Easy Phalaenopsis Orchid Care

The most common orchid gifted on the day of love is the Phalaenopsis or Moth orchid.

Orchids are the ultimate floral Valentine’s Day gift!   The most common orchid gifted on the day of love is the Phalaenopsis or Moth orchid.  They come in many colors and their blooms seem to last forever.  But what do you do with this plant after the flowers die? To understand the answer you first have to know a little about this popular orchid.

 

Phalaenopsis orchids are epiphytes meaning they do not require soil to survive. They grow in trees in parts of Australia, India and the Philippines.  Phals are anchored to the trees by their long green roots which take in moisture and air.  As a gift plant the roots are often packed with moss.  This stabilizes the plant in the pot but does not let the roots breathe as they should.  If possible, carefully remove some of the moss so the roots are not suffocating.  Make sure the pot has very good drainage so water can run straight through the moss.  Do not let them sit in water for extended periods of time.  Many people put their Phalaenopsis orchid pot in a larger ceramic pot with pebbles in the bottom.  Any excess drainage water collected provides extra humidity for the plant.

 

Phalaenopsis orchids like a bright light location but no direct sun.   Water every 7 days with warm water.  At this time you can add a tiny pinch of orchid fertilizer to the water and let it thoroughly saturate the moss and drain through.  You will notice that the roots of the orchid will often be seen as escaping the pot!  This is entirely normal and when watering make sure you give these external roots a bath as well.  Avoid using softened water.

When flowering is over and the stem or spike starts to turn brown cut the spike off completely leaving a couple of stem nodes at the base.  This allows the plant to gather more energy to prepare for the next bloom cycle.

This is the time to repot your orchid.  Carefully remove the orchid from its existing pot and gently remove any moss or bark around the root system.  You can also rinse the roots with warm water and trim off any brown or black mushy roots.

New tan or green sphagnum moss is the best for repotting.  This is my personal preference but I know many people like to use orchid bark.   It is critical that the roots are able to breathe!  The new pot should be a bit larger than the existing orchid pot and have side and bottom slots to increase drainage and aeration around the roots.  Place some moss in the bottom of the new pot and then place your orchid base on top of this.  Fill in around the roots with more moss but do not pack it in.  Water with warm water and let it thoroughly drain.  Place in your ceramic outer pot for stability.

Your Phalaenopsis orchid will now grow new roots and 1-2 new leaves to prepare for a new flower spike (s).  Again add a bit of orchid fertilizer to your weekly watering regime and up to full strength from May to September.

Phalaenopsis flower buds beginning to form

It was often thought that low night time temperatures initiated flower spikes but recent research has shown this is not the case.  Flower spike initiation is controlled by daytime temps of below 27 degrees C.  If the temperature goes above 30 degrees C, flower spike formation will stop. 

Flower spikes appear at the base of a leaf.  You can tell it is a flower spike because they look like little mittens of the end of a short stalk and are not rounded at the tip like roots.  It is a somewhat long process with the spike not elongating for three months and then the fat buds swell and bloom.  During this time it is usually wise to provide a bamboo stake support for your flower stalk.  Attach the stake to the stalk with an orchid clip or soft plant ties.

If you are very lucky you will see more than one flower spike appear!

Occasionally a baby orchid will appear on the flower spike as well.  These babies are called keiki and are identical to the mother plant.  Once the flowers stalk finishes blooming, trim the stalk back to about an inch or two above the keiki.  Leave the keiki on the plant for about a year.  Once this baby has two to three new leaves and its roots are two to three inches long you can separate it from the mother plant and put it in its own pot. 

As you can see Phalaenopsis orchids are very easy to care for and it’s so exciting when you see that new flower shoot forming! 


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