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Phalaenopsis/The Moth Orchid

An American Orchid Society demographic survey showed that phalaenopsis have become America’s favorite orchid. And no wonder! Perhaps no other orchid is better suited to home orchid growing. Plants with long-lasting sprays of lovely moth-like blooms in a broad array of colors are inexpensive and widely available, ready to give weeks of pleasure in your home or office. Simply provide modest light and consistent moisture, and they will delight you with their relative ease of culture. The main flowering season is late winter into spring, though commercial growers today can make flowering phalaenopsis available year round.

Sufficient light is important for healthy growth and flower production. Provide bright light, no direct sun. In the home, an east, west or shaded south window. In a greenhouse, about 30% full sun. Under lights, 4 – 40 watt fluorescent tubes and 2 – 40 watt incandescent bulbs directly over plants. Foliage should be naturally semi-erect, and of a medium olive-green color. Dark green, limp foliage indicates too little light.

Mature plants need 15 to 20° F difference between night and day. Provide nights of 60-75°F; days of 75-85°F. Seedlings need temperatures 5 – 10 degrees higher than mature plants.

Mature plants should seldom dry out between waterings. Seedlings need more constant attention to moisture.

Phalaenopsis need 60 to 70% humidity. In the home, place on trays of moistened pebbles. In greenhouse, use a humidifier if conditions are too dry.

Must be provided on a regular basis because most potting media have little. The exact fertilizer you use will depend on the mix in which your plant is growing. A good general rule is to use a balanced (10-10-10, 12-12-12 or similar ratio) fertilize “weakly” weekly. That is, fertilize every week at one quarter to one half of the recommended dilution.

Should be done every one to two years before the mix breaks down too far. Best done in late spring after main flowering season, using a well-drained but water-retentive mix. Select pot size for root mass, not to size.

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