Orchids have a reputation for being fussy. Most home owners who don’t think twice about growing a peace lily or spider plant will steer clear of orchids out of fear of killing the plant. But the phalaenopsis is one of the easier plants that you can grow in your home.
blossoms look like a moth with spread-wings, which may be why the plant is nicknamed moth orchid. These blossoms are typically used in corsages as mother’s day gifts. In your home, the plant’s low-lighting requirements mean that they will fit into almost any room.
Orchids such as phalaenopsis need a temperature range between 60 and 85. The normal temperature settings in a home are typically sufficient for these plants. If you keep your orchids in a window, check that the temperature does not drop below 60. This can endanger your plants.
The plants need between 1,000 and 1,500 foot candles of light. This is equivalent to light strong enough to read by. You can place the plants in a north or east facing window or under artificial lights and they will receive plenty of light. If you grow the plants under artificial light, place them 9 to 12 inches under fluorescent light or 4 to 6 feet under high intensity discharge lights of 400 watts. If the plant does not produce a flower spike by February, move it to a location where it will get more light.
Orchids grow in every part of the world. There are even orchids in cold climates. But orchids such as phalaenopsis grow in tropical regions where there is high humidity. Unfortunately, the climate-controlled environment of most homes tends to be very dry. In order to compensate for the dryness, fill a tray with gravel and then pour water into it so that the surface level of the water is just below the top of the gravel bed. Place the orchids on top of the gravel bed so that they do not touch the water. As the water evaporates, it will create a well of humidity around the orchids.
Use a balanced fertilizer in spring and summer when the orchid is growing or actively flowering. A fertilizer formulated for orchids is best. One good way to water is to fill a gallon jug with tap water. Allow the jug to sit for several days so that chlorine can dissipate from the jug and then mix in the proper amount of fertilizer. Never use water from a water softener. These devices use sodium to soften water. The sodium will build up in the roots of your orchid and damage it.
Orchids in the wild grow in environments where their roots are partially, if not fully exposed. The roots need lots of air as well as water to thrive. Because of this, the potting medium that you choose for your orchids must be light and airy. An orchid potting mix, bark, coir fiber or peat moss works well. The best time to repot the plants is in late spring or summer after they have finished flowering.
Overwatering is the fastest way to kill orchids. If they are given a humid environment, phalaenopsis roots can pull some water from the air and will not need watering as often. The roots are spongy, and need both air and water to thrive. In order to tell if your plant needs water, insert your finger into the plant’s potting medium. If the medium feels damp, do not water. If the potting medium is slightly on the dry side, water the plant by completely saturating the potting medium until water runs out the top and drainage holes.
Wash the potting mix off of the roots and cut off any brown and mushy roots with a pair of sterilized shears. Leave white, silver or green, succulent roots alone. Select a pot that is large enough to accommodate the roots
When your plant begins to bloom, you should place a stake in the orchid pot to support the bloom spike. Many garden centers sell orchid staking kits, although a bamboo skewer and a bread wrapper will work as well to stake your orchid. With proper care, phalaenopsis orchid blooms may last several months. Once the bloom spike starts to die back, cut it back just below the point where the first flower bloomed. That node point will create a new branch and a second flowering section. This way you will have blooms for another month.
When you cut back an orchid stalk, touch the cut tip to a spoonful of cinnamon. Cinnamon has antibacterial properties that will protect the cut tip of your orchid.
When the bloom spike begins to fade a final time, cut back the stalk to within a few inches of the plant and doctor it with cinnamon again.