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Caring for Phalaenopsis Orchids

When I started taking care of orchids, I had to depend on care instructions that weren't really applicable to local (tropical) growing conditions. Most of the text on orchid care were written with temperate climes in mind - not too helpful if you only have sun and rain this side of the world.

Forums on the 'Net are actually more helpful but you have to sift through lots of junk to get to the stuff you really need. Unless you have the good fortune of meeting a few growers who are more than willing to part with their years of experience (as I have - thank you very much - it's my turn to pay it forward), most people are just really left to their own devices.

Taking care of orchids is not difficult, it's just different.

Orchids are comprised of several thousands of species, each with its particular preference of care and culture. It's not surprising one way of watering an orchid can spell, well, ill omen for another. We begin our series by providing you with a grower's cheat sheet for care and culture of phalaenopsis orchids. In suceeding posts, we'll talk more of phalaenopsis plants in further detail.


Light: Place these orchids beside a bright window; no direct sun as the high temparatures will burn the leaves. Early morning or late afternoon sun should be okay.

Temperature: Higher temperatures coupled with higher humidity force faster, vegetative growth. Make sure there is sufficient air movement to discourage fungus growth. A chain of lower temperature nights initiate flower spikes.

Water: Given that Phalaenopsis do not have water storage organs, these orchids should never completely dry out. Fast draining media helps ensure adequate air circulation . During the summer months of March to May and dry months of late November to February, you may have to water Phalaenopsis orchids every day. During the wet months of June to October, skip watering the plants when it rains. Make sure only the roots are wet and no water is left on the crown or it would lead to rot and kill the orchid. If the leaves have been wet accidentally, make sure they're dry by nightfall. If the plant has blooms, PLEASE do not spray water on the flowers!!! It will drastically cut down flower longevity from nearly a month to just a couple of days to a week (uncool).

Fertilize: Regularly feed the plant especially in warm weather where the plant is likely to grow faster. Consider applying fertilizer (general purpose 20-20-20 is just fine) at half strength once a week. Remember the adage: fertilize weakly, weekly.

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