- Scientific name: Phalaenopsis orchid
- Common name: Butterfly orchid, garlic orchid, mouth orchid
- Origin: Southeast Asia
- Orchid type : Epiphyte
- Flowering: Spring. Lasts 4 to 8 weeks
- Location: A lot of lighting, without direct sun
- Watering: By observation. They do not support wet roots
- Humidity: High 60% -70%
- Level of difficulty: Low
Have you been given a Phalaenopsis orchid and you do not know how to take care of it? , do not worry, today I will tell you how you can get some beautiful orchids at home and that last for a long time.
Among the types of orchids that we can find for sale, the Phalaenopsis, also called butterfly orchids, are the most common.
It is a well-known and popular species that we will see for sale in all types of establishments, not just gardening.
Let’s start at the beginning, because one of the biggest problems that people have to face a Phalaenopsis orchid for the first time is that they do not understand that they are not facing a normal plant.
Orchids have a reputation for hard-to-grow plants, unsuitable for inexperienced hands. I think the problem is different: they are great misunderstood. Something that is solved with a little information. The Phalaenopsis or butterfly orchids are, among them, the star option. In addition to exuberant, easily tolerate the conditions of the interior of our homes.
Table Of Contents
- 1 What is a Phalaenopsis orchid
- 1.1 Varieties of orchids Phalaenopsis
- 2 How to care for a Phalaenopsis orchid at home
- 2.1 Light and temperature requirements of the Phalaenopsis
- 2.2 When watering a Phalaenopsis orchid. Humidity needs
- 2.3 The substrate What kind of substrate do you need?
- 2.3.1 Transplant, substrate change
- 2.4 When do you have to pay them?
- 2.5 How to prune an orchid Phalaenopsis
- 3 Tips for buying Phalaenopsis orchids
- 4 As a curiosity, origin of the Phalaenopsis
- 5 Care of the orchid Phalaenopsis summary table
What is a Phalaenopsis orchid
The first thing we should know about the Phalaenopsis orchid is that it is an epiphytic plant.
An epiphytic plant lives on another plant, that is, it does not live with its roots in the soil. Most epiphytes are parasitic plants, feeding on the plant on which they live.
In the case of Phalaenopsis orchids, they are not parasites. They live on the tall branches of the trees, seeking to be closer to the light in the shaded areas of the rainforests. Their food is obtained from the humidity, rainwater and humus deposited on the branches.
The structure of the plant has adapted to this environment and way of life. Photosynthesis is carried out both through its strong green roots and through the leaves.
But it is also that food is extracted from its roots, that through the leaves.
The leaves are intense green, with a very marked nerve and fleshy appearance, as they serve as an organ to store moisture.
From the short and thick stem that joins the roots with the leaves, at the time of flowering appears what is called “floral vara”.
This floral rod is weak and we should train it. When we buy them blooming, you can see how the sticks are attached with little sticks and small pincers, to prevent the weight of the flowers from bending.
From this flower rod (also called panicula), some buds grow, from which the flowers appear.
Most of the Phalaenopsis on sale are white flowers, magenta or white with magenta label.
Little by little, hybrids of Phalaenopsis (a mixture of several orchids) appear, with fluted flowers, with dots and with a more colorful flowering, such as yellow or bright magenta.
Butterfly orchids are epiphytic plants : they do not root in the ground, but use a host as support (usually trees), to gain height and reach the appropriate lighting condition. This task is entrusted to large and strong roots , green, capable of photosynthesis and sometimes escape from the pot looking for light.
A short distance from the roots (they have a short stem) the large leaves are born : elongated, with an intense green color and a very marked central nerve. The leaves have the virtue of storing moisture, so if you touch them, you will see that they have a fleshy touch.
In flowering , these orchids generate long rods that you will have to train to avoid bending. From whose buds come the flowers, which as you see in the photos, can be of various colors depending on the variety (white, pink or even mottled). The flowers are said to resemble butterflies, hence their name. More specifically, they resemble tropical moths.
It must be clarified that not all orchids are epiphytes and live in the tropics, many do so in the soil and in other latitudes. As a curiosity … to the ” Barlia robertiana ” or giant orchid, for example, you can find it in Mediterranean climate in the vicinity of Barcelona.
Varieties of orchids Phalaenopsis
Commercially, we only know a few phalaenopsis orchids, however the taxonomic group of the phalenopsis contains some 60 species.
How to take care of a Phalaenopsis orchid at home
The first thing to understand, to be successful in the cultivation of Phalaenopsis orchids is that we are facing a plant different from the usual house, is an epiphyte.
their phenology is different. They do not extract the nutrients in the same way as the rest of the plants, so the substrate that has in the pot, has the mission above all to hold it and keep the moisture in the roots, so that we can grow them at home.
Understanding that we are dealing with a different plant genus, it will be all the easier, because you must learn to manage a plant that does not have the same needs as the rest.
Many of the orchids grown indoors are unfairly famous for delicate plants. And what happens, however, is that they have notable differences with the rest of the species that must be known. The most outstanding is that in their natural environment they do not live on the earth but rather cling to the branches of the trees with their roots. In this way they can access the coveted light in the rainforests.
Light and temperature requirements of the Phalaenopsis
One of the doubts that we usually assault with orchids is Where do I put them? They are supposed to be tropical plants, and we associate this information with a warm and humid environment.
The truth is that the “tropical” climate is very broad and there are large differences in temperature and humidity, depending on a specific area or region.
As butterfly orchids are tropical, they do not like the cold at all, so here they are irremediably indoor plants. They are comfortable between 15ºC and 30ºC . Of course, the closer to 30 ° C more often you should spray their leaves.
They also do not like the direct sun, in their place of origin the tree tops would filter the light. Therefore, at home it is best to place them next to a window but with a translucent curtain. If the leaves receive direct light they will burn .
A trick to force the flowering of your orchid is to slightly increase its illumination and the temperature contrast between day and night. If you are usually two meters from the window, pull it a little closer. And at night change it to a colder place (a sheltered gallery can serve).
In the case of Phalaenopsis, the ideal is to place them near a window, where they receive a lot of light, but not direct sunlight. It must be remembered that, in their natural environment they have a lot of light, but they are sifted by the leaves of the trees.
If they are going to receive direct sunlight, we should use a net that sifts the light, or we canalso put them in the shade of other larger plants that can withstand direct light.
As for the temperature of the room, it should not go below 16ºC, not even at night. They admit temperatures of up to 30ºC, although in these cases the frequency of risks and humidity must be increased.
A trick you should know is that, in order for them to flourish, there must be a difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures of at least 4ºC.
If there is no such difference in temperature, we will have a very green plant, which grows a lot, but does not bloom.
This difference can be achieved by bringing the orchid closer to the window during the day, so that the temperature is higher and removing it during the night, so that it has a lower temperature.
When to water an orchid Phalaenopsis. Humidity needs
You can water your orchid above in the traditional way, provided you are careful not to wet the neck of the plant. But the best way is by immersion : immerse the pot in a bowl of water for a few minutes, until you see that the roots are well hydrated. You will notice that they have recovered their usual green color. Then let all the excess water drain well.For this purpose, the classic dish is a good idea, but remember to remove the water or your orchid will get sick.
If instead you put pebbles on the same plate or record so that the pot is not in contact with the liquid but with the stones, you will get something very beneficial. It will be like simulating certain environmental humidity conditions that are very necessary for the plant.
Regularly spraying leaves and aerial roots is also highly recommended. But avoid wetting the flowers.
The frequency of irrigation …? it will depend on the type of substrate, the temperature and the environmental humidity. As an orientation I will tell you that twice a week in summer and every 10 days in winter, it can be a good practice. The last word, however, is your orchid; do not lose sight of its roots and its leaves.
To properly water your orchid, you must pay attention to the signs of the plant and the substrate.
We will water when we appreciate that the substrate is dry. A trick is to look at the roots of the plant that are seen through the transparent pot.
If the roots are whitish, it is time to water. If the roots are green, it still holds without irrigation.
They are watered like any other plant, pouring the water on top, with the precaution of watering only the substrate.
They can also be watered by immersion. We put the pot in a bucket with water, covering almost the entire plant and wait for the roots to take their usual green tone.
Then we let it drain. It is not convenient to put the typical dish under the plant, because the roots can rot … You
may have seen orchids with a small dish underneath, but with some pebbles or stones in between.
This is a trick to increase the environmental humidity around the plant.
In winter (or in the middle of summer) with the heating at the top, the humidity of the rooms goes down a lot and this hurts the orchids. There are two ways to solve it, or pulverizing the plants from time to time, or with the trick of placing a dish with water, taking care that the roots are not in direct contact with the water. For that the pebbles.
If we pulverize, we must avoid doing it on the flowers, because they appear stains that disfigure them a lot.
As for water, it does not support tap water. In its natural state, the water is soft and hardly contains mineral salts.
Tap water usually contains many mineral salts, mainly because of chlorine. These salts accumulate in the substrate and roots, seriously damaging the plant.
An important consideration is not to use water with too many mineral salts or chlorine to irrigate, it can be harmful. Let the tap water stand so it loses chlorine. You can also use the water from the air conditioning.
It is advisable to use rainwater, but since we do not have it throughout the year, we can replace it with filtered water or bottled water, low in mineral salts.
The substrate What type of substrate do they need?
Occasionally, when hydrating, it is a good idea to provide some liquid food. Think that the substrate used for the Phalaenopsis is quite poor. There are special fertilizers for orchids that you can apply. You can also use others, but lower the dose to avoid burning the roots.
Every 3 weeks from spring to autumn may be enough. First wet the substrate with water and then add the fertilizer and submerge the pot again. In this way the plant will suffer less the concentration of mineral salts.
We should never use normal garden substrate to grow Phalaenopsis orchids.
Look at the orchid pot you have at home. The substrate is very thick, designed to get a lot of air to the roots, keeping moisture so they do not dry out.
In addition, its composition can be super original. The most common is that it is composed mostly of pine bark, but we can find cork, charcoal, polystyrene, even vermiculite, a treated stone whose sole purpose is to retain nutrients and moisture. I am naming you some of the elements that it may contain, that there are many more, but all with common characteristics:
spongy, resistant, light and at the same time, capable of storing water and nutrients.
Although you could do your own substrate at home, making a mixture of these elements, the most reasonable thing is to buy a special substrate for orchids, which is already prepared.
Transplant, substrate change
These epiphytic orchids , in their habitat extract moisture from the air, rain or wet bark of the tree itself. Therefore, they do not like the substrata that are too wet, let alone the ponding. They need a base that fundamentally serves as a support to the roots.
Avoid elements that retain moisture or do not facilitate drainage.
You can make yourself the compound by mixing pine bark, nutshells, cork, charcoal and river stones. But it is much more convenient if you buy the prepared mixture. You can find substrate for orchids in any garden center.
The ideal container for Phalaenopsis should be transparent, since the roots also perform photosynthesis. Also these, which under good hydration conditions look green, when they lack water they turn whitish giving you a valuable track for irrigation.
Phalaenopsis orchids should be changed regularly. Ideally, once a year, or at least every two years.
The reason is that the substrate is deteriorating and caking , preventing the roots receive all the air they need.
Also, over time accumulate salts from irrigation or fertilizers. These come seriously harming the plant, and may eventually cause his death.
Sometimes, because the plant has grown a lot, it is convenient to change it from a pot to a larger one, but this is rarely, because they have no problem being in a relatively small pot.
We always have to use a transparent pot.We must not forget that they carry out a large part of photosynthesis through their roots, which must receive light.
The change of pot or substrate should be done in the resting period, never when they are blooming, mostly because of the risk of losing the flowers.
You always have to use the appropriate substrates that I have told you about. Although you can make them yourself at home, it’s not worth it.
Nutrients And Fertilizers
Orchids must be paid during the growth period . In our climate this is at the end of
winter and the beginning of spring, until autumn.
The logical thing is to use specific fertilizers for orchids, which are liquid and are administered through irrigation or in a foliar way, through the spraying of the plant.
There are two types of fertilizers. Some with higher concentration of nitrogen, designed for the plant to grow and another with a lower concentration of nitrogen, increasing phosphorus and potassium, for greater and better flowering.
The frequency with which we supply the fertilizer is usually every three weeks, but it is best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
How to prune a Phalaenopsis orchid
On the pruning of orchids there is no consensus among gardeners.
While some think it is a good idea to cut the floral stick once the flowers have fallen,others think it is not a good idea.
I would tell you that if the rod dries, it is best to cut it.
However, Phalaenopsis orchids usually develop rooted cuttings or keiki , from the lower buds of the flower sticks.
Another possibility is that your Phalaenopsis produces keikis . So they are called the shoots that generate the orchids in these stems, and are identical to the mother plant.
When keikis have developed enough roots they can be separated and planted in another pot . It is a very simple technique with which you can multiply your orchids . I encourage you to try it.
My recommendation, prune over the first knot of the floral stick , under the flowers.
Two things can happen, that a new floral stick appears and we have a second flowering or that we have a keiki, with what we can take advantage of to multiply our orchid, starting from a rooted cutting.
The flowers of the Phalaenopsis are durable. They can last a couple of months. But there will come a time when you will have to cut the flower stems to encourage the new flowering.
How…? Locate the yolks of the rods and cut diagonally just above the second nodecounting from the base.
If you do not cut the sticks once they have passed their flowers, they will bloom again but they will bloom with smaller flowers.
Tips for buying Phalaenopsis orchids
As I told you at the beginning, you may have been
given a Phalaenopsis orchid, but you can also buy it for yourself, choosing the
variety that is to your liking.
Before buying an orchid, we have to look at several details:
- The roots should be of intense green color and have a good size. Brown or black roots indicate that the plant has serious problems and may not survive.
- The leaves should be smooth, firm and of an intense green color. Do not trust plants with leaf spots, wrinkles or pale green.
- If you can not see the roots, because they have placed them in a pot that hides them, distrust their status.
Care of the Phalaenopsis orchid summary table
|Temperature||They hold maximum of 30ºC The minimums must not be less than 16ºC||With temperatures above 30ºC, you have to increase the humidity To stimulate flowering, it is necessary that there are temperature differences between day and night of at least 4ºC|
|Humidity||The humidity must be between 60% to 70%. At more temperature, higher humidity||During the winter, the humidity level must be 50%|
|illumination||Intense lighting, but away from direct sunlight||To stimulate flowering, it is advisable to increase the level of light. A trick is to place it very close to a window, sifting the light with a curtain or net curtain.|
|Substratum||The substrate must be suitable for orchids, basically pine bark.||It must be changed at least once every two years. The transparent pots help us to control the state of the roots, but you can use decorative pots to cover the plastic pots.|
|fertilizer||Special for orchids in their growing-flowering season. Always apply with moist substrate, to avoid damage to the roots.||During the winter it should be limited or eliminated.|
|Tips||You need to be in well ventilated rooms, but you have to avoid drafts.||It is a relatively simple orchid to care for. If we provide it with the right conditions, it will flourish year after year.|
I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide. I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.