The arching sprays of Phalaenopsis make them one of most beautiful, attractive and sought-after orchids. They are popularly known as ‘moth orchids’ and ‘butter’ in Philippines and is an ideal orchid for beginners. Low and compact habit of the plant makes them desirable to grow at home and is widely cultivated. Phalaenopsis is distributed throughout South East Asia, Taiwan, India, Australia, Malayan Peninsula, Indonesia, North Australia and Philippines.
Plant: Most of the Phalaenopsis are epiphytes and few are lithophytes. They are monopodials with erect growing rhizome producing one or two leaves every year from the top. Leaves can attain huge size. Leaves along with roots are best indicators of health; they should be firm and not floppy (indications of low light and unhealthy root system). A dark red blush covering the top of the leaves indicates too much light. Phalaenopsis grows throughout the year if prevailing temperature is above 20° C, producing beautiful arching spikes from the node between the leaves having large white, pink, striped, spotted yellow flowers. Staking of the inflorescence ensures better display. Phalaenopsis is easy for a beginner to grow due to its relatively faster growth and ease of blooming compared to other orchids.
Light: Phalaenopsis require about 1000-1500 foot candles indicating it is a shade loving orchid. Most of the Phalaenopsis should never be exposed to direct sunlight as it damages the leaves within a short time.
Temperature: Phalaenopsis grows in warm temperatures ranging from 20-35 ° C, it also adapts well
to a range of 15-30° C. However, night temperatures of 15-22° C and a day temperature of around 32° C is ideal.
Water & Humidity: Plants in pots are to be thoroughly watered so that the entire medium gets wet and the next watering is to be done after it completely dries out. Humidity of around 65-70 per cent helps in producing good quality flowers in terms of size and longevity. Aeration is important for Phalaenopsis. Without proper aeration, diseases such as crown rot results.
Nutrition: Phalaenopsis are heavy feeders they are provided on weekly basis of a balanced fertilizer such as 19-19-19 at half the recommended dose (0.5 — 1.0 gram per litre of water) during the vegetative growth for about 4-5 weeks and followed by one application of high strength of potash.
Potting and Media: Phalaenopsis plants do not have storage parts and hence, need moisture at all
times. The type of material used for potting should provide drainage. Such materials are Brickbats, charcoal, and coconut husk chips are widely used. Placing a wad of moss near the roots after planting ensures better root growth and establishment.
Pests and Diseases: There are several pests and diseases, which affect Phalaenopsis. Mites are the major problem. Slugs and snails are another menace attacking the flower buds and succulent plant parts causing extensive damages.