The genus Phalaenopsis or moth orchid is one of the best known and most cultivated orchids. The first Phalaenopsis was described in 1750: Phalaenopsis amboinensis.
It knows a very great success as a houseplant because of the ease with which it can be kept and the beautiful longlasting bloom. There are so many hybrids that they are often marketed without a name.
Most species are epiphytes and some species are lithophytes.
Phalaenopsis is monopodial: it grows from a single node. The stem is formed by the petioles of the alternate leaves. The leaves are oval with a rounded end and quite thick.
The plant produces an abundance of whitish, fleshy roots.
The height ranges from a few centimeters to nearly 1 m.
All species produce multiple flowers on a flower stem with minimum 3-4 flowers, often more. The flowers last for several weeks, the flowering lasts 3 months or more.
Mainly in tropical Asia from southern China and eastern Tibet to Papua New Guinea, with the highest density in Indonesia and the Philippines.
They live mainly in the rainforest of the lowlands and low mountains, although most northern species (Phalaenopsis wilsonii example) suffer winter temperatures below zero.
The name comes from the Greek words phalaina (moth) and opsis (similar).
Ideal day temperature: 20-25 °C
Minimum night temperature: 16 °C
Maximum daytime temperature: 32 °C
Minimum: 6 °C but will lose the bloom and a longer exposure to a low temperature will cause the plant to die
Lots of light but no direct sunlight, e.g. a window facing east.Too much sunlight causes the leaves to yellow and too little light turns the leaves dark green and the bloom to fall off.
Prefers rainwater at room temperature: tap water contains too much calcium.
Do not pour water in the heart of the plant but on the substrate, when the substrate is dry: when overwatering, rot may set in.
In its habitat Phalaenopsis enjoys 100% humidity which that can be a problem indoors. Therefore it is best to put the plant in the kitchen, bathroom or conservatory where the humidity is usually higher.
Phalaenopsis is an epiphyte: that means that it does not grow in the ground but on trees and shrubs and the roots are not covered with earth.
Therefore you should not use ordinary potting soil but a special orchid substrate composed of bark, peat moss and perlite or pumice.
This adapted substrate provides the necessary support to the plant (so it will not fall over), provides a good aeration of the roots and retains water.
Use only special orchid liquid fertilizer 20-20-20. Fertilize regularly during the growing season because the substrate contains very few nutrients. Reduce fertilization dramatically in winter.
When the substrate is digested, in principle every two years.
Flowering can be stimulated by placing the plant in a cooler place (12 °C).
Sowing is usually done only by professional growers because it is quite difficult and it takes 3-4 years before the plant begins to bloom. It is also only done to find new cultivars.
To clone one takes a piece of meristem (tip of the plant where growth takes place) and cultivates it in vitro until a mature plant is formed. It can bloom after 2-3 years. This is a good way to get identical offspring and is done on an industrial scale. Again, this is just too difficult and lengthy for the average plant lover.
Keiki’s are small plants that may sprout from a node of the flower stalk. When the plant is sufficiently developed and has enough roots, it can be separated from the mother plant and potted. This is not a commercial breeding technique but is very easy for the plant lover.