Phalaenopsis Orchid Care
For the longest time, I was a serial orchid killer. I could not keep orchids alive no matter what. I inherited three from my grandmother once and… yep, murdered them just like that. When I decided to venture back into orchids, I was certain all of my mini Phalaenopsis orchids would soon bite the dust, but as it turns out? Not so!
A lot of people experience sudden, unexpected orchid ownership because these beauties are popular gifts. I’ve decided to share what I’ve learned about Phalaenopsis orchid care through experimentation so that all of my previous orchids will not have died in vain.
When you get a Phal, you may find it potted up in a spongy or mossy growing medium. Since these orchids are epiphytes, meaning they naturally grow on things like tree branches and not in soil, I like to gently extract their roots from the growing medium. It’s easiest to do after you’ve given it a good soak. This allows you to examine the roots - a silvery-green, plump root is healthy. If you find rotten, stringy roots go ahead and trim them off.
Once you've un-potted and examined the roots, popping your new orchid into orchid bark potting mix in an orchid pot (those pots with holes in the sides for air flow) will help it live its best life. My go-to orchid bark mix for my potted orchids is Better-Gro, but I also grow many mini Phals in loose sphagnum moss.
Once you’ve got the potting situation down, finding a spot with the right light is really important. After trial-and-error, I’ve found that my northern exposure kitchen window is the best place for orchids in my house. Open your compass app and find your north or east-facing windows; they often provide the ideal place for low-light Phalaenopsis orchids.
That said, I’ve also had happy Phals in the living room, which has huge south-western exposure windows. The trick with southern or western-facing windows is to place the orchids behind a sheer curtain or pull them back from the window a few feet – so don’t worry if you don’t have a north or east window for them.
Watering is the hardest thing to give advice on for these little plants, in my opinion. A lot of factors contribute to how often your Phal will need water. How dry is your house? How hot? How much sunlight does it get? What potting medium did you use? I’d recommend starting off with a thorough weekly watering and adjusting as needed.
My house can be so dry that many of the ones I potted in bark mix simply weren’t getting the water or humidity they needed. If you’re feeling a bit experimental, one fix for this is water culture. A lot of my orchids are hanging in glass baubles and either have a small amount of water just barely touching their roots, or I give their roots a soak every week or so and then pop them back in their baubles.
Leaving a small amount of water in the bottom of the container boosts the humidity for the plant, and it's something I do if one is looking poorly. Otherwise, a good soak for a day or two and then a week of drying out imitates the orchid's natural environment, and so far I've had good results with it. If your tap water is too harsh on your plants, try collecting rainwater or using distilled water for this.
About ice cubes
A couple of final thoughts on watering: A common "tip" is to water your orchid with an ice cube, but that's not actually good advice. Orchids are tropical plants that live in warm, humid environments. How many tropical plants are adapted to having ice placed on their roots? Please don't do this to your orchid! Misting is another thing people like to do for their plants, but if you mist your orchids, aim for their roots. Don't mist the leaves, which can lead to crown rot.
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