Phalenopsis or Moth Orchids, once exotic, are found in stores everywhere these days. Their gorgeous, waxy blossoms can last all winter before they fade. The trouble with these beauties, is getting them to produce flowers a second time. Too often they are tossed out, and treated as annuals. At a recent meeting at my local garden society, I found out I’ve been doing it all wrong. Tips below are for Phalenopsis or Moth orchids.
1. Orchids need full sun. Many orchid books will tell you to keep them out of direct sun, and give them filtered light. In summer, outdoors, this is fine advice. Mine summer outside under an umbrella. But, in Canada, in the winter, indirect light isn’t sufficient. I was growing my (not flowering) orchids in a north facing window, and have since moved them to a sunny south one.
2. Orchids need a temperature drop at night of 15 degrees. If you can turn your thermostat down at night this will help. I don’t control the heat in my apartment, which is quite warm all winter. I am now closing my drapes, leaving the orchids on the cool windowsill side, at night to get this temperature drop.
3. Feed weekly, weakly. Feeding your orchids with food at half strength or less every time you water.
4. Nice dark green leaves mean your orchid is less likely to flower. Leaves should be a paler green. I thought my orchids were on their way to flowering because the leaves were so dark green. Nope.
5. The pot is only there to stabilize the plant and its roots. In its natural habitat, orchids will grow on tree branches. Some roots can hang over the edge of the plant. You don’t need a fancy orchid pot. The plastic one it came in is fine.
6. Orchids and their roots aren’t delicate. When repotting you can handle the roots without fear, and cut off any withered ones. Settle roots into new pot, leaving some outside the medium.
7. Only grow orchids in orchid mix, (bark, perlite, charcoal), never soil. Or you could even try growing them in a container of wine corks. The growing medium is only there to hold the plant, and to keep the moisture around the orchid leaves and roots while watering.