Probably the most common orchid available, and one of the easiest to grow and care for. These orchids have few requirements which makes them ideal for beginners.
Most growth happens in the summer months, but some of mine grow all year round. Every so often their leaves will require cleaning; you can use lemon juice mixed with a little water and a cotton disc to do this.
In the winter, you need to provide a slight drop in temperature for a few weeks to trigger bloom spikes to develop. Providing it had the appropriate care and is not recovering from stress, it should then bloom the following spring. When the flower spike dies back, cut it down to about 1 inch away from the base of the stem.
Most sources will say 21c – 29c is ideal for Phalaenopsis orchids. In my experience, they can withstand temperatures outside of this range, but only for short periods of time. My Phalaenopsis orchids are exposed to temperatures just shy of 21c in the winter, when we are out at work. The temperature can drop to 16c before the central heating kicks in. I’ve never had a problem with my Phalaenopsis at these temperatures. If anything, it makes them more prone to blooming in the spring as they are inadvertently given the drop in temperature they need to trigger this growth.
In the winter you may find that their growth slows down because they should be focusing on blooming, if the conditions are right and your orchid is not stressed. I have one orchid that breaks the growing rule and does what it likes, when it likes!
Your orchid will benefit from good ventilation. The air around your orchid should be refreshed every day or so, which can be achieved by opening a window or placing a fan on a low speed in your growing area. Gentle air movement will help keep moulds and rot to a minimum, and also help with the overall health of the plant.
Phalaenopsis orchids like to dry out after each watering, so the thing to watch out for are grey roots. When you water the orchid, look at the colour the roots turn…it should be a lovely green colour. After the orchid has absorbed all the water and the media has dried out, the roots will turn grey. This is when you should water your orchid again. Avoid overwatering your orchid, and by this I mean how frequently you water them.
Phalaenopsis orchids can be prone to stem rot if you water them from above. Some of my Phalaenopsis do not allow me to water them by flushing them through, so in those cases, I simply leave them to soak in a ceramic pot for about 15 minutes. Then it is simply a case of dumping the water out of the pot, allowing excess water to drain from the orchid pot, and then placing it back in its usual place.
As for fertilising, the product I am using at the moment is Orchid Focus blooming and growing media (two separate bottles). I used a different product in the past, and it actually caused staining and root tip burn on some of my orchids. My Phalaenopsis orchids are given growth or bloom feed every other week, with simple tap water on other weeks. Although Phalaenopsis could be considered heavy feeders, mine do absolutely fine with a slightly weaker solution than it says on the bottle. The bloom displays never fail me.
My personal preference is bark media, and I use this for all of my orchids. You can purchase different size bark chips, depending on the size of your orchid. Some orchid nurseries stock orchid bark and at a reasonable price too. It’s an idea to shop around. It might be worth attending an orchid show near you, because often other growers will bring orchid media to sell and you can see what you are buying.
Bark media appears to suit my orchids well in the conditions I am providing. It stays damp long enough to get them through a week without re-watering but doesn’t keep them completely sodden for ages either. The size bark chips I use also allow air flow around the roots which is another bonus.
Organic media does decompose over time, and you will need to refresh it once every 2 years or so. Inorganic media does not necessarily present this problem, but I have no experience in using it at the present time.
Container / Pots to use
This one really shouldn’t be a problem. Phalaenopsis are surprisingly forgiving orchids and will adapt to most conditions. If it isn’t happy being in a particular container, you can change it. Personally, I use clear plastic pots because it allows me to see how the roots develop, which is what is important to me. Any type of plastic pot will work well, so long as they have been cleaned before use. Drainage holes are important, so make sure you have them! If the water cannot drain then this can have detrimental effects on your orchid.
Phalaenopsis orchids do not require high light levels, so a shaded windowsill would be fine. My grow space is actually in a corner of our dining room that has natural daylight and my orchids appear to be happy with this.
You could place your orchid in the bathroom, which appears to be a popular suggestion. The theory is that the plant would receive good levels of moisture but in my experience, Phalaenopsis do not require high humidity like some other types of orchid do. So long as you mist the orchid regularly, it should be fine (by regularly I mean a couple of times a week).