Get your feet wet with orchids by growing Phalaenopsis orchids. These exotic bloomers open flowers that linger from 80 to 120 days. That kind of flower power is reason enough to grow these elegant houseplants. The fact that moth orchids are relatively undemanding also earns them a place in every indoor plant collection.
Phalaenopsis orchid is one of the most popular orchids, and it’s also one of the most widely recommended for novice orchid growers. Moth orchids almost grow by themselves—they’re really that easy. In their native habitats in Eastern Asia, phalaenopsis orchids are epiphytes, meaning they grow with roots exposed to air.
These beautiful moth orchids cling to tree branches in tropical forests. They receive dappled sunlight or light shade, and the air is rich with moisture and humidity. Temperatures are warm and toasty. Mimicking similar conditions in the home isn’t too difficult. Keep phalaenopsis orchids near a bright eastern window—never in direct sun. If plants are kept near south- or west-facing windows, provide some type of shade. The one exception is during winter in northern regions. In these areas, a southern window would provide the right light during winter’s dark days.
Humidity is vital to succeeding with phalaenopsis orchids. Too-dry air can cause flower buds to drop. These tropical plants prefer humidity in the 50 to 80 percent range. Fall and winter air indoors can tend to be dry. Consider running a humidifier or placing your phalaenopsis orchid on a gravel-filled tray with water added so it remains below the gravel. As the water evaporates, it raises the humidity around the moth orchid.
Aim for day temperatures between 70° and 82°F and nights above 60°F. Phalaenopsis orchids naturally flower during the cooler parts of the year. The cooler air of autumn and winter typically triggers flower spike formation. Some gardeners slip their plants outdoors on a covered porch or patio for a few nights in fall to provide the cool air necessary to jump-start the flowering process.
Phalaenopsis orchids need consistent moisture to thrive. The idea is to water as the orchid potting mix is starting to dry out, but before it is completely dry. You don’t want your moth orchid sitting in a waterlogged mix, but you also don’t want it to be bone dry. It varies based on your home’s conditions, but you may need to water your phalaenopsis orchid anywhere from once every three to five days to once every 10.
Fertilizing orchids is best done with a water-soluble food. Use a complete plant fertilizer with numbers like 20-20-20, applying it every two weeks (aim for twice a month). Plan to repot young phalaenopsis orchids every year; they grow that fast. More mature moth orchids don’t need repotting as frequently. The right time for repotting orchids is right after they finish flowering.