Phalaenopsis tetraspis var. alba orchid flower from the Living Collection.
Common Name: Moth Orchid
Scientific Name: Phalaenopsis (FAL-en-op-sis)
Popular since Victorian times, this moth-shaped orchid is now what most people think of when they think “orchid.” Phalaenopses are showy, come in many varieties, and are naturally comfortable in home environments. They are easy to care for and can be made to bloom multiple times a year. Phalaenopses are an excellent orchid for the novice orchid grower. Here are answers to some typical questions on how to keep a new Phalaenopsis orchid healthy and happy:
Where should I put my orchid?
If your home is between 70-90° F, then a Phalaenopsis should grow well (between 75-85° F is ideal). This is a low-light orchid, so placing it near an east facing window is an excellent option, though shaded south or west facing windows are fine as well. A Phalaenopsis can even grow and bloom under full spectrum grow lights. The best way to determine if your orchid is getting enough light is by looking at its leaves. In orchids, you actually want a slightly yellow-green or olive colored leaf. Dark green leaves mean the plant is not getting enough light, and slightly red leaves mean it is getting too much.
What about humidity?
While Phalaenopses do like humid environments (between 50-80%), this does not mean that they have to be grown exclusively in damp conditions. Phalaenopses can adapt well to less humid home environments. When the plant flowers, raise the humidity by placing it on a shallow tray filled with pebbles and water. However, if you live in a very humid environment, use an overhead fan to provide more air circulation.
How much water should I give it?
Incorrect watering is the most common killer of orchids, but also the easiest practice to fix. First, never use ice! The cold shock will damage your orchid’s roots. Instead, use lukewarm water or water that is at room temperature. Next, water the plant when its growth medium is dry; do not water when it is not. How can you tell if your Phalaenopsis is dry? Put your fingers in the orchid’s moss or bark mixture. Is it dry? Give your orchid a good soak by putting it under a tap and letting water run out the bottom. Wait until it has dried out before watering again. You will notice that the roots change color to a vibrant green when wet. Firm roots with a white coating indicate a healthy orchid. Roots that are soft or browning indicate an unhealthy orchid. Your orchid could need water every 5-14 days, depending on how hot or cold, sunny or shady it is where it lives. Overwatering and underwatering kill most plants, so get to know what your orchid looks like both when just watered and a week after it has been watered.
My orchid has finished blooming – now what?
Once your Phalaenopsis has finished blooming, its old spike can be cut in one of two ways. The spike can be cut down to the leaves, and it will bloom again in several months, or it can be cut to two nodes (the brown bands along the spike) below where its last growth was, and should bloom again in 8-12 weeks.