Moth orchids (phalaenopsis) have a bit of a reputation for being difficult houseplants, fickle in their requirements and only condescending to show their beautiful, ethereal flowers if conditions are absolutely perfect.
But growing and caring for these lovely plants is actually quite straightforward, and if you follow our easy guide, you will have your own gorgeous display in no time!
In their natural habitat, Moth Orchids grow under the canopy of rainforests from South East Asia to Northern Australia. Their thick, flattened roots adhere to the branches, much like ivy does to a wall, and they produce long, aerial roots which take up moisture and nutrients from the surrounding atmosphere.
For centuries they were largely confined to the hothouses of the very wealthy, but thanks to hybridization by growers for many years, we now benefit from a huge choice of plants, offering a kaleidoscope of colours from vibrant pinks and mauves, through to whites, pale greens and canary yellow.
Caring for your Moth Orchid
Even though Moth Orchids don’t need soil to grow in, they are usually sold in clear pots in special orchid compost, with the flower stem supported with a small cane to give them stability. Choose a plant that has only just started to open its flowers, as this will give you the longest flowering time possible.
Once you get your orchid home, stand your pot on a tray of pebbles and position it in a light spot in the centre of a warm room or a window that doesn’t get direct sunlight, and away from any draughts.
With regard to watering, you should keep the compost moist with tepid water, using fresh rainwater where possible and avoiding softened water. You can also feed your orchid using special orchid fertilizer or other fertilizers at quarter strength.
In early spring temperatures should not fall below 18°C and plants will be happy up to maximum temperatures of 24-27°C (70-80°F). In winter temperatures should be between 15°C (59°F) at night and 18-21°C (64-70°F) and if temperatures do drop lower then keep your plant drier.
When temperatures are high, your orchid will really benefit from a humid atmosphere, and rather than just misting the leaves and roots with water, you should consider using a product such as Orchid Myst which is designed specifically for the job. Not only does this provide the humid atmosphere that orchids love, it also delivers nutrients, growth enhancers and plant tonics, as well as pest repellent and leaf conditioner.
Do make sure that you don’t leave any moisture sitting in the crown of the plant though, as this will cause rot.
So that you get as many beautiful flowers as possible, you should ensure that your orchid is kept pot bound otherwise it will not flower – and don’t worry if a few roots begin to grow outside the pot, it will be perfectly happy. You only need to re-pot once growth begins to suffer and then it’s a good idea to use a clear pot for maximum light, together with special orchid compost.
And to get a second flush of flowers, wait until the last flower on the stem has finished before cutting back to the next node.
Now that you know how simple these plants are, you can plan your own tropical paradise!