Big Leaf Orchids
Phalaenopsis by Peter Lin
(fayl-eh-nop-siss)
     
A Beginner Guide to Grow and to Flower The Moth Orchid

For growers new to phalaenopsis orchid, first task at hand is to acquire a healthy plant. The next step is to understand the requirements to keep the plant alive. Instead of asking how to make the plant flower, ask how to grow the plant better. The flowers will come naturally for well-grown plant as blooming is the only purpose to reproduce. Best growing tip is to think like a phalaenopsis. Phalaenopsis is the most popular houseplant that thrives in your home or office. Wherever you are comfortable - chances are the plant will be too.

  Temperature
Best temperature is 75F with acceptable range from 60s at night to upper 80s.
 
  Water
Plants should be kept moist but not wet. For plants grown in plastic container - this means running water through pot for one minute to wet the potting mix thoroughly. Avoid getting water on foliage, especially the center (crown). Do not water again until the potting mix is almost dry out. This wet to dry process can be 3 days to 20 days - depending on growing area. We recommend using clear plastic pot. If you see moisture inside of pot - wait another day before watering.  In most cases watering is once every 7 days.
 
  Air
Keep a ceiling fan or small personal fan at low speed in your growing area to help circulating air.  Phalaenopsis grow better with good air movement.
 
  Light
Bright but indirect sun light is required to grow and to flower a phalaenopsis. This means keeping your plant close by a window facing east, west, or south. Use sheer curtain, mini-blind to shield the leaves from direct sunlight.  Use leaf color as a guide to measure if enough light is obtained by the plant.  Leaf color should be medium olive-green.  Yellow or dark green usually indicates too much or too little light.
 
  Humidity
Phalaenopsis grows best with 60-70 percent humidity. Use a tray filled with pebbles to help with catching run-off water after watering, and to increase humidity. Keep the bottom of plastic pot above water level. This means keeping water level in tray about half the height of pebbles in tray.
 
  Fertilizer
Use any balanced (i.e. 20-20-20 ratio) fertilizer "weakly, weekly." For example, if the fertilizer is to be applied monthly with the rate of one teaspoon per gallon of water, you can mix a gallon of water using one quarter of teaspoon.  Use this diluted solution to water your plant every week - thus achieve feeding weakly every week.
 
  Potting
For best result, repot your phalaenopsis with fresh mix once a year done in late spring after flowering season. Use a clear-plastic pot size slightly larger the the root mass so that the pot does not stay wet. Choose a well-drained yet water-retentive mix such as orchid mix made of fine fir bark, New Zealand sphagnum moss, perlite (sponge rock), and charcoal in ratio of 3:1:1:1.
 
     
Tips to Flower The Moth Orchid

Phalaenopsis respond to seasonal change and produce flowers for reproduction. While growers are delighted with long-lasting blooms, it takes approximately 120 days from initiating inflorescence (commonly refers to as flower spike) to opening first flower. Spring blooming variety respond to cooler temperature and start blooming process in late Fall to early Winter. If your plant is healthy but has yet to start the blooming process - try one of the following methods.

  • Maintain a 10 degree temperature drop for two weeks.  For example, if your growing area is normally kept at 75F - lower the temperature to 65F for two weeks.  In the home, identify a location close to window where the temperature is lower.
  • Increase light.  Phalaenopsis respond to brighter light with growth and in most cases - flower.  Light is energy that no amount of fertilizer can replace.  Supplement your growing area with grow light in the winter months to give your phalaenopsis extra boost to produce flowers.
  • Repotting.  Mature and healthy phalaenopsis usually respond to fresh potting mix with new growth and production of flowers.
 
Tips on Phalaenopsis Husbandry

Daily - Find time to get away from your daily routine to enjoy your phalaenopsis. Appreciate sign of new growth, and watch for warning signs - such as leaves turning yellow or limp.  Make sure excessive water is dried from leaves and no standing water inside of the crown.

Weekly - If needed, watering and feeding your phalaenopsis with diluted fertilizer.  Pickup the plant, feel the weight to determine if mix is dry and needs to be watered.  If clear plastic pot is used, observe if there is still moisture inside of the pot that you can skip watering.  When in doubt, it is best to wait another day or two before resume watering.

Bi-weekly - Wipe both surfaces of the leaves with soap water (2 drops of dish washing detergent mix with 1 cup of water).  Cleaning leaves help with removing insects on leaves.

Monthly - Wipe both surfaces of the leaves with diluted juice (1 teaspoon orange juice mix with 1 cup of water). This helps removing the buildup of minerals deposit on leaves.  The appearance of your plant will improve greatly with shiny leaves.

Bi-monthly - Water potting mix with plain water thoroughly to flush out excessive salts or minerals buildup from weekly application of fertilizer.

 
For more information, visit our phalaenopsis discussion forum at www.bigleaforchids.com