How to Grow: Phalaenopsis Orchid Care
Updated: Feb 5, 2022
The Phalaenopsis or 'Moth Orchid' is the most common orchid due to its ease of production and the availability of blooming plants year-round. Phals are easily grown in the home and stay in bloom for a very long time. A mature phal will be in bloom much of the year with graceful inflorescences loaded with good-sized blooms. From pure whites to unusual spotted harlequins, Phalaenopsis are sure to please. Unlike many other orchids, Phalaenopsis can be repotted anytime, though it is usually best to do so when not in bloom.
The culture of Phalaenopsis orchids involves windowsill light and consistent moisture. Phals do very well as houseplants and will grow and flower in a moderately bright windowsill. Each year a Phalaenopsis will grow two or three new leaves. Once the growth phase is complete, usually in the fall, a bloom spike will emerge from the stem beneath the second or third leaf from the top. Sometimes we have to help a Phalaenopsis that is grown in a consistently warm home to realize it is fall by allowing it to experience lower temperatures (60's) for several nights in order to set a bloom spike. Phalaenopsis orchids bloom in the late winter through the spring.
Culture for Doritis, a related genus, thought by some to be conspecific with Phalaenopsis, and Doritaenopsis, a hybrid between the two genera, is the same as for pure Phalaenopsis.
Phalaenopsis are ‘low’ light orchids. In nature, they grow attached to the trunks of large trees, below the leaf canopy, so they are familiar with bright, but indirect light, that passes through the canopy. They grow easily in a bright window, with little or no sun. An east window is ideal in the home; shaded south or west windows are acceptable. A Phal’s leaves should be olive green. If they are darker it means the plant is not getting enough light; red tinged leaves mean the plant is getting too much light.
Once the plant is in bloom you can place it anywhere in your home out of direct sunlight. If in a greenhouse, 70 to 85 percent shad must be given. Think of a greenhouse that has lots of natural light but the glass is whitewashed to diffuse the direct rays of the sun, that’s the exposure they love. No shadow should be seen if you hold your hand one foot above a plant's leaves.
You can also achieve good phalaenopsis orchid care in indoor spaces away from windows, as long as there is a good source of light, either natural or artificial, to ensure that the plant gets sufficient light. Artificial lighting can easily be provided. Four fluorescent tubes in one fixture supplemented by incandescent bulbs are placed 6 to 12 inches above the leaves, 12 to 16 hours a day, following natural day length.