Orchids Phalaenopsis Orchid Care (The Moth Orchid)
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Long-lasting blooms and ease of culture make Phalaenopsis a good choice for a beginner orchid plant.
Light requirements are easily met in the home for Phalaenopsis blooming in a South to Southeastern exposure window that receives a minimum of four hours of indirect sunlight. Direct sunlight will burn the leaves. Light is one of the most important factors in initiating flower spikes with your Phalaenopsis and they should receive enough light so that the leaves fade slightly from the rich green color seen in the leaves of many house plants.
Phalaenopsis appreciate humidity and additional humidity can be achieved by placing them on a tray of moist gravel. Misting the roots can also be helpful during extremely dry situations. A cool air humidifier is a welcome companion for orchids.
Phalaenopsis should be watered thoroughly and not again until the medium is almost dry. Right after watering lift your pot and feel the weight of the plant and the freshly watered medium. As the medium dries your pot will become much lighter and you will eventually get a feel for the weight your pot becomes at watering time. An alternative method to determine if your pot needs watering would be to push your finger or a pencil into the potting medium. If either comes out wet or more than just slightly damp, then do not water. When almost dry, totally saturate the medium. If the roots and the medium stay continually wet then the roots will rot and the medium will break down much faster and require changing more often.
Remember to water only the medium and not the center (crown) of your plant. Water sitting in the crown can cause crown rot and is actually the water rotting the center of your plant. Eventually it will be unable to produce more leaves. The outcome is a slow death.
Fertilize every three to four weeks with a water-soluble house plant or orchid fertilizer. Use at a rate ½ of the manufacturers recommendations. Without fertilizer growth will slow significantly. We use a balanced 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 year round. Bark based mixes will benefit from 30-10-10.
Repot when the plant grows too large for its pot or as soon as you see the potting medium starting to degrade. Rotten medium retains moisture for too long a period and will quickly cause root loss. Use a nice open potting mix designed for orchids. No potting soil, for it packs too tightly and will suffocate the roots.
Two Phalaenopsis mixes we have used with success are:
A sphagnum moss-based mix consisting of 50% sphagnum, 25% medium charcoal, and 25% medium perlite
A coconut husk-based mix containing 50% coconut husks, 25% medium charcoal, 20% perlite, and 5% redwood chips.
Coconut has a tendency to contain salt and we soak and rinse our coconut for three consecutive days before using for our orchids. We have a dissolved solids meter and check the salt levels. If longer soaking is needed, we continue to soak one or more days . You basically do not want any salt readings on your meter.
Both mixes should be made in advance and allowed to soak in water overnight.
In the bottom of the pot we add a one to two inch layer of packing peanuts to add extra aeration. Make sure the peanuts are not the ones that dissolve in water and you can test a few by floating them in a water glass overnight.
Always pot for the size of the roots. Do not over pot your Phalaenopsis. Use a pot just slightly larger than needed to accommodate the roots. Phalaenopsis have no pseudobulbs and their fleshy leaves and roots act as their water storage units. They are slow to form new roots and leaves, so a Phalaenopsis with rotten roots is an orchid in decline.