Caring for Phalaenopsis Orchids

Some phal hybrids are stunning.

Some phal hybrids are stunning.

Soil

The phalaenopsis requires the same type of loose, well-drained planting medium that other types of orchids enjoy. Fir bark is ideal as it holds just the right amount of moisture without becoming overly saturated. Although nurseries and gardening centers carry commercial orchid mixes, it’s easy to make your own by combining 2 parts fir bark with 1 part each of sphagnum moss and perlite.

Light and Temperature

Direct sun is rough on the phalaenopsis, so place it in an area that receives bright, but not direct, sun. The ideal location is 3 feet from a southeast- or west-facing window. Keep the temperature in the room between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and a steady 60 degrees F, year-round, at night. Encourage the plant to bloom by keeping the nighttime temperature at 58 or 59 degrees F for two to three weeks.

Water and Fertilizer

Phals require consistently moist soil at all times. You may need to water daily during warm summer days or when the interior of the house is heated. Allow the medium to dry slightly -- not completely -- during the winter. Watering every week to 10 days during this period is generally sufficient. Phalaenopsis thrives with moist, circulating air, so place a fan in the room to move the air around, and place a humidifier near the orchid. A rule of thumb for fertilizing the phalaenopsis is to provide a half-strength dilution of a 20-20-20 liquid fertilizer at every other watering.

Repotting

Although the phalaenopsis tolerates repotting as often as once every six months, the ideal repotting schedule is every 18 to 24 months, unless the plant is completely pot-bound. Wait until after the plant finishes blooming and begins producing new root growth to repot. Take it out of the pot, and use your fingers to lightly remove as much of the old medium as possible. Look for dead or rotten roots, and use sterilized snips to cut them off. To repot the phal, mound up enough of the medium in the bottom of the pot so that when you place the roots on the mound they hang evenly over it and barely brush the bottom of the pot. Pour the medium over and around the roots, but don’t pack it down. Don’t water the orchid for the week following repotting.

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