Orchids are a hugely popular houseplant, and for very good reasons. Their flowers are stunning and they grow really well in indoor climates. Many people assume that such a delicate and beautiful plant must be hard to care for.

In fact, the opposite is true. Many orchids are really easy to care for. This article is going to discuss my favorite type, and one of the most popular varieties, the Phalaenopsis or Moth Orchid

Phalaenopsis orchids are available everywhere you look. Most garden centers and many larger grocery stores will have a selection of these fantastic plants available to buy for really affordable prices. They are a wonderful alternative to a bunch of flowers to brighten up your home, as the flowers last for months at a time, and the plants can be kept for years, re-flowering many many times.


Basic Phalaenopsis Orchid Care Instructions

First, here is a summary of phalaenopsis orchid care for beginners. Follow these basic tips, and you are well on the way to providing good phalaenopsis orchid care.

  • Place your orchid in a bright room, but not in direct sunlight
  • Water the orchid infrequently, being guided by the plant, rather than watering on a schedule. Many more orchids die from over-watering than under-watering.
  • Only water the roots. Keep the flowers and leaves dry.
  • Use a well draining pot and growing media and never let your orchid sit in water for more than a few minutes.
  • Keep the orchid after it has flowered. They are easy to care for in the vegetative stage and will flower many times if treated well.
  • Use a water soluble fertilizer. Fertilize every 1-2 weeks, but not during the flowering phase. A good strategy is to use a weak fertilizer solution on a weekly basis, rather than using a stronger solution less often.

How To Pick A Good Phalaenopsis Orchid

There are a number of easy tips to follow to pick a healthy orchid that will flower for months after you buy it and that you can enjoy and look after for a long time after this if you wish.

Healthy Phalaenopsis Orchids Should Have Bright Green Leaves

The leaves will tell you a lot about the overall health of the orchid. When looking for a good orchid to pick from the store, the leaves should be bright, and a vibrant deep green color.

Sometimes you’ll see the bottom few leaves can be yellow or withered, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. It is normal for an orchid to prioritize the health of the top and younger leaves, so if there is some die back of the lower leaves, this is nothing to worry about.

If on the other hand, the leaves have multiple yellow or brown patches, this could be a sign of under or over watering, a sign of disease or nutrient deficiency. If this is the case, it is probably best to opt for another plant. See my article on yellow leaves in orchids for more information.

Check The Phalaenopsis Orchid For Healthy Roots

Healthy roots are very important for most plants, and orchids are no exception. In fact, the roots of an orchid will tell you more about its health than most plants.

Orchids should ideally be planted in clear pots, to ensure that th roots have access to good amounts of light. Therefore, you should be able to get a good look at the roots of the plant you are going to buy.

Healthy phalaenopsis orchid roots should be thick and firm to touch. They can be a range of colors, including white, silver, green, or pale yellow. Black or brown roots that feel soft and mushy are usually a sign of over watering or disease. Gray, flaky roots normally indicate a dehydrated plant.

You should definitely lift the orchid plant and inspect the roots through the sides of the plant pot to make sure they look vibrant and healthy.

A Strong Stem Is Essential For A Phalaenopsis Orchid

Phalaenopsis orchids usually have one or two flower stems at a time. They can often have numerous flowers on them, which requires the stem to be strong to support them.

You should look for a plant with a strong and sturdy stem, which looks like it is easily supporting the weight of the flowers and buds. The last thing you want is for your flower stem to break, as this will be the end of your flowers, until the plant reblooms many months later.

Assess The Flowers And Buds Of The Orchid

If you are buying a phalaenosis orchid to enjoy immediately, it is usually best to buy one that is not yet in full bloom. It is a good idea to pick one with a long flower stem, but with only a few flowers out, and lots of buds waiting to develop.

As phalaenopsis orchids usually flower for several months, if you pick one at the start of its flowering phase, you can enjoy a long period of beautiful flowers from the day you purchase your orchid.

Light Requirements For Phalaenopsis Orchid Care

Phalaenopsis orchids generally like a bright location to grow, but don’t do well in direct sunlight. In nature, they grow attached to the trunks of large trees, below the leaf canopy, so they are familiar with bright, but indirect light, that passes through the canopy.

If you wish to place your orchid on a windowsill, it is best to put it in a west or east facing window. As I live in a higher latitude, I will move my orchids to a south facing window in the winter, to ensure that they receive enough sunlight.

You can also achieve good phalaenopsis orchid care in indoor spaces away from windows, as long as there is a good source of light, either natural or artificial, to ensure that the plant gets sufficient light. I’ve got a good article here about growing plants without sunlight.

If you notice the leaves of your orchid becoming deeper green in color, this may be a sign of it getting insufficient light. Alternatively, yellowing leaves or brown or yellow spots on the leaves may indicate excessive light or burning of the leaves due to excessive direct sunlight.

Temperature Range For Phalaenopsis Orchid Care

Phalaenopsis Orchids are ideally suited to indoor temperatures. They will generally thrive at temperatures of between 63 and 84 °F (17 to 29 °C), although it is generally better to provide a temperature in the middle of this range. Orchids generally like it to be slightly cooler at night than during the day and they particularly dislike drafts and rapid changes in the temperature.

Humidity Needs Of Phalaenopsis Orchids

Phalaenopsis orchids live in very humid conditions in nature. Therefore, they will thrive best in a more humid indoor environment. This can make it more difficult to grow orchids in centrally heated homes in the winter, where the air will be much drier than is ideal. Most phalaenopsis orchids like humidity levels of between 50 and 100%. therefore, it is generally a good idea to aim for a humidity level of 50 to 60%, as this will be a good compromise between what is good for your orchids and what is good for you.

Watering Tips For Phalaenopsis Orchids

There are quite a number of aspects of the watering of phalaenopsis orchids that are particularly important.

Don’t Water The Leaves And Flowers Of Your Orchids

You should only water the roots of your orchid, as getting the leaves and flowers of your orchids wet can lead to all kinds of problems. If you pour water onto your orchid from above, you are likely to leave standing water in the crown where the new leaves are growing.

If you do this repeatedly, this standing water will encourage crown rot to form which can very quickly damage your plant or even result in it dying.

If you do inadvertently get water in the crown of the plant or on the leaves, you should absorb this water with a paper towel to reduce the likelihood of crown rot.

Don’t Mist Your Phalaenopsis Orchids

Many people advise spraying your orchids with a mist of water to increase the humidity levels in the air in the direct vicinity of the orchid. This is generally not a good idea, as it is an inefficient way of increasing local humidity levels, and water will gather on the leaves and flowers.

This can lead to mold spots developing on the leaves, or more commonly on the petals of the flowers.

Should You Use Ice To Water Your Phalaenopsis Orchids?

There is a lot of conflicting advice about whether using ice to water your orchids is it good thing to do or not. It is often highlighted as a good idea, as it encourages people not over water their orchids due to the small amount of water in ice cubes. Check out this great article over at My Orchid Diary about the debate over using ice to water your orchids.

For people growing orchids in colder conditions, towards the bottom of the ideal temperature range, I don’t think it’s a great idea, as using ice to water your orchids may increase cold temperature stress for your plants.

In warmer climates, watering your orchids with ice is not going to have a significantly adverse impact. The ice will melt quickly and will not significantly impact the temperature of the roots or plant. However, in warmer climates, it is likely that your orchids will need more water, and using ice cubes may not provide sufficient hydration for your plants.

For the majority of people, I would advise using tepid water to water your orchids.

Signs Your Orchid Needs Watered

You will need to observe your individual orchid for signs that it needs watered. Here are two good methods to check whether your orchid needs watered.

  1. Check the weight. Either manually, or using scales, you can weigh the orchid and pot when it is dry. You will quickly know just by lifting the pot whether the plant needs watered.
  2. Testing the potting mix with your finger or a skewer. You can poke a finger into the soil and you will know whether the top inch or so is dry, indicating that watering is likely necessary. Alternatively, you can use a wooden skewer and carefully poke this through the potting medium to the base of the pot. If the skewer is dry when you remove it, the orchid needs watered. If it is damp, it does not.

It is more common to over water than underwater your orchid, so take care to ensure that your orchid definitely needs watered before proceeding. It is generally better to err on the side of caution and water slightly less often until you get a good feel for your orchid.

How To Water Phalaenopsis Orchids

I think the best option to water your orchids, is to submerge the pot in a few inches of water for about 5 minutes, to allow the roots time to soak up all the water they need. I do this every one to two weeks, depending on when I feel watering is required.

Orchid pots normally have multiple ventilation and drainage holes. Most people place these into more decorative pots without drainage holes. One technique to water your orchids is to water the roots, allowing the outer pot to partially fill with water. After 5 minutes, you can empty the outer pot, ensuring the inner pot is well drained, and place your orchid back in its normal location.

Another option is to place the orchid in a sink, and either pour water over the roots, or allow the pot to sit in a partly filled sink of water for 5 minutes.

I think that a thorough soaking with water on an infrequent basis seems to work better for me than watering my orchids a little bit every few days. I guess this is as you are much less likely to overwater your orchids with this technique.

Don’t Leave The Roots Of Your Phalaenopsis Orchid Standing In Water

After you have watered your orchid, it is really important to make sure that the plant is well drained before placing it back on display, and to ensure that the roots are not left standing in water for long. The roots won’t tolerate this and can result in root rot if you do.

Fertilizing A Phalaenopsis Orchid

A healthy orchid will benefit greatly from added fertilizer, but adding fertilizer won’t fix most problems with an unhealthy orchid.

You should only use a fertilizer that has been formulated specifically for orchids. This is due to orchids being quite different from many other plants. I would recommend using a reduced strength of fertilizer, but using it on a more frequent basis, rather than using full strength less often.

This is mainly due to the nature of the growth medium. Orchids are often grown in bark or a combination of bark, sphagnum moss, perlite etc. These will not hold moisture and nutrients as well as soil, so regular application, of immediately bioavailable nutrients will be most beneficial for your orchids.

Reduced strength formulations can be purchased directly, or you can dilute stronger fertilizers more than the recommended amount.

Orchid specific fertilizer will also contain a range of micronutrients which orchids would not otherwise have access to, due to growing in fairly inert and fast draining media.

Fertilizing Schedule For Phalaenopsis Orchids

Orchids generally don’t need much, if any fertilizer during their blooming phase. It is during the vegetative phase of orchid growth that fertilizer is really needed, to give the plant the energy to start growing a new stem, buds and flowers.

During the flowering phase, I don’t fertilize my orchids at all. I just water them as needed. During the vegetative phase, I normally fertilize my orchids once every two weeks with a weak solution of soluble orchid fertilizer, or once every 3-4 weeks in colder months.

I always water my orchids at least once in between applications of fertilizer, to ensure there is no build up of fertilizer in the growing medium.

I like to use a formulation which has immediately bioavailable nitrogen, rather than a urea based formulation which will release nutrients slower. I typically use a fertilizer higher in nitrogen during the vegetative phase of growth, switching to a fertilizer higher in potassium and lower in nitrogen, to promote healthy and longer lasting flowering.

What Should I Do With Phalaenopsis Orchid Air Roots?

Many orchids will start to grow aerial roots, which project upwards and out the sides of the pot you are growing your orchid in. This is a perfectly normal feature of epiphytic plants, which are used to growing on the surface of other plants. The roots usually have to be a bit more creative in looking for nutrients and water, so aerial roots are a consequence of this.

The air roots of an orchid are an important part of the plant and help to ensure that the plant gets the nutrition it needs. The best advice is to leave them alone. Let them spill out of the pot and do their own thing. They are often quite useful for determining whether your plant needs watered.

Hydrated air roots are green and vibrant. Dehydrated air roots are light green, gray or white and look dry and feel slightly crispy. Watering the plant will lead to an immediate color change in the air roots.

What Should I Do With The Stem After The Orchid Has Finished Flowering?

It’s really tempting to cut the stem back once the orchid has finished flowering, but this isn’t a great move for the long term health of the plant. The reason is that the stem is a store of essential nutrients for the plant, like a battery, that the phalaenopsis orchid will use to sustain itself over the next few months, while it builds the energy to flower again.

Many people feel that the best option is to cut the stem part way up, above the 3rd or 4th node. This leaves a long section of stem, and seems to encourage new growth from one of the upper nodes on the stem.

If you don’t like the look of the bare stem, you can always place the orchid in a less visible location of your house. I do this with most of my orchids. I have a recovery room, that all my non-flowering orchids hang out, and then I move them to areas on display once they start flowering.

Having said this, orchids usually don’t enjoy sudden changes in their climates, so it you don’t mind too much, you are best finding a location that your orchid loves and keeping it there, rather than moving it all round your house.

How Do You Get A Phalaenopsis Orchid To Rebloom?

Whatever you do, don’t mistake an orchid that has finished blooming for a dead orchid. Orchids live for many years, and will bloom again and again if treated the right way. It’s hugely rewarding to care for your orchid for months and then one day you will notice the early stages of a new stem or new buds developing, and you can watch the progress day by day, until you have another spectacular blooming orchid.

After a phalaenopsis orchid has bloomed, it will enter a period of dormancy. It is at this point that a little more effort is required to care for your orchid. During the flowering phase, all you have to do is water it every so often and enjoy the splendour of a spectacular plant.

Once the flowers are gone, you can do a few things to ensure that the plant will flower again in the future.

Put Your Orchid In A Bright Window

Good light conditions are essential to give an orchid sufficient energy to stimulate reblooming. Put your orchid in a bright window, ideally south or east facing, with plenty of indirect sunlight.

Temperature Variation Between Day And Night

To stimulate re-flowering, your phalaenopsis orchid should ideally experience a variation in the temperature between day and night. A daytime temperature of between 70-85 °F (21-29 °C) and a nighttime low of 60-70 °F (16-21 °C) is ideal.

Phalaenopsis Orchid Stem Trimming

It is likely that there will be some die back of the stem that has most recently held flowers. As mentioned previously, you shouldn’t cut this right back, but you should trim any dead parts. You will be able to count a number of notches on the stem called nodes. These are foci where new growth may take place.

I normally cut the stem above the 3rd or 4th node, depending on the height of the stem. The site of the cut often becomes the point at which a new stem or stems will grow.

Increase Humidity Levels For Your Phalaenopsis Orchid

Phalaenopsis orchids in the vegetative phase will benefit from a more humid environment than during the flowering phase. For this reason, I often place my orchids on a wide drip tray, with a small amount of water in it. As long as the roots don’t sit in the water, this will cause no issues.

The shallow pool of water will slowly evaporate, increasing the humidity of the local environment, producing a climate which is more favorable for the orchid to thrive and re-flower in.

Fertilizing Your Moth Orchid In The Vegetative Phase

As previously mentioned, the vegetative phase after flowering is the time when fertilizing is the most important. I like to ensure that I fertilize my orchids approximately every 2 weeks with a reduced strength fertilizer solution throughout this growth phase.

If you do these few simple things and have the patience to wait a few months, it won’t be long before your orchid is blooming again and you are enjoying some beautiful flowers. Check out this excellent article from Caradise for an great guide to encouraging orchids to rebloom.

How Long Does It Take For A Phalaenopsis Orchid To Rebloom?

The time between flowering phases is usually about 6-9 months. However, there is considerable variation in this timescale. A lot of it depends on how healthy the orchid is and whether the growing conditions are optimal.

How Long Do Phalaenopsis Orchids Flower For?

Phalaenopsis orchids really are amazing. Not only are they one of the most beautiful flowers to have in your home and widely available for very little cost, they also flower for ages. From initial budding, they quite commonly flower for 3-4 months, which I think is incredible.

As long as there are still buds present on the main stem, you can be reasonably well assured that the orchid will continue to flower for many weeks to come. Once all the flowers are open and there are no more buds developing, you will start to see the flowers wilt in turn, starting from those lowest down the stem.

The lowest flowers on the stem will wilt and fall off the stem within a few days, but the rest of the flowers will remain healthy. So even when the end of the flowering is in sight, you can still enjoy healthy flowers for a few weeks.

How Long Do Phalaenopsis Orchids Live?

I’m sure if you ask most people this question, they would say a few months. Most people I have spoken to just throw their orchids out once they are finished flowering. And this is fine for most people. Orchids are usually inexpensive and many people just want to enjoy the blooms, without waiting for the plant to rebloom in a number of months time.

However, orchids really are long lived plants. There are reports of domestic orchids that have lived for more than a century, but certainly several decades is more than possible for an attentive grower.

Repotting A Phalaenopsis Orchid

There are two main reasons why a phalaenopsis orchid may need repotted. The first is when the growing media starts to break down and decompose. The second is when the roots outgrow the pot the orchid is growing in. I’ve written an article about repotting phalaenopsis orchids here.

Choosing Your Orchid Pot

Orchids generally prefer to be root constrained, so don’t change to a larger pot than necessary. There are a few things to look for when choosing a pot to put an orchid into.

It is a good idea to pick a transparent pot for phalaenopsis orchids. The roots of orchids contribute to photosynthesis and energy generation, so giving the roots access to light enables them to contribute to the overall health and strength of the plant.

Ensure Lots Of Air And Drainage Holes

As the roots gain a lot of moisture and nutrients directly from the air, having plenty of ventilation and drainage holes will enable good air circulation to the roots of your orchid.

Many people pick a transparent plastic pot with good ventilation for their orchids, but then place the plastic pot into a more aesthetically pleasing pot for display purposes. I think this is a good compromise, although it is generally a good idea to give the roots better access to light at some time.

I normally put my orchids on display in my house in decorative ceramic pots, but once they finish flowering, I put them in another room, just in the plastic pot, on a drip tray. This allows the roots plenty of access to light and air at the more crucial vegetative stage.

Choice Of Potting Media For Phalaenopsis Orchids

It is generally unwise to pot an orchid into regular potting compost or soil. The likelihood is the roots will have insufficient access to air and light and will get excessive water, leading to an unhealthy plant.

The most common growing media to use is a tree bark based mix, although any fast draining medium could be a viable alternative. I have seen orchids being grown successfully in perlite, expanded clay, peat, bark, sphagnum moss and various mixed media. As long as you adapt to the characteristics of your chosen growing media, you can have good success.

I normally use bark chip based media for most of my orchids as it is what I have had most success with and have the greatest familiarity.

Pruning Roots Prior To Repotting

It is good practice to assess the roots when you are repotting. Any roots that appear damaged or unhealthy can be removed either manually, or with a sharp and clean pair of garden shears.

Don’t be too worried about removing unhealthy roots. The plant will thrive much better with a smaller volume of healthy roots, than a larger volume of roots with a diseased or unhealthy section.


Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this information about getting started with caring for phalaenopsis orchids. If you have any questions, or if you’re having any problems looking after your phalaenopsis orchids, let me know in the comments section below or use the contact form to get in touch.

I’ve got loads more awesome information about phalaenopsis orchids on this website. If you want to learn more, why not check out some of these articles.

  • How To Make Phalaenopsis Orchids Rebloom
  • 15 Amazing Phalaenopsis Orchid Facts
  • How To Repot Phalaenopsis Orchids
  • How To Water Phalaenopsis Orchids
  • How Long Do Orchids Bloom?
  • Why Are The Leaves On My Orchid Turning Yellow?
  • Why Are The Leaves On My Orchid Wrinkled?
  • How To Stake An Orchid (With Pictures)
  • Should You Mist Orchids? Do This Instead!
  • Can Orchid Air Roots Be Trimmed?
  • Are Orchids Good Gifts?
  • Do You Trim Orchid Stems?
  • Why Do Orchids Have Green Roots?
  • How To Fertilize Phalaenopsis Orchids
  • How Much Light Do Phalaenopsis Orchids Need?

Caring for phalaenopsis orchids

Phalaenopsis or moth orchids are long-lived flowering pot plants that add style and grace to any indoor setting. They are available year round with flowers that last for months. The flowers are usually purple, white or a combination of both. The graceful arching flower stems grow from a small clump of wide strappy leaves.

These potted flowers are excellent gifts (if you can bear to part with them). Maybe buy two so you have one to keep! This is a gift that keeps giving. Not only do the plants flower for a long period, they keep on growing and flowering.

Don’t throw this plant away when its flowers fade. With a bit of care and luck, it can be brought back into bloom. The trick is to cut the flowered stem just below where the last flower has been. Nodes further down the spike can produce more flowers in the months ahead. If the stem doesn’t rebloom but begins to dry out, cut it off at the base. Watch for a new stem in nine to 12 months.

Lower temperatures in autumn help to stimulate the growth of flowering stems. These orchids can also be grown in a glasshouse with light shade.

Temperature and humidity needs

The key to success with phalaenopsis orchids is to give the plants a brightly lit warm spot out of direct sunlight. Although the plants need bright light, keep them away from glass, which can get cold overnight.

Also keep them away from air-conditioners and draughts. Cold conditions slow growth and can damage flowers. Their ideal temperature is 24-29 degrees C but they are happy in humid areas with temperatures up to 35 degrees C. Hot, dry conditions can cause unopened buds to drop.

To give these orchids their required humidity, stand the pot on a tray of pebbles. Fill the tray with water so the plant is in a humid zone. The pebbles keep the pot from sitting in water, which could lead to rotting or fungal problems. Mist the plant on very hot days.

Other care tips

Water regularly. These orchids do best in a free-draining mix made of coarse bark. This is available by the bag at your garden centre (look for orchid mix). Plants can be repotted every one to two years.

All orchids respond to feeding and these are no exception. Use a high-potassium liquid orchid food to encourage flowering. Apply the dilute fertiliser every two weeks or according to instructions on the container. Reduce feeding if conditions are cold.

As these plants live indoors for a long time it is important to keep them dust free. Wipe over the broad leaves with a damp cloth to remove any dust or grime.

Also watch for mealy bug, a white sap-sucking insect that feeds in the base of the plant, under leaves or that may infest the roots. Wipe away any that are seen and apply spray oil such as Eco-Oil or an insecticide registered for mealy bug. Repot and increase humidity and light levels.

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How do you take care of an orchid?

A phalaenopsis orchid is quite easy to look after once you get a few things right. With a little maintenance your orchid will be happy and thriving for several seasons.

Here’s how to care for orchids:

1. Give them a good position

The best place to keep an orchid in your house is in a position with bright, filtered natural light. Direct sunlight is too harsh for the delicate blooms and the roots tend to dry out too quickly.

Jessica Knowlden on Unsplash

2. The right temperature

Think Goldilocks – “not too hot, not too cold” – the right temperature for an orchid sits at about 23 degrees Celsius to provide a temperate climate for your orchid to thrive and flower.

3. Air flow

Orchids needs a nice soft air flow but not too much of a breeze, certainly no direct heating (particularly dry heat from a heater or airconditioner) but fresh warm air to keep the flowers intact.

Simon Whitbread

4. Trim spent flowers

Like any flowering plant, an orchid needs to regroup and recharge once it’s produced a flourish of blooms, so any spent flowers should be removed by a snipping the stem just below where the last flower grew from. Take care to keep the little bump below as this ‘node’ will provide new growth.

5. The right amount of water

How often should you water your orchids? Give them a drink straight from the tap; a light water at room temperature once a week is all your orchid needs. Ideally the mossy substance surrounding the orchid roots should not be allowed to become completely dry. Water straight to the roots, avoiding the leaves and ensure good drainage so you don’t let it sit in water in the pot. A gentle poke to the root bed to ensure it remains damp is a good practice as you walk by.

The occasional mist with a water spray is also a nice touch to extend the life of the flowers.

Chris Warnes

6. Feed and fertilise

All plants need fertiliser to help them grow as they use up all the surrounding nutrients in the soil (in this case, bark and/or moss). Liquid fertiliser to feed your orchid tends to work well with orchids but slow-release is fine too if you have your watering down pat.

7. Repot occasionally

Once a year or every 18 months, give your orchid a little room to move around. Choose a pot that’s a little bigger and a fresh batch of orchid potting mix from your local nursery. Be gentle with the roots as you move the plant across and leave a little room at the top of the pot for watering.

You might also like:

How to make an orchid terrarium

Ten indoor gardens to die for

How to rescue your fiddle leaf fig

Moth orchid

Moth orchid, (genus Phalaenopsis), genus of about 60 species of orchids (family Orchidaceae), native to southeastern Asia and part of Australia. Some species are cultivated for the commercial flower trade and are crossed to produce hybrids with beautiful white, purple, and pink flowers. Many of the horticultural species and hybrids are fairly easy to grow and are popular houseplants.

  • moth orchidMoth orchid (Phalaenopsis amabilis).Arad
  • moth orchid hybridHybrid moth orchid (Phalaenopsis hybrid).Walter Chandoha

Moth orchids have a short stem that bears several broad leathery leaves. Most species are epiphytic, with thick roots, and do not require soil to survive; potted plants are commonly sold loosely rooted with wood chips. The flower spike arises from the base of the plant and has one to several long-lasting flowers. The flowers consist of two lateral petals, a central modified petal known as a labellum (lip), a column that houses the reproductive structures, and three petal-like sepals. The flowers of some species turn green after pollination. Cultivated plants require regular moisture and fertilizer and generally bloom once a year.

moth orchidHybrid moth orchid (genus Phalaenopsis). Native to southeastern Asia and parts of Australia, moth orchids are popular horticultural plants and are commonly grown indoors.© andrey7777777/Fotolia

Phalaenopsis orchids are one of the most popular flowering houseplants in the world. They have had a meteoric rise in popularity over the last 20 years due to their exquisite beauty, falling prices and wider availability.

They’re fairly well suited to indoor climates and are surprisingly easy to care for. This article covers 15 phalaenopsis orchid facts for your enjoyment and education.

1. Phalaenopsis Orchids Are Also Called Moth Orchids

Phalaenopsis orchids are often known as Moth Orchids. Phalaenopsis orchids were actually named after the Phalaena genera of moths, as they were thought to look like moths in flight.

So really the name phalaenopsis means the moth-like orchid. I’m not sure this really does the beauty of this amazing flower justice, but there you go.

2. Phalaenopsis Orchids Don’t Need Soil To Grow

Although most phalaenopsis orchids that you see as houseplants are grown in pots, they don’t actually grow in soil in their natural habitat.

Moth orchids are epiphytic plants, which means they obtain their nutrients and water from the air. They attach to the branches or trunks of trees. They only use the host tree as a home and aren’t parasitic to the tree in any way.

When keeping phalaenopsis orchids at home, you will soon see them growing aerial roots, which grow up out of the pots. If you keep a phalaenopsis orchid for long enough, it will develop multiple tendril-like aerial roots which will spill out of the pot and hang in the air looking for water and nutrients.

Don’t be tempted to cut these off, as they are an important part of the plant and removing them could negatively impact the orchid.

3. Phalaenopsis Orchids Can Get Sunburned

Although phalaenopsis orchids are tropical plants, they grow in the wild under the tree canopy. They are accustomed to indirect, muted sunlight, and don’t do well in direct sunlight.

If they are exposed to prolonged direct sunlight, you can get scorching and burn marks on the leaves and exposed roots. You will also find the leaf tips can blacken, the leaves will fade and become yellow, and the leaves can also split down the middle.

If you notice any of these signs, make sure to move your orchid to somewhere with less intense light.

4. Phalaenopsis Orchids Are Native To Southeast Asia

Phalaenopsis orchids look really exotic and tropical, so it probably comes as no surprise that they are native to tropical regions of south-east asia, such as the Philippines, parts of Australia, Thailand, Taiwan and the himalayas.

There is even an island off the coast of Taiwan which has been renamed Orchid island due to the abundance of phalaenopsis orchids which grow here naturally.

5. Phalaenopsis Orchids Are Ancient

Phalaenopsis orchids were around when dinosaurs walked the earth! According to the fossil record, phalaenopsis orchids could be as old as 100 million years old. Clearly they have incredible staying power.

Whilst the orchids that existed so long ago likely looked quite unlike the orchids that we keep in our homes today, there is a clear lineage from these ancient ancestors to the common and beautiful moth orchids of today.

6. Phalaenopsis Orchids Bloom For Months

Phalaenopsis orchids are the longest blooming of the orchids commonly grown as houseplants. When you buy a phalaenopsis orchid at the store, you can reasonably expect it to flower for at least 2 months, and often for up to 6 months at a time.

Combine this with the exquisitely beautiful blooms of these orchids, and it’s not hard to see why they are the best selling flowering houseplant in many regions of the world.

One top tip to ensure your phalaenopsis orchid blooms for as long as possible, is to buy one which still has plenty of closed buds. The flowers will appear one by one towards the end of the flower spike.

If you can resist the temptation to purchase a plant which is in full bloom, you may prolong the display of flowers from your plant by many weeks.

7. Phalaenopsis Orchids Are Really Easy To Care For

Don’t be fooled into thinking phalaenopsis orchids are difficult to care for just because they look so delicate. Many people are apprehensive about trying to look after moth orchids as they look so delicate and beautiful. It’s easy to make the assumption that they would be difficult to care for.

In fact, the opposite is true. They need watered infrequently, are light feeders, and as long as you keep them out of intense sunlight, it’s hard to go too far wrong.

8. Phalaenopsis Orchids Will Produce New Plants Along Their Stems

If you are lucky, your orchid might start to develop a new baby orchid from right on the the flower spike of the parent plant. These are often called keiki, and over time, they will grow leaves and roots and develop into fully fledged orchid plants.

Once they develop 1-2 inches of root length, they can be separated carefully from the parent plant and potted in their own container. There are various methods for encouraging your orchid to grow a baby, but that’s a topic for another article.

9. The Phalaenopsis Fragrance Is Most Pronounced at Sunrise

Not all phalaenopsis orchids produce a fragrance, but of those that do, it is usually more pronounced at sunrise. White orchids don’t produce any scent, but many of the other colors of orchid produce a delicate, sweet scent which you will definitely find to be most prominent in the morning. How nice to wake up to the smell of flowers in your home.

10. Moth Orchids Used To Be Rare And Expensive

Moth orchids used to be very expensive and difficult to find. Part of the reason was that they are difficult and time consuming to grow from seed. It can take several years for a new plant to go from seed to sufficiently grown to produce blooms.

Commercially produced moth orchids are grown in large batches from tissue taken from adult plants. These are grown for about a year in a lab, before being transplanted into a greenhouse for another two years. It’s only after this that they are big enough to produce flowers.

11. Phalaenopsis Orchids Are The Most Popular Flowering Potted Plant In The World

Sales of phalaenopsis orchids have grown rapidly since the late 90s, when commercial cultivation techniques were perfected and expanded rapidly. Approximately 90-100 million phalaenopsis orchids are produced in Europe every year.

12. Phalaenopsis Orchids Will Bloom Again And Again

Many people enjoy the blooms from their moth orchid for a few months and once the flowers drop, they assume the plant is dead and it gets thrown out.

However, phalaenopsis orchids can re-bloom time and time again, once or twice per year, for months at a time. It isn’t difficult to make an orchid bloom again, so you should definitely hold onto your orchids for the long term.

Phalaenopsis orchids can be encouraged to bloom by exposing them to lower nighttime temperatures for a few months. This tells them it’s time to produce a new flower spike, and before long, you’re well on the way to another wonderful display of spectacular blooms.

13. The Phalaenopsis Orchid Is A State Symbol

The Phalaenopsis amabilis or Moon Orchid is one of the state symbols of Indonesia, chosen for its beauty, it is a symbol of international pride. Quite a number of other countries around the world also have orchids as their official flowers.

14. Phalaenopsis Orchids Will Often Bloom Twice From The Same Flower Spike

Once your orchid has finished blooming, if you cut the stem above the 3rd or 4th node and wait, the plant will often start to grow again from one of the other nodes, producing a second crop of flowers. In this way, you can encourage your orchid to bloom for many months of the year.

15. Phalaenopsis Orchids Can Live For Over 100 Years

With good care, a phalaenopsis orchid can live for decades. There are even some orchids today that have been alive for over 100 years. So when you buy an orchid as a gift, or to brighten up your home, it could become a family heirloom, passed down the generations!

If you want to learn more about phalaenopsis orchids, why not download my free phalaenopsis orchid care guide, or check out my other articles about orchid care.

Moth Orchid

Moth orchid produces alternate wide, fleshy leaves that are often marbled in silver with no visible stem. Numerous silvery aerial roots appear at their base. The flower stalk is long and arching. It bears up to 30 large, moth-like flowers in white through purple, each of which can last a month or more.

Orchids Image Gallery


Perhaps the easiest orchid for beginners, the moth orchid thrives in ordinary indoor conditions. After blooming, prune the flower stalk back to just below the lowest flower, since it will often bloom again.

Moth Orchid Quick Facts:

Scientific Name: Phalaenopsis sp.

Common Name: Moth Orchid

Light Requirement for Moth Orchid: Bright Light to Filtered Light

Water Requirement for Moth Orchid: Drench, Let Dry

Humidity for Moth Orchid: High

Temperature for Moth Orchid: House

Fertilizer for Moth Orchid: Balanced

Potting Mix for Moth Orchid: Epiphyte

Propagation of Moth Orchid: Plantlets

Decorative Use for Moth Orchid: Table

Care Rating for Moth Orchid: Easy

Want to learn about house plants by type? Try these:

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Larry Hodgson is a full time garden writer working out of Quebec City in the heart of French Canada where he grows well over 3,000 species and varieties. His book credits include Making the Most of Shade, The Garden Lovers Guide to Canada, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, Houseplants for Dummies, and Ortho’s Complete Guide to Houseplants, as well as other titles in English and French. He’s the winner of the Perennial Plant Association’s 2006 Garden Media Award.

6 Easy Ways To Keep Your Orchids Alive

Orchids aren’t plants for forgetful people. If you just want a plant that you can water once a week and leave alone for long periods of time, then stick to succulents.

Orchids are beautiful when they bloom, and keeping one alive for a long time will make you really proud, but be prepared to pamper them a bit more often than other plants. Here are six tips to help you keep your orchids alive.

1. Make Sure It’s Getting The Right Kind Of Light

Orchids need a lot of bright and indirect light, according to Westphoria. If they are placed in direct sunlight, like the kind you would find around noon or early afternoon, then you’ll risk burning their leaves and causing the flowers to wilt, according to Orchids USA.

Westphoria suggests placing your orchids in an east-facing window that gets morning light. You can also use south- or west-facing windows, but you’ll have to move or protect the orchid from the intense mid-day sunlight.

How can you tell if your orchid is getting enough light? Westphoria says that dark leaves indicate that the plant isn’t getting enough sunlight, while leaves with a red hue are getting too much sunlight.

Photo by Infomastern

2. Water Them Right

The way you water an orchid is a pretty crucial part of orchid care. I found this out the hard way when I left an orchid my boyfriend gave me (from his personal collection) in the care of my father while I moved.

Try to water orchids about once a week with lukewarm or room temperature water, according to Orchids USA’s specific watering directions.

When watering the orchid, try to pour it under the plants leaves. If you get the crown wet (the center part of the plant from which everything is growing) then wipe it dry with a paper towel. If the crown stays wet for too long, then it can lead to crown rot, which will kill the plant. Hey, no one said this orchid business was easy.

Next, try to water the plant on sunny days before noon. Orchids USA says watering earlier in the day will give the plant more time to dry in the sun if any part of the crown does get wet.

Make sure the pot has drainage and your plant is never sitting in water. You might need to water the orchid more often in the summer and less often in the winter. If you can’t tell what the plant needs, Westphoria says it’s best to give it another day.

Photo by Linton Snapper

3. Keep Them In A Warmer Room

Orchids thrive in environments that are kept from 65 degrees Fahrenheit to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Orchids USA. Also try to keep them away from strong sources of heat, because the air around things like your radiator or refrigerator will be much drier, which could dry out the leaves of your plant.

Photo by zoetnet

4. Cut Blooms That Have Died

If a bloom on your flower looks like it’s giving out, then Westphoria says you can do one of two things:

  1. You can cut the entire spike down to the leaves, which will produce a new, stronger stem of flowers in about a year.
  2. You can cut below the lowest dead bloom, at the first “node.” That stem will produce more flowers in about 8 to 12 weeks.

Photo by Muffet

5. Feed Your Plants

If you don’t have pets that you’re worried about, then you can give your orchids a teaspoon of 20-20-20 fertilizer.

Just Add Ice Orchids suggests using the fertilizer once every two weeks or at least once a month at half strength. This means you’ll have to mix it with an equal amount of water before pouring it under the leaves of your plant.

Photo by Karen Cropper

6. Don’t Pot Them In Soil

Orchids grow attached to other plants in the wild, so never try to pot them in soil. Pot them in a loose bark, according to Care2. And then repot them whenever the bark chips decay, which is usually between every one to three years, according to Westphoria.

Photo by pedrol

Sure, they’re a lot of work. But their beautiful blooms make them worth it.

Photo by Rene Mensen

Photo by Rene Mensen

Average lifespan of a Phal?

That is about what I thought based on what I’ve been able to find. I’ve seen several people reply to the question with “Indefinitely in Theory” yet the maximum age anyone has said “I’ve had mine for” has been 25 years, not that that means much.

All I know is that this one is somewhere over 20 years old, and it looks tired. the kind of tired old things get. I’ll baby it for now, as There is still a chance it’ll come back, but I was basically trying to judge just how much hope there was of this. Even the last leaf that grew was only a fraction of the size of the older leaves. This poor phal has been through a lot with me, from the periodic neglect to super babying. It has always bounced back quickly in the past.

I don’t think trying to force it to flower will be very good at the moment, I think if it tried, It would likely kill the plant before it bloomed. However, a little more fertilizer and maybe a touch of rooting hormone might help. I typically add a very small amount of fertilizer when I water, but I’m afraid of burning the plants, so it’s usually at less than 1/10th the recommended daily amount. Overall the rest of my phals are very happy, as my post history will show.

Thanks for the reply

Phalaenopsis Orchid Care


Phalaenopsis orchids enjoy a fairly warm climate. The ideal night temperature is 62 to 65 degrees F. and daytime temperature range of 70 to 80 degrees. Since this temperature range is similar to that of many homes, it makes an ideal house plant.

Light and Shade

Phalaenopsis orchids do not require too much light to grow well. 1000-1500 foot-candles is the ideal light intensity required for Phalaenopsis. If grown in a windowsill, an east exposure proves to be the best. One must take care, though, not to burn the plant by allowing too much sunlight to shine directly on the plant. It is best to provide some shade, such as a sheer curtain, allowing perhaps a little more light to hit the plants from the beginning of December through the middle of February.


Water your Phalaenopsis orchids early in the morning. This insures complete water evaporation on the foliage as well as the crown by nightfall. Water with rain, distilled, or reverse-osmosis water as the mix approaches dryness. Never use water that has been softened by a water softener. Generally Phalaenopsis require watering about once every 4 to 7 days. Plants should never stand in water! Plants that stand in water or that are watered in the evening will develop bacterial or fungal rot. Pull out the plant label and see if there is any water residue on it. If not, it is time for watering. The weight of the pot can also help determine whether it needs watering or not. The pot should be fairly heavy after watering.


We highly recommend Green Jungle Orchid Food, especially formulated to work with rain, distilled, reverse osmosis water or water low in alkalinity. If the plant is potted in bark, fertilize with Green Jungle every time you water, all year round, then flush with clear water once a month. If potted in sphagnum moss, use Green Jungle every third watering. This is the fertilizer that we developed and use on our own plants. The results have been excellent.
For tap or well water, use Grow More 20-10-20 fertilizer every other watering in the summer and every third watering in the winter. Fertilize at the rate of one-half teaspoon per gallon.


Phalaenopsis orchids are of a monopodial growth without any pseudobulbs to help store moisture. For this reason, it is important to provide good humidity. 50-70% is considered ideal. However, if the plant is kept wellwatered, it will adapt to a lower humidity.


Commonly referred to as the “moth orchid,” Phalaenopsis are one of the longest blooming orchid genera, producing flowers that last from 2 to 6 months before dropping. Phalaenopsis have also been known to bloom 2 to 3 times per year once they have reached a mature size. After it has flowered the first time, cut the stem just above the node where the first flower bloomed. From the top node a new flower stem should emerge within 2 months. If there is no response or the flower spike turns brown, cut it off near the base of the plant where it emerged.


Because the Phalaenopsis is watered frequently, the potting breaks down about once per year. Spring or fall is considered the best time to repot because the temperature is generally mild, preventing shock. Use a medium grade orchid bark mix for plants in 5″ and larger pots. We have found that New Zealand sphagnum moss works best for smaller Phalaenopsis as it dries out more evenly.

Bud Blast

There are many factors that can cause buds to dry up and drop off the plants without ever opening. Check the following: Is the room too hot? Is the light level too low? Is the plant too dry or too wet (causing root rot – this is the most common cause)? Are you using softened water instead of clean water? Are you using too much fertilizer? Are the plants being subjected to a cool draft? Is the plant near strong fumes such as new carpets, refinishing woodwork, etc.? Bud blasting is a common problem with Phalaenopsis. Fortunately, there is almost always a reason that can be determined.

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