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Phalaenopsis or ‘moth orchid’ is a very popular houseplant throughout the world. It is elegant, yet exotic, with unusual white flowers – minimalistic and magnificent at the same time.
Here is a summary on how to take care of phalaenopsis orchid: Pay attention to sunlight – find a bright place but away from direct sunlight. When it comes to temperature, provide an optimal temperature between 21 and 29 degrees Celsius during the day and 16 to 21 degrees during the night. Phalaenopsis likes high humidity levels, between 50 and 100%. Still, make sure you don’t overwater it – orchids are usually very intolerant to overwatering. The potting mix should be almost completely dry before watering. The potting material should be soilless because good drainage is highly required. Fertilizing once every week to two weeks is also needed, except during the blooming period. The flowering period lasts throughout winter and spring. In that period, you will enjoy wide while flowers with subtle yet colorful markings.
Feel like you could manage to encourage moth orchids to flourish and prosper? Basic Phalaenopsis orchid care knowledge and some patience – that is all that caring for Phalaenopsis orchids requires. For more details and tips on how to care for phalaenopsis orchids, read the following article!
Origin of Phalaenopsis
Phalaenopsis or phal orchid was first found in 1825 and described by a German-Dutch botanist Charles Ludwig de Blume.
Still, the flower isn’t native to Europe – it is originally found throughout Australia and Asia (India, Taiwan, China, Indonesia, etc.).
This extraordinary orchid variety contains over 70 different species.
The name ‘Phalaenopsis’ originates from Greek, and freely translated, it means ‘a kind of moth’. In Latin, it is known as Phalaenopsis amabilis, while in Indonesian they call it ‘anggrek bulan’.
This is interesting because translated, the name means ‘moon orchid’. Moth orchid is considered to be one of the three Indonesian national flowers.
It is also the official flower of Malaysia’s capital, Kota Kinabalu.
Phalaenopsis Orchid Appearance
Phalaenopsis is known as ‘moth orchid’ because of its characteristic flower. It closely resembles the appearance of the insect.
This is a feature developed to fight off potential parasites and enemies.
Phalaenopsis orchids are monopodial epiphytes or lithophytes, which means they grow on another tree’s surface, or rocks.
This is why they have thick and long roots – they reach up to one meter in length! The leaves are abundant, green, pretty big, and fleshy.
The base of the stem is hidden by the oblong leaves. The flowers are nothing but magnificent – flat and al white with yellowish parts.
Each stem produces a lot of flowers (from two to eight), so you will enjoy the exotic colorful vibe in abundance.
The petals are large and pretty wide. The stem needs to be firm and strong because it carries all the flowers.
Thus, your phalaenopsis may need additional help in form of a holding stick.
I have already mentioned there are a lot of different phalenopsis orchid subspecies – over 70.
Here are some of the most popular ones:
- Phalaenopsis amabilis – this is the most common subspecies. They have red and yellow markings on the flower base.
- Phalaenopsis moluccana – it has yellow and white markings, while the dominating color is white, as well.
- Phalaenopsis rosenstromii – the flower is white, but the markings are yellow
Phalaenopsis Orchid Blooming
The flowering period depends on the given conditions in much. In hot areas, orchids phalaenopsis can bloom almost all year round.
Normally, the blooming period lasts throughout winter and spring. The flowers emerge from spikes.
The spikes, on the other hand, appear on the second leaf node from the top.
While the flowers usually appear during winter for the first time, you should notice the spikes in autumn.
Sunlight Requirements for Phalaenopsis Orchid Care
Phalaenopsis doesn’t like direct sunlight, even though it loves bright places. Try to provide a semi-shaded place away from the direct impact of the sun.
Also, I don’t advise placing it near a south-facing window, especially during the hot days. If the plant isn’t getting enough sunlight the leaf color will become darker.
To help you out, here is the ultimate guide to orchid care.
Pro-Tip: Even though people usually place orchids on a windowsill, this particular variety doesn’t like much direct sunlight. A semi-shaded place would be ideal. If you still decide to place it on a windowsill, I suggest using some heavy, but bright-colored curtains to stop the sun from burning your plant.
Moth Orchid Temperature Requirements
Since orchids are very sensitive to temperature changes, you should try to follow the plant’s natural cycle.
They need a significant drop in temperature in autumn to initiate young spikes. The spikes are significant because blooms emerge from them during winter and spring.
So, somewhere in the middle of autumn, you should provide your orchid phalaenopsis a significant drop in temperature for approximately two weeks.
Throughout the year, the optimal temperature for phalaenopsis is between 21 and 29 degrees Celsius.
Still, during the colder period of two weeks, they appreciate temperatures that go almost 10 degrees lower, from 16 to 21 degrees Celsius.
They like similar temperature changes on a daily level as well, so don’t be afraid to lower the room temperature during the night.
Still, as much as they do tolerate lower temperatures, cold drafts could kill your phaleonopsis in a few days, so make sure you place the pot somewhere where it is ‘tucked in’.
Watering Requirements for Phalaenopsis Orchid Care
Careful watering is one of the most important things when it comes to phalaenopsis orchid care and maintenance.
You should always let the bark become almost completely dry before you water the plant. Overwatering will cause some serious issues, such as rot roots, pests, and eventual death of the plant.
Still, never let the potting mix get completely dry. You want to make sure it is moist enough but never soggy.
Of course, a waterlogged potting mix is a big no-no.
You should always check the soil rather than following the watering calendar, but in general, watering once every week to once every two weeks should get the job done.
Pro-Tip: When watering, make sure you reach only for the roots, without touching the upper plant parts, especially flowers. To avoid this, you can simply place the pot in a water-filled container and leave it there for five minutes. The roots and potting mix will soak up the needed quantity of water.
Phalaenopsis Orchid Humidity Requirements
Although phalaenopsis orchids can tolerate average room humidity, being a tropical plant, it thrives in higher humidity conditions, from 50 to even 100%.
The level of humidity is very important for phalaenopsis orchid care and maintenance.
Therefore, you should provide some additional humidity, especially during the winter, when the air tends to become a bit drier indoors.
Occasional misting is required. Still, while doing it, make sure you only affect the leaves and not the flowers.
Also, don’t mist your phalaenopsis too often, as you don’t want the water to gather in the leaf base. Besides, you can add some stone pebbles on a tray filled with water.
Place the pot with phaelenopsis on top of the tray, but make sure the bottom of the pot isn’t reaching water level in the tray.
The evaporation will do the trick and you probably won’t even need to mist the plant.
Moth Orchid Soil Requirements
Soil is also one of the most important things in the moth orchid care guide. Well-drained soil and a pot with enough draining holes are essential.
The plant mustn’t sit in waterlogged soil. The best solution would be to use a potting mix without any soil, such as a bark-based potting medium.
You can buy it in every flower shop.
Fertilizing Phalaenopsis Orchid
Like most orchid species, phaleanopsis like additional feeding. Just make sure you don’t overfeed the plant. Once a week or once in two weeks will be enough.
Still, you can slightly increase the amount of feeding in the period from May to September since this is the growing period, and the plant could use your help in growth.
I don’t advise fertilizing during the blooming period. You should pay attention to the quality of your fertilizer, as well.
I suggest using a fertilizer specifically designed for orchids.
Nevertheless, I don’t recommend using any other type of fertilizer than the liquid one because it is water-soluble.
If you notice the roots have overgrown the pot, it is time to re-pot your phalaenopsis. It isn’t a fast-growing plant, so you won’t need to do this for at least two years.
Another reason to re-pot your orchid is if you notice that the growing media is decomposing. It means it doesn’t have any valuable nutrition to provide to your plant, so it must be replaced.
When repotting, you won’t need a much larger pot. Sometimes you don’t even need a bigger pot – if the problem is decomposing potting media.
You will notice that the roots will emerge from the pot pretty soon. Don’t re-pot phalaenopsis right away.
Orchid roots need access to light. Remember, in nature, they penetrate between hard surfaces such as tree bark and stones.
This is also the main reason why they can’t live in waterlogged soil – they are used to having access to some air.
This is why I suggest using the original see-through plastic pot – so you could track the root growth. The best period to re-pot phalaenopsis orchid plant is after the blooming period ends, in late spring.
Pro-Tip: You can prune phalaenopsis roots before repotting. Of course, don’t do it unless you notice roots strings that look damager or sick. When pruning, always use a sharp sterilized tool to prevent eventual infection from spreading.
Let’s discuss some of the most common problems you can face while growing and caring for phalaenopsis orchids.
If you notice your phalaenopsis leaves are turning yellow, it is probably because it has been getting too much sunlight.
You should find a new place for your pot. Brown and/or yellow posts appear on the foliage for the same reason.
Still, the leaves can become yellow because of overwatering, as well. Check the dampness of the potting mix to see what is the problem.
If your phalaenopsis has been visited by pests, you should take care of it as soon as possible since most pests tend to spread to other plants nearby as well.
Keep an eye on scale and mealybugs. There are a few ways to solve the problem.
You can take a piece of cotton wool, emerge it in alcohol, and rub the affected areas. If this doesn’t help, you can use an insecticidal soap.
However, when buying it, keep in mind that you need a soap appropriate for orchids since they can be sensitive to some chemicals found in pesticides.
Edema is a water-filled blister that appears when you have been overwatering the plant, and especially if you were doing it during the night when the temperature drops.
Here you can find out more about watering your indoor plants during the night.
If edema appears, the chances are the potting mix is already rotten and it is only a matter of time for the roots to rot as well.
Gently take the plant out of the pot and examine the roots to determine whether you need to prune some of them.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I Prune My Phalaenopsis?
When repotting, you should prune any damaged roots. The foliage, on the other hand, doesn’t need any pruning. Phalaenopsis doesn’t produce many young leaves, only one to three new ones every year.
Still, the plant releases access leaves every year so when you notice yellow or brown leaves, it is safe to remove them. Do it carefully, so you don’t hurt the stem. Also, it is safe to remove spikes once all flowers have dropped after the blooming period.
How Do I Take Care of Phalaenopsis after Blooming?
Once the blooming period is over, you can leave the flower spikes because the plant will eliminate them by itself. However, if you would like phalaenopsis to look neat, you can remove the flower spikes. Just make sure you use a sharp sterilized tool.
If you notice that the stem is becoming yellow or brown, remove the flower spikes.
Phalaenopsis is a minimalist, yet extraordinary orchid species. It likes bright places away from direct sunlight.
Even though it prefers high humidity levels, between 50 and 100%, you shouldn’t water it too often. Do it once every week or two.
Still, check the soil first and see whether it has dried out nicely. The best potting option is soilless orchid bark.
Phalaenopsis likes additional feeding once every two weeks or so, but not during the blooming period. The beautiful flowers usually emerge throughout winter and spring.
After that, you can re-pot phalaenopsis orchid, if required (approximately once every two or three years).
Common problems usually involve overwatering – leaf yellowing and edema. Scale and mealybugs can appear as well.
In general, phalaenopsis orchid care isn’t demanding and with a little bit of ‘phal care’ and patience, you will enjoy its beauty for a long time.