Orchids have a reputation for being finicky and difficult to grow. I am here to try to convince you otherwise. For the last few years I have added to my assortment of orchids and nothing provides more beauty year round than my orchids. My first purchase was Phalaenopsis (fayl-eh-NOP-siss), commonly called the moth orchid. Well-grown phals can flower often, twice a year perhaps. Flower stems on certain varieties can be forced to rebloom by cutting off the tip after the initial flowering to the next node. Only healthy plants should be forced to flower repeatedly. The one here in the photo has been in a state of constant bloom and rebloom for many months now!
Phalaenopsis grow easily in a bright window with little or no direct sun. An east window is ideal and a shaded south or west windows are fine, too. In overcast northern climates a full southern exposure may be needed. As for temperature, phals like 75-85 degrees during the day and above 60 at night. I’m here to say mine do not get the ideal and still thrive. They do like the drop at night, and mine get that. In the Autumn, they like a nightly drop to 55 degrees for several weeks to promote a flower spike. For that I place mine in a cooler sun room with its own thermostat.
Water is essential to the phalaenopsis as they do not have any major water storage organs (other than leaves). They must be kept moist, but not overly wet. You should water the plant thoroughly, allowing water to drain off and repeat weekly before they completely dry out. Humidity is important, too. A gravel tray is helpful so that their feet aren’t sitting in the water, but surrounded by a moist environment.
Fertilizing advice is varied but the method that has worked well for me is to fertilize “weakly, weekly” when not in bloom. I dilute orchid fertilizer to quarter-strength and water away, always draining the pot of any excess.
Repotting is best done after flowering, usually in the Spring. They should be potted in a porous mix and whenever the medium starts to decompose, usually every two or three years. The roots will rot if left to sit in a soggy medium. When repotting, carefully trim old medium and rotted roots with sterile scissors. Add your trimmed plant to new, loosely packed and porous orchid mix. Enjoy the exotic flowers and the pop of color on an otherwise dreary winter day!
For those of us lucky enough to live near Richmond, Virginia, the Virginia Orchid Society will hold it's annual show at Strange's Garden Center on February 22-24, 2013. There will be a wealth of information, lectures, supplies and hundreds of orchids to admire and purchase. Best yet, it's free! Mark your calendar; I am. For more information, check this out.
Dee Antil is a multifaceted woman much like the stones she uses in her artisan jewelry designs. She has worn many hats from nurse anesthetist to single mother, founder of non-profit art co-op, amateur photographer, orchid grower, exercise/nutrition enthusiast. She also loves design, fashion, and the sea.