There is an undeniable charm within the vast and diverse family of orchids. Each genus offering its own unique and brilliant beauty. If you are new to the world of orchids a great place to begin is with the delightful Phalaenopsis. With low light and warm environment requirements, these special wonders are one of the very easiest orchids to grow inside the home. Understanding just a few of their basic requirements will reward you with several weeks, even months, of radiant blossoms!
The first rule in care taking for your Phalaenopsis is to never let their roots dry out completely. Since these orchids have no pseudobulbs, or water storage organs, they need to be watered before dryness occurs. Never let them become bone-dry. That being said, caution must be taken, however, not to water your orchid too frequently. Over-watering can cause the roots to rot and the orchid will likely not survive. Generally, watering once every 7-10 days, ideally in the morning, will be sufficient. To properly water your orchid flush its growing mix with a copious, gentle stream of filtered or rain water. Make sure all the roots are wet and also that it has drained out the bottom leaving no standing water in the pot. It’s important to be aware of any water that may be sitting in the crown of the plant where the leaves join. If there is, simply soak it up with a tissue or paper towel to prevent disease such as crown rot from occurring.
When deciding on a place in the home for your Phal, choose an area with bright but indirect sunlight. They are low-light orchids and too much exposure can easily burn the leaves. An east facing windowsill is a quite suitable location. Olive, bright green leaves is the sweet spot color for these orchids. A darker color usually means they aren’t getting enough light. If the leaves turn yellow, splotchy or red tinged then the plant is getting too much light.
In addition to proper light and watering, orchids gotta eat too! They need nutrition, that is. In the wild they typically grow on tree trunks, branches and rocks. They are epiphytes, or air plants, with their roots exposed to the air, collecting moisture and nutrients from the surrounding environment. In the home they will need some help with this since they’ll be all cooped up inside. Regularly fertilize your Phal when it is in active growth and only when the potting material is damp. A great organic method of feeding your orchid is to use compost tea. Compost tea is just a fancy term for earthworm compost pee. It’s natural, won’t burn you plants and doesn’t have the same salt build up as commercial fertilizers. Kauai Seascapes Nursery brews compost tea every week and can be purchased on Thursdays for $5/gallon. Dilute the tea with filtered water in a ratio of 1 to 1 and mist on foliage and roots twice a month. It is also a natural fungicide, pesticide and immune system booster. It is essentially probiotics for plants!
One of the most spectacular aspects of Phalaenopsis orchids is their ability to re-bloom. You can assist the re-bloom by cutting just in front of the node where the first flower bloomed. Be sure to use a sterilized utensil when cutting your orchid to prevent spread of any diseases. With this little trick you could be enjoying flowers for several months at a time!
As you become comfortable caring for your Phalaenopsis you will most likely be excited and ready to start tapping into some of the other fascinating types of orchids out there. Being an expansive family of over 35,000 different species, there is much diversity to discover in the world of orchids! Once you’ve experienced the anticipation and thrill of waiting for and watching your plants’ first blooms you will understand the mystery and allure all the orchid hobbyists are talking about. Go ahead and fall in love, you won’t be disappointed.