This is an extremely brief introduction to the growing patterns and culture that should be given to phalaenopsis orchids, or as some will see them advertised as in many stores, “moth orchids”. Many people who are first starting out in the realm of orchids will start with this type because they are readily available and are extremely pretty when in bloom (not to mention the blooms tend to last a long time, which is always a bonus!! 😀 ) * a general note- I am going to be using the abbreviation of “Phals” for phalaenopsis as it is shorter to type and “in the hobby” many growers will refer to them as such unless they are being quite formal.
Location– somewhere that it will get bright, indirect light (a good recommendation is between 1000-2000 footcandles in light intensity). Also make sure that the relative humidity of the area is at least 40% or so. Humidity can be raised by adding a humidifier (cool-mist humidifiers are always a good choice), or other ways are to set your phal on top of a tray with water that has some sort of pebble or decorative glass in it as well so the bottom of the pot is not touching the “humidity” water source.
Light– see above please for strengths. Light can be given from natural lighting or from artificial lighting to supplement what you need. * A note on lighting. Phalaenopsis are great candidates to grow under artificial lighting because they are relatively low-light plants.
Feeding– there are a bunch of different ways that you can do this, but a good recommendation is to buy a balanced fertilizer (20-20-20, 10-10-10, or a semi-unbalanced fertilizer of 30-10-10) and dissolve it in your water to feed every time that you water at approximately 50ppm Nitrogen (the first number. That would be approximately 0.25 teaspoons of a 30-10-10 to 1 gallon of water). Then another method is to use 0.5 teaspoons of 30-10-10 every other watering (because it is stronger, it’s not applied as often).
A HUGE help for fertilizing amounts (in addition to metric measures is https://www.firstrays.com/fertcalc.htm)
Watering– There is a slight trick to getting your watering schedule down depending upon your growing conditions. Everybody waters a little bit differently. If your phal is mostly in peat moss with a few bits of bark, I would say that you will probably end up watering somewhere in the region of 10-14 days (again, depending upon your conditions). A good way to test when you need to water is to take a bamboo skewer and put it into the pot near the center (try not to stab any roots or anything like that!) and check it periodically- when the skewer is still wet or damp, wait a day or two; when the skewer is dry, it’s time to water. *personal opinion- I personally try to keep all of my phals, or orchids in general, out of peat moss because in my conditions, I find that it will dry out too slowly and unevenly- the center will stay much more moist than the outsides or top of the pot. This being said, I prefer to put my orchids in a bark mix that allows them to dry out a little faster (just short of 1 week or so- longer when it is cooler). That is my personal preference because I have lost some orchids to root rot in the moss.
Repotting– For phals, repotting is usually done once a year or so with bark mixes and sometimes less than a year with mosses because it stays wet longer, which means it usually starts to break down a little faster. Phals are epiphytes (air plants), so when a potting medium is breaking down and becoming rather soil-like, it can actually smother it to death. Phals tend not to be too fussy about when they are repotted, but good times are often after it is done blooming. (If an emergency repot is needed while it is in bloom- I would repot and possibly sacrifice the bloom if the plant was in poor health.)
After-bloom Care– After bloom care is very easy. Once your flowers have started to wither or fall of your inflorescence (flower spike), then you have an option: 1) cut the spike as far down the the base as possible and dust the cut end with regular cinnamon to help it dry out and prevent infection OR 2) cut the flower spike between the first node that bloomed and then first un-bloomed node to try and make it flower again. Each option has its pros and cons. *Personal opinion- I have done both to various phals with success with both, however, I judge the plant to see what is best for overall health. If the phal looks a little sad or tired (somewhat limp leaves, etc), then I will without hesitation cut the flower spike all the way down and wait for it to put out another one. If the plant is going very strong and hasn’t had any issues in the last several months, then I may cut the spike and try to get it to re-bloom for me. In the end it is up to you, but there are some ways to extend the life of your plant by not overly-stressing it.
As I stated in the beginning, this is just a very brief overview of phal culture- it can get quite in depth if you are willing to put the time into it. A great reference for all orchids is orchidboard.com. That is a great resource for the new hobbyist or the most experienced veteran at orchid growing.
That is all for now! If you have a question or comment, please feel free to post it here or send me a message!
As always, HAPPY GROWING! 😀