Phalaenopsis – the Easiest Orchid to Grow
The commonly available moth orchid will grow well in the home if the light, water and temperature are properly regulated.
During the winter months, the moth orchid (Phalaenopsis) is often on display in public areas or for sale in local garden centers. That is because it is the most common orchid and the easiest of these flowers to care for. Moth orchids (also called the White orchid) are often white or pale purple, and sometimes striped. They have large deep green leaves that emerge from the base of the plant. While orchids prefer warm climates they can be grown in the home with proper care and attention. Moth orchids can bloom twice each year and the flowers are long lasting.
Appearance and Growth Habit of Moth Orchids
The plant gets the name “moth orchid” because the open flowers look like a moth in flight. These flowers are commonly two to five inches across. The leaves are large, smooth, leathery and emerge from the base of the plant. Moth orchids are monopodial, which means that there is one stem that grows from the center of the plant and new growth occurs at the top. Because of this, the stems may curve under the weight of the heavy flower.
Moth orchids are often white, but can also come in pink, lavender or yellow. They can also be multicolored with stripes or spots. The blossoms are long lasting and can remain for several weeks. The bloom period for these orchids is typically 3 months long. To stimulate new bloom, use a sharp pair of garden clippers and cut the plant back just below the spent flower. Moth orchids are slow growing plants.
Light, Water and Temperature
People often think of orchids as being finicky to care for, but placing the flower in a warm humid location such as a bathroom will help. Phalanopsis is a warm growing orchid, which means that it prefers nighttime temperatures in the mid-60s and daytime temperatures in the upper 70s or low 80s.
Moth orchids need filtered light, like the kind that comes through a sheer curtain. Direct sunlight may burn the delicate leaves, but if there is not enough light the flowers won’t bloom. If the leaves are yellow it means that the plant is getting too much light If they are a deep green the plant is not getting enough light. If this happens, move the moth orchid to a window where the sunlight is better suited for the plant. It is best to give the orchid eastern exposure. If that is not possible place it in a window facing the south or west.
Winter homes can be dry because of central heating and this is bad for moth orchids. Orchids do best if the humidity is about fifty percent. While it is important to water the plant once a week, misting it with an atomizer will also help prevent dryness. Any watering or misting should be done during the morning hours. If the plant is left damp during cool nights it may promote disease. Water the plant well, but let the soil become fairly dry in between watering.
The best way to judge this is to poke a finger into the soil. If the top inch is dry, it is time to water. Don’t let any water droplets get on the flowers or settle in between the leaves. Water the orchid more in the summer and less in the winter. Use an orchid fertilizer in the water about once a month.
Moth Orchid Blooming Conditions
To bloom, moth orchids need the nighttime temperatures to be about 15 degrees less than daytime temperatures. As many homes are at temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees, most moth orchids will grow well under those conditions. While these plants will not have problems with temperatures below 95 degrees a higher temperature can stimulate rapid growth. Keep the temperature consistent as any drastic or frequent changes in temperature can make the buds fall off.