05 January 2011

The garden of indoors...Phalaenopsis orchids

If there is a more perfect cure for winter (other than a trip somewhere warm) than orchids, I don't know what that would be. For those of you who think you can't grow orchids at your house, I'm here to tell you: if you can grow a simple African violet, a Christmas cactus, a philodendron, you can grow phalaenopsis, or moth orchids.
Trust me on this. I have about a dozen, in myriad shades and shapes and yes, even sizes. When I first became intrigued by these graceful, long blooming and elegant plants, they tended to come in only a couple of colours, white and magenta, at least locally. They were also very expensive. Today, things have changed quite dramatically!



This little beauty is actually the only plant in my collection that has a cultivar name, or at least was bought with an included name tag. I call it a little beauty because each flower is hardly bigger than a guitar pick, but its name is impressively long. Meet 'Sogo Gotris 'Flora Ark'." How's THAT for a name? The ACTUAL name is Doriataenopsis Sogo Gotris, a miniature type developed by clever breeders. I hope to find more cultivars, if they're out there. 
Now, I realize you can pick up moth orchids in all kinds of venues, from big box stores to department stores to professional nurseries and flower shops. You might pay a little more for those from a nursery or florist's, but chances are the plants have been properly grown at a reputable growing centre, then properly handled, shipped and cared for at the retail outlet, given adequate moisture, light, and nutrients, and not jammed side by each in a dark shelf. Plus, you'll always find the most strikingly coloured and marked varieties at nurseries. This beauty was at a nursery last year, along with several other equally strikingly marked plants.
When you're out looking at phalaenopsis orchids, make sure the plants have strong, healthy foliage, not wrinkled or dying. Although these plants' marvelous blossoms last for a long time (as in weeks and even months), you'll do well to select a plant with  several unopened flower buds on its flower stalks.
I bought this plant in February of last year, and it is STILL blooming, and still putting out new buds. It's very happy in my office, which is not the hottest room in the house (and may be the coolest. It gets plenty of light, but no direct hot sunlight--it's set back enough from the window that there's no danger of its foliage being burned by too strong light. They like cool temperatures (18 degrees C/ 65F at night, 22C/71F to 26C/78F during the day). Too warm a temperature can delay flowering. Avoid strong temperature fluctuations, however, because these can cause flower buds to drop.
As with most plants, correct watering is important to a moth orchid's wellbeing. They don't like to be dry to the point of wilting,  but should be watered thoroughly, then allowed to have their potting medium nearly dry out before being watered again. They like some additional humidity, which you can give them buy putting their pots on a tray with gravel or pebbles and water, but don't leave the pot so that the plants are sitting in water. Unlike some of their more particular orchid relatives, they don't need to be grown in a greenhouse or special conservatory--I have them around the house, from the fairly warm kitchen to my office to the bedroom to the livingroom, and move them around if I think they need a little more light at various times of the year.
Phalaenopsis generally are repotted about once a year, because the bark or moss they've been grown in will decompose over time. They need good aeration (air circulation) around their roots, or the roots can develop rot and kill the plant. Bark mixes should be soaked overnight before being used as planting media, but sphagnum moss is also useful if it's good quality product. I fertilize mine with a good quality orchid food most every time I water them when they're putting up flower spikes or in bloom, but at only 1/4 strength.
Occasionally I have killed a plant, usually by having waited too long to repot, so that there is next to nothing left for roots. Now, once a plant stops flowering, I check its roots carefully and then repot it in good quality bark purchased from an orchid grower, and often top the pot with some sphagnum to help with humidity--but don't bury the plant's crown! I've never had any problems with scale, aphids, or other indoor houseplant pests on my phalaenopsis orchids, but maybe I've been lucky. I don't put them outdoors in summer, but move them into a north window where they get plenty of light but no direct sunlight.
Let me stress, that although I love these plants and am learning more about them all the time, I am not an expert with them or any other orchid. In the course of looking up something for this post, I did, however, discover a website that seems to be extremely sensible and useful in its information, and you can go there to find out more about these fantastic, gloriously coloured plants.

There's also a wonderfully informative site called Plantgasm, whose owner confesses he "loves plants too much" (as if that were possible! Derek just did a post on phalaenopsis orchids too, so if you need further proof that Yes, You Can Grow Orchids, please pop over to his site and have a read of his post.

30 comments:

  1. I received one of these orchids as a Christmas gift and am very happy to have your advice as to how to care for it.

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  2. Beautiful orchids! Especially love those two with the green tint. I love orchids too, and have about 15 of them with different types, moth, cattleya, vanda, and etc. It was fun to grow them, and their beauties just can not beat!

    Happy New Year!

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  3. I absolutely love orchids and these are breathtaking!

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  4. Such beauties you have there
    I have one about to bloom...a miracle in itself...I had it out all summer..it got knocked over and i stuck it in with a geranium and low and behold it's happy
    I put it outside because it was so sickly looking and shriveling up...who knew?!

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  5. It is really wonderful how, with the advent of cloning, prices for orchids have come down world wide.
    Unfortunately buying Phalaenopsis orchids in garden centres here is well and good if you just want to enjoy them in your house, but unfortunately not for exhibition purposes as they are not labeled by name. You still have to get your plants for that purpose from rather pricey specialist growers.

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  6. Thanks for the detailed instructions on caring for orchids. I have one now that I'm trying to force a new stem to grow. I think the plant has been too warm. Orchids are so beautiful and delicate!

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  7. Excellet point, Arija, and not something I would have known, as I don't do any sort of showing, etc. I do occasionally go to an orchid show, and invariably one follows me home...last year it was a paph named LimerickxCherokeexsomething else...and it's going to bloom in a month or so. Very exciting!

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  8. It's interesting that I've come across your post just now... not more than two hours ago I ordered $500 worth of T5 flourescents to use in the construction of an orchid growing "chamber" of my own making. I started buying phalaenopsis a while back and I want to get into some other types of orchids as well. I was very excited to see your lovely photos and I suspect I'm on the cusp of a new obsession! Larry

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  9. Hi Jodi. Great post. I'm crazy about orchid...everything about orchid. Your orchid so beautiful and healthy. My garden not so suitable for these type of orchid, the climate is quite sunny and not so airy. I really enjoy read your post and will link this post to my blog. Happy gardening ;)

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  10. Oh, orchids. How I love them, but they don't seem to love me as much. Although, when I hit the lottery I'm going to buy a greenhouse and pay someone to take care of them.

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  11. My thoughts exactly... wanna take a trip to some place warm this winter. It has been icy cold n chilly this Jan. The orchids look pretty, would like to grow them myself ... Thx for the encouraging tip.

    Happy New Year!

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  12. Love all your Phalaenopsis orchids! They are so gorgoeus! I have only one and it started blooming last month and is still blooming..

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  13. Mrs IG has an orchid. It's white. You can't eat it, so that's all I know about it. She seems to like it. Ironically, despite me once moving it to a dark corner, and then forgetting it (I had some tomato seedlings that needed the light), it seems reluctant to die.

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  14. I have a few moth orchids and they are sending up shoots as I type. Nature gives us just enough to keep us from throwing in the gardening trowel doesn't she? Happy New Year to you also, Jodi.

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  15. I can grow them ok but they never rebloom for me. Very frustrating.

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  16. Hi Jodi, you are so right! they are easy to grow and give so much joy!
    You have a dozen?
    I think it's a proper amount, because there is alway at least one blooming!
    There is a window of one of the neighbors filled with phalaenopsis - there must me about 20 of them - they bloom entire year. I am closer and closer to ask the neighbors for photo shooting session :)
    .
    Happy New Year to you !!

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  17. Great post Jodi! You give all the needed info to grow these beauties. Watering methods and Repotting are so important as you stress. What a beautiful collection you have. Thanks so for the links.

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  18. Thanks Jodi..so timely..purchased one before Christmas and was not sure I was caring for it properly. Pleased you posted about this. Thanks again.

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  19. Great advice, jodi. I adore orchids and must always have at least one in bloom. Indeed, I've killed a few in my day (mostly overwatering before I go away) but that never stops me from collecting. (I'm running out of room.)

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  20. This is a popular topic right now! :-) I am currently trying to get mine to bloom (and blogging about it). Yours are beautiful!! I know that once I get mine to bloom, I will be hooked like you and will need to buy more.

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  21. I love Moth Orchids...I've been amazed at just how easy they are to grow...and the blooms really do last forever...I get so excited when I see another blooming stem appear!

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  22. I too, enjoy orchids. I want to try some of the fragrant varieties, but they are hard to find. The phalaenopsis orchids are not expensive in Burlington, Ontario. You can usually find them for 15 dollars or less. I have never paid more than 20 dollars for them. Other types of orchids are expensive though. Right now I have a couple in bloom, and several others that not in bloom,that are kept in a seldom used bathtub, near a window. I recently picked up a good book on Orchids by the company Miracle-Gro. "Complete Guide to Orchids". It was $21.95 at Lowes hardware store. It has 223 pages with lots of photos. I would recommend this book to anyone that is a orchid lover.

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  23. As one who made my fair share of boutonnières, your photos make me want to reach for the floral tape and ivy leaves. These orchids are so beautiful ... and such a sight for already tired of gray winter eyes.

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  24. Jodi girl "if I could .. I WOULD !!"
    I have killed my African violet and I don't look after my husband's philodendron any more (I was killing that one too) Snake plants are survivalists here .. so far ..
    The one time I did have one of these beauties (from Costco .. the price was great) .. it didn't take long after the flowers were gone for me to kill it .. so I think I will save their lives by not getting one again .. or get a fake one ?? LOL .. I can hear you even HERE ! hahaha

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  25. You have great colors for Phals there Jodi. They are easy to grow if conditions are right, seems like your house is conducive to them. Here, only those in a bit higher elevations can grow them because they dont like heat and direct light or wind. Yours seem to be healthy and happy where they are now.

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  26. wonderful posting....I've never owned my own orchid...I guess from All this great information, I will start a new addition for 2011...I checked out 'Plantgasm'...another great site you've found, and I also found Derek on 'flickr' with some great photos of orchids...Happy New Year to You ! and seeing we both are 'Bee-Huggers' thought you'd like to read this article...I belong to the Avaaz.org group and they are circulating a petition to ban the use of pesticides that are killing our precious pollinators all around the world...so heart-breaking when you actually hear the percentage of bees that have died....ACTION - ACTION - NOW !!!
    link for this page: http://gu.com/p/2hp63

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  27. Avaaz.org link petition : thanks
    emergency petition

    http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_the_bees/97.php?cl_tta_sign=4ac0fb215c7a9f13f09f19b937fbd0ab

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  28. Hi, Jodi;
    I was so busy drooling over that yellow and red orchid that I almost forgot to leave a comment. ;)

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  29. These put a huge smile on my face. I especially like the 8th picture- the close-up. Beautiful!

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  30. I loved this! I have a total addiction to orchids. I've been looking to get a "miniature" variety for a while now...I've got too many phals to count, and they're all the gigantic kind. The other day I was at a store and they were selling "super-mini" orchids in bloom. These beauties were in pots that were 2" wide or less, and they had the most adorable little flowers. They weren't labeled though, and when I asked the salesperson if they would stay small, he said no...they would grow just as big as all my other orchids eventually; apparently they were just babies. Now I'm beginning to think he didn't know what he was talking about, since the really small ones look just like your "Floral Ark!" And they were only $7.99!! I should have bought one. GRRRR....

    Anyway, I'm glad I happened upon your blog! I love looking at orchid pics...I probably have 30 orchids at home and am running out of places to put them! LOL My obsession started with a couple of phals and a paph, and it's grown to now include probably 20 phals, two paphs, four vandaceous types, five dendrobiums and a miltoniopsis too. My husband is beginning to call our house the "habitat for insanity."

    Anyway, it's very nice to meet you, and I'm following your blog! I write a humor blog and I'm slightly overdue on posting, but if you'd like to stop by and read one of my funny posts about my plant obsession, here's one I think you'll really enjoy!

    Freaks of Nature

    Have a great day, and I hope you can drop in sometime! Happy orchid growing!

    Smiles, Jenn

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