Phalaenopsis aka Moth Orchid is a pretty orchid with flowers 2 to 3 inches in size that last for three to six months. It is easy to grow and a good choice for beginners.
Phalaenopsis like bright indirect light. Put it in an east or west window, or several feet away from a south window. Direct light will burn the leaves. If the edges of the leaves are turning red give it less light, if it is not flowering give it more light. Too little light will give you dark green leaves instead of medium green. If your phalaenopsis plants newer leaves grow long and thin your orchid needs more light. In the winter phalaenopsis does wonderful under fluorescent lights. It also makes a great office plant because it does so well under fluorescent light.
After flowering the bottom leaves will often turn yellow and fall off, this is okay if it is only the older one or two leaves. You really want the plant to keep 6 to 8 leaves on all the time.
These plants wish to stay moist, be very careful to check them frequently. Water when the top of the growing medium is dry to the touch. Do not allow them to sit in water or the roots will turn black and rot. Air roots should be green and solid. White, shriveled ones are a sign of too little water. Leaves will wrinkle when they are not receiving enough water from the roots. Good healthy leaves will not flop or be wrinkled. They will support themselves and not touch the pot or planting medium as in the plant up top.
Humidity should be between 50% and 80%.
I’ve had my best luck planting them in shallow, clear glass dishes, Pyrex works great. I put about 2″ of cedar mulch on the bottom and an inch of sphagnum moss on top. I sit the orchid so the roots are resting on the bottom of the dish. You can visually see if the roots need water and are doing well. The bark leaves lots of air gaps and the moss keeps the water from escaping too quickly.
Just this week I switched the phalaenopsis orchids over to semi hydro ( First Rays semi-hydroponics for orchids ). The difference is amazing and immediate. All the orchids have new growth ( roots, leaves, spikes ) How well this will hold up over time I don’t know.
Be careful not to get water in the crown (fold in the top young leaves) they will rot if water is trapped in the folds or between the leaves. Often this will happen as quickly as just overnight. If you get water in the crown, use a towel or que-tip to gently dry it out.
While it is rare for phalaenopsis to recover from crown rot, occasionally one does. I plant them in sphagnum moss, water heavily and some times, especially ones with flowers, and or flower spikes still on them will grow a new crown like the one you see in the photo above.
Sometimes the blooming time can be extended. After the last bloom on the spike has faded, cut off the top of the spike, above the 3rd flower node from the bottom. Phalaenopsis will sometimes send out a second spike of flowers off the main one. If you do not cut the main spike sometimes a keiki will form. This is a baby phalaenopsis. It grows in much the same way as a baby spider plant. There are chemicals on the market to help form keikis off of stems if you are interested.
If you have managed to over water your phalaenopsis and find that all the roots are gone you can make an attempt to revive the plant. Cut off the old, dead roots. Put some rooting hormone on the edge of the leaves where the roots normally come out. Wrap this area in damp moss. Place the whole thing in a large plastic baggy. The baggy is to keep the plant in a very humid environment. Blow air in so the leaves are not touching the sides of the bag and seal. With luck new roots will appear.
Phalaenopsis grow leaves when the temperature is 78′ or higher, they send out flower spikes when the temperature goes below that.
They need less light during the warm leaf growing season than they do when they are blooming.
They need more fertilizer than most plant sites recommend, I use full strength fertilizer twice a month.
Be careful not to pack the sphagnum moss too tightly, it should be loose around the plant roots.
At temperatures over 80’F the flower stem will occasionally produce a keiki ( baby orchid ) at one of the nodes.