LIGHT | TEMPERATURE | WATER | FERTILIZER | HUMIDITY | POTTING | DECORATIVE POTS | HOW TO GET A SECOND FLOWERING | WANT BIG FLOWERS?
In the home, Phalaenopsis orchids enjoy a spot near or in a bright window. You'll want to avoid direct midday sun, but early morning or late afternoon sun is great. In darker or cloudy environments, a shaded southern window might be best. You can supplement normal light with fluorescent lights placed approximately 1 foot above your orchid. Time your lights to simulate normal day length. If you have a home greenhouse you should consider using a heavy shade cloth (especially during the summer) to limit light levels to 1,000 - 1,500-foot candles.
The best test for light is to hold your hand a foot above the leaf, if you don’t cast a shadow then you have a proper amount of light. Giving your plant a little too much light is ok, your plant can adapt, but giving your plant too little light, will be like starving it. One can live with a little too much food, but one cannot survive if they are deprived of food. Watch the foliage of your plants. If the leaves stay green, are crisp and firm, then the light is probably right. If the foliage is dark green, then the light is too low. If the foliage shows purplish marks or coloration, then the light is probably too high. Sometimes if the light is too high the tips of the leaves will dry up. Be careful not to mistake naturally inherited color traits as a problem, only changes in leaf color and not what it initially looks like should be used as an indicator.
The ideal temperatures for the orchids range between 55° and 85° F. For ideal growing try to maintain 65° at night and between 75° and 80° during the day. Cool night time temperatures in the fall encourage flower spike initiation. However, once the flower spike is developed, wide swings in temperature can cause unopened bud to drop off. Temperatures more than 90° can slow growth. Phalaenopsis also benefit from moderate humidity levels. Ideal levels range between 50 and 75% relative humidity. In a heated home, you will want to set your plants on a shallow tray filled with gravel and water. This should help to keep the humidity near your orchid at levels. Make sure that the plants roots are NOT sitting in water.
Phalaenopsis orchids do not like to be dry to the point of wilting. They should be watered thoroughly and then not again until the media is dry. After dry allow a day or so before watering. How often you water will depend on the type of media your orchid is growing in and its growing environment. Once every week to 10 days is a good starting point. In winter, it will take longer for plants to dry out due to less sun and cooler temperatures. A good rule of thumb is if you can put your index finger in up to the first knuckle and can feel any kind of moisture that the media in the center is still wet and the plant will not need watering. You can also tell by the weight of the plant; a freshly watered plant will weight a lot more with the media retaining water than a plant with dried out media. Remember to not get any water on the flowers as this will promote fungal growth.
Recommended fertilizer is all dependent on how well you know your plant. Some prefer certain fertilizers and you can go many different directions. For our plant, we recommend 20-20-20. A quarter teaspoon in a one-gallon jug is the right dilution and do add this instead of watering once a month. Remember once you become in tune with your plant you will know the best fertilizer for it, in its current environment. NOTE: too much fertilizer can cause root burn and can kill your plant's roots and leave your plant healthy. Check your roots every few months for doing roots. Watch for salt/crystal build up on the media at the top of your pots as a sign of too much fertilizer. Fixing the problem will require repotting/flushing.
This is something that is very important to the phalaenopsis. The phalaenopsis enjoys a nice humidity. As mentioned above the humidity should be around 50-75 percent humidity. If you have many orchids next to each other they actually act as a small greenhouse and increase the humidity around each other. Kind of like huddling in the cold for warmth. If you do not place your orchids near one another you can place a small tray underneath your pot with pebbles in it and place your pot on top of the pebbles ensuring that the roots are not touching the of water. This will increase the overall humidity of the plant and will help keep it happy.
Most orchids break down their growing medium in about 1-2 years depending on the growth conditions. So, it is important that you repot to give them optimal growing conditions. The first step when repotting will be to remove the old mix from the pot and around the roots. Try to be careful at this stage not to break or crush any roots. Hollow or mushy roots should be considered dead and cut off at this time. Roots that are solid and hard are usually alive. After you have removed the old media and trimmed the roots, wash them thoroughly this will make them more flexible as they absorb water and easier to repot. When repotting, make sure that you give your plant plenty of room to grow; an inch on all sides will give him plenty of room to grow. (this does not apply to seedlings only blooming size plants, all seedlings need to be in community pots and are much more sensitive to water conditions, we do not recommend raising seedlings.) Place the plant inside the pot with a little bit of growth media in the bottom and fill in around the plant evenly with the medium, some roots will break or get cracked during this procedure, so it will require time to recover about 2-3 weeks. If using bark, make sure to lightly shake or tap the pot to let the bark settle so the medium settles. Make sure at this point the plant is stable and does not wobble. If it is not stable the plant medium needs to be pressed in until it will hold the plant in. Also, if using sphagnum moss make sure that it is damp and wet before use. Repotting is a big operation for a plant, so it will need time to recover. Do not water for 3-5 days to allow roots to heal.
Also, try to choose the best media for your orchid, sphagnum moss is far superior to bark, it creates less mess when pots are knocked over, retains more moisture longer and b/c of its high zinc content makes it anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Bark mix is cheaper for larger operations but for the home grower is not ideal and unless the media required needs to be a well-draining media. Bark typically only lasts 8 months before it begins to break down, sapping away fertilizer from the plant for decomposition and hosting virus, bacteria, and fungus. Any store-bought orchid potted in bark should be inspected to see if it needs repotting immediately after flowering.
What if your orchid is in spike or bloom? If your plant is in spike, and you see it really needs repotting (i.e. overflowing out of the pot or medium break down) you may do so, the spike tends to handle repotting well. If an orchid is in the bud, where the flower buds are on the spike but have not yet opened, then you can cause the buds to blast (dry up and fall off) so repotting should not be done unless necessary. If the flower is in bloom and you need to report it will usually cause the flowers to fall off faster than normal. So, it is highly recommended you do not do this.
If you wish to place your orchid in a decorative pot while it is spiking, in bud, or flowering, simply remove it from its pot and keeping the medium and roots as they come out of the pot together, drop it into a decorative pot within the same dimensions as your old pot, or if using one of our clear plastic pots just drop it inside of the decorative pot. Remember that if you use another pot that it must allow for proper drainage, and that some pots if in direct contact with the medium (i.e. not having a plastic pot liner inside) will absorb water and cause the plant to stay wet much longer thus requiring more time to dry out. The best pots are ceramic or those with coatings. Try to avoid clay pots as they can harbor pathogens since they are made of organic material. You should never reuse a clay pot especially if the plant in it before was dead, it simply isn't worth the cost of the orchid for a 50-cent pot.
HOW TO GET A SECOND FLOWERING
Has it been 3 months already? It's time to try for a second flowering! There are two different techniques you can try. The first technique is to try and cut the stem of your orchid. To cut the stem of your orchid you should first wait until the last bloom on your pike begins to fade. Once your last bloom is faded you can begin to look for a good place to cut your stem. The ideal place to cut your stem is 1 inch above the third fleshy node from the bottom. What is a fleshy node? Fleshy nodes are the bumps below your lowest bloom along the shaft of your stem. If cut at the right time, and with proper care, your orchids node can be jumpstarted into blooming within a few weeks providing you with another bloom! Giving you 6months of blooms out of the year! Another approach to getting a second flowering is to start over from scratch.
Once your last flower begins to fade one can cut the stem off completely (recommended for younger plants) this is to encourage a new stem to be grown that will be larger and thicker. Without a stronger stem, the flowers will not be able to get larger. After you cut the stem you can expect new flowers in as little as 3 months or as much as a year on average, and most likely you will get flowering in 6 months. To encourage your plant to flower again all you need to do is follow the steps provided in our care section. But in addition to those steps the plant must be exposed to This procedure is most easily done during spring or fall where night temperatures near windows get this low. This treatment needs to be repeated for 1-4 weeks. After this period a stem will begin to form and you’re on your way to a second bloom. For best results, the stem should have been cut immediately after flowering and the plant allowed to grow new leaves and roots, outside in the shade in the warmth and humidity of spring and summer. It should be left there until the fall at which time you should already see a spike from the temperature change.
WANT BIGGER FLOWERS?
So, you want to grow an orchid with a large amount of blooms or very large blooms? Well just like a city that continues to grow, it needs infrastructure. If there is not enough electricity to power all the new homes being built, then there can be no new homes built. The same goes for orchids, if there are not enough leaves on the plant, it will not be able to support more flowers or larger flowers. So, the first thing u need to do is grow and enlarge your leaves. To enlarge your leaves, expose your plant to a slightly more amount of light and try and keep the temperature constant. This will help promote the leaves to grow and not blossoms. Once you have larger leaves or more leaves (4 or more) you can follow the steps above to re-grow your flowers.