For most people, Phalaenopsis orchids are the first thing that comes to mind when they think of orchids. Also known as Moth orchid, this species is considered one of the easiest orchids and can be found for sale in many places nowadays. Unfortunately, good information about Phalaenopsis orchid care is not as easily found and there are plenty of myths out there. So how can you help your Phals thrive?
This Phalaenopsis caresheet contains everything you need to know (without any magic numbers or tricks that do more harm than good)!
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Phalaenopsis orchid care
The most important thing to keep in mind when you’re trying to figure out how Phalaenopsis care works is the way they naturally grow. Phalaenopsis is an epiphyte: it isn’t terrestrial but instead grows on trees in warm, moist environments. This tells us a few very important things:
- Phals aren’t used to direct sunlight, as the tree crowns would naturally block this out.
- Phals like relatively warm environments
- Phals get their moisture from the air and occasional raindrops
- Phal roots are made to clamp onto trees instead of grow in the soil
Phalaenopsis location & temperature
Finding a good spot in your house to place your Phalaenopsis can really make a difference in how well they do. As mentioned above, these orchids don’t appreciate direct sunlight at all. Although I’ve seen reports of Phals doing well near sunny windows, it’s best to protect them from this by placing them somewhere the sun only shines in the early morning or evening. If you do put them in a sunny spot, a thin curtain can help offer some protection. If you see the leaves of your Phalaenopsis turning yellow, it’s time to find a location with a bit more shade. If the leaves are unusually dark, find a lighter spot!
Because Phals naturally occur in warmer areas, a temperature between 62-77 °F/16.5-25 °C is usually considered ideal, although a bit warmer is not a problem. Luckily, this falls well within the temperature range of the average home! Even being placed near a heater is not a problem for your Phals, as long as the temperature is stable. Drafty areas are not appreciated. Moist areas like bathrooms are a plus, as they further imitate the natural ‘habitat’.
Because Phals aren’t terrestrial, it’s not a good idea to plant them in standard potting soil. It’s too compact and they much prefer a type of soil that imitates their natural environment. A loose orchid mix composed of materials like bark or sphagnum moss works well. To be able to keep an eye on root growth and easily water your Phalaenopsis, a clear plastic orchid pot with drainage holes is ideal. If you’d like, you can place this inner pot into a decorative outer pot.
If you want to repot your Phalaenopsis, when it has outgrown its container for example, you can do so when it has finished flowering to prevent damage to the flowers. Be careful when repotting; you might find the roots have attached themselves quite firmly to the container, so try to remove them without causing too much damage. Take some time to inspect the root system and remove any rotting roots. If you see a lot of rot, you may be overwatering!
The best way to water orchids is something many beginning hobbyists struggle with. Keep in mind that there is no set schedule! The tips below are not crucial to keeping your Phalaenopsis alive, but will definitely help.
- Water getting into the leaf crown can cause rot, so it’s a much better idea to soak your orchids by taking out the plastic inner pot (pictured to the side) and placing it in a layer of water.
The orchid mix will soak up the water through the drainage holes, so just leave the plant for as long as needed for it to become nice and moist again and then place it back in its usual spot.
- Because orchids naturally grow in warmer environments, it’s usually recommended to use room temperature water instead of very cold or hot water. Watering your Phals using ice cubes is not necessary at all.
- Orchids, and most other houseplants, appreciate slightly softer water. If you have access to it, rain water is the best option out there. If not, tap water is fine as well.
When your Phals start to dry out, it’s time to water them again. How quickly this happens depends on factors like the potting medium used (moss dries out less quickly than bark) and season (less water is needed during Winter). You can see whether water is needed by looking at the roots: if they are grey, they require moisture. If your pot isn’t see-through, you can also carefully stick a wooden skewer into the potting mix and see if it comes out dry or not.
Generally, it’s better to under-water your Phalaenopsis than over-water them. Over-watering is the cause of death of many an orchid: the roots will start rotting and the plant will waste away.
Phals don’t need a lot of fertilizer, so if you’re using a normal houseplant fertilizer be sure to half the dose. You can also use a special orchid fertilizer, which has adjusted nutrient ratios that are suitable for orchids. Many articles about Phalaenopsis orchid care say to feed them weekly, but once a month is actually usually enough!
Making Phalaenopsis flower
Phalaenopsis have an incredible blooming time and healthy Phals will bear flowers for most of the year. If yours has finished blooming, you can stimulate it by cutting the stem at the second or third node from the bottom. Cutting the stem isn’t necessary (unless it’s dead or dying), but will help the plant conserve energy to bloom again. If you’re not having much success, you can also move your Phal to a colder place for a few hours. This sudden drop in temperature can make the plant think it’s time to bloom!
Are Phalaenopsis orchids toxic to cats and dogs?
No! The ASPCA and other sources list Phalaenopsis as safe for both cats and dogs.
If you have any more questions about Phalaenopsis orchid care or want to share your own experiences with these beautiful plants, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.