Easy Orchid for Beginners - Moth Orchid or Phalaenopsis

Updated on September 26, 2018
Dolores Monet profile image

An avid gardener for over 40 years, Dolores has landscaped for private clients and maintained one client's small orchid collection.

Three of my orchids in bloom
Three of my orchids in bloom | Source

Phalaenopsis or Moth Orchid

Orchids are amazing flowering houseplants. Once considered a luxury, these elegant plants have become affordable due to large scale hybridization. Moth orchids or Phalaenopsis in particular have been bred to thrive indoors.

Of all orchids, Phalaenopsis are the easiest orchids for beginners and are readily available and relatively inexpensive. Flowers come in a wide variety of colors and color combinations. Moth orchid blooms are long lived,lasting from 6 weeks to 3 months with proper care. Blooms appear on the end of a long, arching stem.

The foliage is sturdy and attractive. The thick leaves grow low, are long and oval in shape.

When buying a moth orchid, it is best to shop at a nursery or gardening center to ensure the purchase of a quality product. If you want a bargain and pick one up at a grocery store or the gardening center at a large hardware store, buy the orchid when it first comes in; the flowers will last longer and the plant will be in its best condition.


(Moth orchids do not naturally occur in bright blue. Those weird blue Phalaenopsis you see in some large garden centers are chemically treated)

Phalaenopsis - Container

Check the container. Phals should be planted in a loose growth medium, never in soil. Regular potting soil is too dense for the roots. In nature, Moth Orchids are epiphytes which means they grow along the sides of trees in creases filled with plant debris.

Moth Orchids grow best in pine chips, spagnum moss, or small pieces of volcanic rock as a growth medium. A mixture of all 3 works well. Spagnum moss alone may break down too quickly to be effective and can retain moisture for too long causing the roots to rot.

A few roots protrude from the top of the pot. They should be silvery green with green tips. Avoid buying plants that are lightweight as they are too dry. Avoid plants with shriveled looking leaves or leaves with spots, webbing, yellow or brown marks.

Make sure the container has a drainage hole at the bottom. Orchid pots should also have some holes in the sides.

A plastic pot will hold moisture while terra cotta may allow the plant to dry out too quickly. Since Phalaenopsis often come in small size pots and may be top heavy, place the plastic pot into a larger, more attractive container.

Source

Best Light for a Moth Orchid

Placement is very important for the health of a Phalaenopsis. Set the container in a spot that receives filtered or indirect sunlight. An East or North East facing window is best, though the East facing window may provide a bit too much sun in summer.

Do not allow Moth Orchid to receive direct sun and never place the plant in a South facing window. Some sites suggest a West facing window, but the afternoon sun there can be too strong and may damage the plant.

Check the leaves of your plant to see if they are set in the best light. Healthy leaves should be a light grassy green. If they are very dark green, long and floppy they are not getting enough light. If the leaves look yellow, they may be getting too much light.


Best Temperature for Phalaenopsis

One of the reasons that Moth Orchids do so well for so many people is that they thrive in temperatures we enjoy in our homes - between 60 - 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, heat and air conditioning dry out the air in many homes. To increase humidity, place the plant on a tray of moist pebbles. Do not fill the tray with water or allow the bottom of the container to sit in water or the roots will rot.

If your orchid is double potted, fill the bottom of the outer container with pebbles.

A drop in temperature will signal Phalaenopsis to bloom. Some believe that cooler nights do the trick, while other experts claim a general all day temperature drop encourages bloom production.

A plant set in an East or NE facing window should experience this temperature dip in the Fall.

Do not allow Moth Orchids to sit in a drafty area or experience temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some successful Moth Orchid enthusiasts place their plants outdoors in summer. If you choose this route, keep the plants well shaded. Bring the plants indoors before evening temperatures go below 60 degrees F. (The weather report may predict a 60 degree F night, but could easily be wrong)

Moth Orchid

Source

The #1 killer of all houseplants is over watering. Though Phalaenopsis are tropical plants, remember that they are epiphytes, not bog plants.

Moth Orchid and Water

Spagnum moss retains moisture longer than pine bark or volcanic rock. So plants grown in spagnum moss should be watered less than plants grown in a looser medium. This is not the preferred planting medium for moth orchids as it can retain too much moisture and become soggy.

Run tap water into a large container and set out overnight or for 24 hours to off-gas chlorine. Allowing it to sit overnight will bring the water to room temperature. You don't want to water the plants with cold tap water.

Set the container in a sink and water until all the water drains out the hole in the bottom of the pot. Repeat.

Make sure water does not collect in between the leaves. Tip plant to drain.

Dust the leaves when you water the plant.

How often you water depends on several factors:

  • How dry is the air in your home?
  • Are the pots made of plastic (holds moisture) or terra cotta (dries out more quickly)?
  • Does the soil mix dry out quickly?

Most tropical plants enjoy a brief winter rest. In the colder months, water every 10 - 14 days.

In Spring and Summer, water once a week or so.


Moth Orchid in Bloom

I was so thrilled when I got this moth orchid to rebloom!
I was so thrilled when I got this moth orchid to rebloom! | Source

Fertilizer for Phalaenopsis


Fertilize with a liquid orchid food once a month in Spring, Summer, and early Fall.

Or, mix up a batch of 1/4 strength fertilizer to feed weekly.

Before you fertilize, flush the plant with water. Then add the liquid fertilizer.

Moth Orchid - New Spike

See the new spike growing from the right side of the plant.
See the new spike growing from the right side of the plant. | Source

Phalaenopis Flower

The flower stalk grows up from the base of the leaf. The first indication is just a little bump.The spike is a light, bright green in color. (Note the photograph above) Don't confuse air roots with a spike. The roots have a silvery sheen while the spike does not.

Make sure that the flower stalk is staked. The flowers grow at the end of a long stem and may hang over, making the plant top-heavy.

Gently twist a thin bamboo stake between the roots. As the spike grows, clip it to the stake with tiny hair clips (those hinged, plastic ones with the teeth).

Once the flower stem begins to grow, do not turn the pot but keep it oriented in the same direction. The stem will grow toward the light. Constant turning will cause the stalk to twist in an unattractive manner.

When the flowers are in full bloom, you may move the plant however you like for optimal viewing.

Maintain water and feeding.

When the flowers die off, there are 2 course of action you may take:

1) Cut back the stem close to the base. Use a sterile knife or scissors. To prevent fungus problems at the cut, dab a bit of cinnamon on the tip.

or

2) Cut stem back to a node - a little line and small bump below the spot where the lowest flower grew. This encourages new flowering.

In any event, remove the spike when it becomes woody.

However - flowering takes a lot of energy from the plant. Many orchid lovers like to encourage the plant to rest, and are satisfied with a once a year bloom. After all, the flowers last a long time.

Repot a Moth Orchid

  • Never repot when the plant is in bloom!
  • Repot when the planting medium begins to decompose.
  • Turn the plant over. Gently remove orchid.
  • Gently shake off the old medium.
  • Snip off any dried up or dead looking roots.

You do not need to plant Phalaenopsis in a large pot. But a slightly larger container gives the roots room to spread out a little.

Moth Orchid Problems

  • If your Phalaenopsis dies, get another one and try again. You never really fail with any plant unless you've killed 3 of them. We learn from our mistakes!
  • If a plant is infested with insects, throw it out! An infestation will severely weaken the plant and may spread to other houseplants.
  • If you really want to rescue the plant, isolate it from other orchids or houseplants so the problem will not spread.
  • If all the leaves are yellow or browning, or if the foliage has a shriveled appearance, throw it out. The plant will not revive.
  • If the plant produces new leaves, but the lowest leaves turn yellow, remove the lowest, yellowed leaves. In this case, there is no problem, it's just that the bottom leaves have aged.
  • If all or most of the leaves appear shriveled, they will not revive.

Questions & Answers

    © 2013 Dolores Monet

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • Dolores Monet profile imageAUTHOR

        Dolores Monet 

        11 months ago from East Coast, United States

        Hi Pamela - if any plant is in bloom, leave it alone until the flower dies. If it is in a glass vase, is it just the flower on a stem? If it's just a cut flower there is not much you can do but enjoy it. If there are roots, follow the advise in the article. You don't want to keep a rooted plant in moss but in an orchid medium which is like chunky bark. Moss rots quickly and holds too much water. Moth orchid roots want to dry out between watering. Good luck!

      • profile image

        Pamela Demas 

        11 months ago

        My first moth orchid is in a glass vase , no drainage or soil just moss, and is in bloom? What now?

      • Dolores Monet profile imageAUTHOR

        Dolores Monet 

        4 years ago from East Coast, United States

        starstream - good for you that it's still around. Follow my advise above and hope for the best. Pay close attention to the proper light, feeding, and the changes needed in temperature and light to encourage your orchid to flower again. Good luck!

      • starstream profile image

        Dreamer at heart 

        5 years ago from Northern California

        I enjoyed your orchid article. My little orchid is now living in year 2. I am so glad it is still alive... BUT... I cannot see any new bloom shoots. What can I do to get another flower? Thanks so much. I love orchids and wrote an article here about painting orchid pictures.

      • Dolores Monet profile imageAUTHOR

        Dolores Monet 

        5 years ago from East Coast, United States

        Hi drbj - thanks for stopping in. I should have mentioned that Phals are called Moth Orchids because some think that the bloom resembles a moth with open wings. I don't.

      • drbj profile image

        drbj and sherry 

        5 years ago from south Florida

        Thank you, Dolores, for these easy-to-understand instructions about the proper care for the Phalaenopsis orchid. But why is it called the Moth orchid? Is it the favorite corsage for lil boy moths to give to little girl moths at prom time? Just wonderin'.

        Great photos as usual, m'dear.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, dengarden.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://dengarden.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)