Let's Grow Orchids!

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By David Silver on November 19, 2012, 2:30pm Last modified: November 26, 2012, 12:40pm

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If you ever wanted to try growing an orchid, then the Phalaenopsis or moth orchid is among the easiest orchids to grow. This type of orchid is ideal for growing on a windowsill.  These orchids thrive in low light conditions so never put them in full, direct sun. Instead, situate this orchid in a window with filtered light. I find an East or West exposure is best. Phalaenopsis can also be grown under fluorescent lights. Two 40 watt bulbs will work just fine.

Phalaenopsis do well in intermediate to warm environments so they make an excellent houseplant. A drop in the night temperature to 550 will encourage the orchid to bloom. Bloom time is usually from the Fall to early Spring and the flowers can last for months. After the orchid finishes flowering, if you would like to get another bloom from the orchid, then cut the flower stalk just below the node that produced the first flower. The Phaleaenopsis will branch and flower again if all goes well.

When not in bloom, the Phalaenopsis produces attractive leaves. The new leaves appear from the top of the plant rather than the base and it is normal for the orchid to lose its lower leaves after producing new ones. This type of growth is called monopodial growth.

The most common mistake for beginners is overwatering their orchids. Phalaenopsis leaves can droop from both over watering or under watering. If the leaves are drooping and the bark medium is very wet, then you are overwatering. Phalaenopsis orchids should not have extremes of wetness or dryness. One way to gauge watering needs is to feel the weight of the pot after you water. As the plant medium dries out heft the pot in one hand and feel the weight again. When the pot feels lighter, it is getting to the point of needing watering again. After a while, just lifting the pot will give you an idea of when to water. Always water in the morning. Phalaenopsis are prone to a bacterial rot if water stands in the center leaves of the plant for long periods of time. Watering in the morning insures that the water will evaporate by the afternoon or night.  Some Phalaenopsis may come with watering instructions that say to water once a week with ¼ cup of water. This works just fine in most home locations. The key to this is to use that amount of water and no more.  

Fertilize weekly, weakly. That is, fertilize with an orchid fertilizer at ¼ strength once a week. Orchid fertilizers fertilize both through the medium and through the foliage, so it is okay to wet the entire plant as well as the medium.

The most common pest found with Phalaenopsis is scale. Proper watering techniques will keep this pest at bay. However, if scale does show up as evidenced by raised brown spots mostly on the underside of the leaves and a sticky residue, then a insecticidal soap is effective in treating this disease.

For further information on this type of orchid and others, visit the Connecticut Orchid Society at www.ctorchids.org.

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David Silver

Town: Morris, CT  

Reporting for WXedge since February 2012.

Articles: 24

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