Phalaenopsis orchids (also known as the Moth Orchid) are rapidly becoming the most commonly grown houseplant in the UK. In the last 10 years, they have grown into a huge industry with every supermarket and garden centre now stocking them. However, most people don’t realise that Phalaenopsis orchids require care and the appropriate growing conditions, in order to keep them healthy and in bloom.
Fun fact: How often do orchids bloom? A happy orchid will flower 3 times a year, with a typical lifespan of a decade!
The following indoor orchid care tips are designed help you get the most out of your Phalaenopsis orchid plant.
Temperature: Orchids don’t like change. They prefer a stable temperature of no less than 58 degrees. Anything between 60-80 degrees will be of benefit to your plant.
Situation: Orchids naturally grow in dappled shade. An east or west facing widow with shades or nets are ideal. They will need about 70% shade and 30% sun. Prolonged direct sunlight will cause the leaves to turn yellow from the centres and eventually drop off and possibly kill the plant. Bathrooms are ideal. Don’t place too closely to a window. Even double glassing is not enough to protect your orchids from the coldest nights.
Phalaenopsis orchids grow on other plants and trees and not in soil. As a result, they are used to being high above the ground, gathering moisture from the air with aerial roots.
An ideal growing medium:
In all instances, it would be advisable to buy dedicated, very free draining orchid growing medium from your local garden centre.
When to repot: The best time to re-pot is spring. During this season, your orchid will start to grow new leaves and roots. If you re-pot now, you will benefit from a natural growth spurt.
Using larger pot: If the orchid roots are really starting to distort the pot, then you will need to size-up. However, orchids do like to be a little snug, so don’t change the pot size unless you really have to.
Every 2-3 years: Keeping an orchid in the same growing medium for more than 2 years, may result in complications as the growing medium starts to compost.
There are a couple of indicators to let you know when your orchid needs watering:
Top tip: To test moisture levels, push a lollipop stick into the growing medium and then take it out. If the stick feels moist, then it doesn’t need watering.
Water your orchid with rain water. Ideally, the water should be tepid or at room temperature. Cold water from a tap or water butt may cause the roots to rot and kill your plant.
Water every 4-5 days during the summer and once a fortnight during winter. Ensure that the growing medium is kept moist at all times.
Try placing your orchid plant on a tray of wet gravel. As the water evaporates, this will increase the humidity around the plant. Note: the orchid should not have direct access to the water. This will cause your plant to rot. Make sure that the bottom of your pot it not submerged in the water.
Like all living creatures, orchids need feeding to help them grow. These feeds occur through complex processes in the orchids natural habitat. In our homes, orchid food is scarce. Because orchids grow in trees and rocks, the nutrients they need is difficult to obtain. This is the reason why they grow so slowly. The main chemical that the Phalaenopsis orchid craves is nitrogen.
Which ever fertilizer you choose, select one that contains nitrates as opposed to ammonia. Nitrates are far less toxic that ammonia and preferred by your orchid.
The best time to feed your orchid is just after and not during blooming. This will encourage it to put out more growth and flower buds.
Once your orchid has stopped flowering, you are left with an ugly stick where once lovely blooms hung. Sad.
One of the best ways to encourage more flower growth is to have a temperature variance of about 15 degrees. From 60 to 75 degree is idea, from night to day.
Don’t just chop off the spent flower stem! Counting from the base of the plant upward, you will find a series of notches going up the flower stem. Cut just above the forth node with a pair of sterilised scissors. This will produce a single and sometimes a double shoot from the top of the growing tip of the existing flower stem.
I hope you have enjoyed our tutorial on caring for your Phalaenopsis orchid. Please feel free to link to this page or share and like it via social media.
Fact sheet on Phalaenopsis orchids: https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=388
Taking care of orchids: https://www.theallotmentgarden.co.uk/looking-after-orchids/
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