State University (MSU) formula solution (reverse osmosis/distilled/rain water or tap water) applied weekly during the active growth months should suffice. For the autumn and winter months, a quarter-strength balanced fertilizer or MSU formula solution can be applied every other week to once a month.

Re-Potting: This typically takes place every other year to when the plant was first potted, or when the media starts to break down and decompose. The best time to re-pot is at the start of new root growth to help establish the plant in its new container. As a rule of thumb, orchids prefer their roots being tight in their pots, so be sure to provide a pot that is large enough to accommodate for more root growth while still providing a snug rootzone. The media used for Phalaenopsis is typically composed of pine or fir bark, charcoal, and perlite. Sometimes sphagnum moss is used, but beware that sphagnum is capable of holding 10x its weight in water; it’s super absorbent.

Re-Blooming: After most of the flowers have fallen, Phalaenopsis can be encouraged to bloom again in the same season by cutting the inflorescence (flower spike) just above the 2nd or 3rd node. This is not the case for all Phalaenopsis though as some will bloom for months on the same inflorescence which will stay green and continue to grow until they naturally turn yellow and brown telling it’s time to cut it off. However, don’t bloom your plant to death as it takes a lot of energy which the plant could use to focus on vegetative growth (leaves and roots) instead of reproductive growth (flowers).