- Phalaenopsis orchid – peculiarities of growing
- Care for phalaenopsis at home
- Phalaenopsis flowering
- Propagation of phalaenopsis
- Diseases of phalaenopsis and their treatment
- Phalaenopsis pests
- References and links
Phalaenopsis orchid is a herbaceous plant tribe Vandeae, family Orchidaceae. It comes from the rainforests of Australia, Southeast Asia and the Philippines. Phalaenopsis orchids are mostly epiphytes since they grow on trees, but sometimes they grow even on rocks. The first phalaenopsis was discovered by the German naturalist Georg Rumphi on one of the Molucca Islands, but the name of the flower was given by Karl Blume, the director of the Leiden Botanical Garden, who while looking at an exotic orchid with binoculars took it by the butterfly, and therefore called phalaenopsis "like a moth." And until now, the plant growers call these flowers "moth orchids".
An orchid genus includes about seventy species. Phalaenopsis orchid, that is sold in flower shops, has an incredible popularity not only because of its exquisite and extraordinary beauty, but also since the phalaenopsis growing and care are easy and do not incur any expenses.
Phalaenopsis orchid – peculiarities of growing
Any plant has its own preferences, and such a rare flower in our latitudes has even more of them. Special features of phalaenopsis cultivation are caused by the fact that it comes from the humid mountain and plain forests, where it grows on trees. Therefore it requires a microclimate that should be created artificially indoors. Here are some features of phalaenopsis:
- the pot and soil, in which phalaenopsis grows, serve almost exclusively as a support;
- phalaenopsis roots should be exposed to air and sunlight;
- phalaenopsis roots are green in nature and absorb the moisture and rain water from the air. The bark of trees on which the flower grows supplies it with food. Roots are involved in photosynthesis, therefore, should be exposed to sunlight;
- in addition to usual roots, phalaenopsis has aerial roots, hanging down in constant search of food, so make sure that they do not reach neighboring pots.
Succulent leaves of phalaenopsis are located in two rows forming a root rosette. Flower stalks are long, curved, butterfly-flowers are collected in racemose inflorescences. The variety of colors is amazing: violet, purple, white, yellow, green and red, brown. Quite often the flower lip stands out from the petals (monochrome, tiger, checked or striped) and has contrasting color. Phalaenopsis, as well as dendrobium and vanda, is a monopodial orchid, i.e, does not form a rhizome.
The most pleasant feature of phalaenopsis is that it does not have a vivid dormant period: its flowers bloom twice a year – in spring and fall, although persistent plant growers make it bloom three times a year.
Care for phalaenopsis at home
How to care for phalaenopsis
Care for phalaenopsis implies choosing a place for a flower, a properly organized watering, feeding, temperature control and protection from pests and diseases. It is better to place the pot with phalaenopsis on the west, east or north-east windowsill. If this is not possible, and you have to place the orchid on the south windowsill, put it on a table near the window, behind a curtain, creating a light shade as a direct sunlight hurts the plant and causes burns that look like spots on the leaves and phalaenopsis flowers. Every 2-3 weeks, turn the plant at 180º, so that it does not stretch in one direction. However, during the formation of flower buds it is better not to bother the plant.
Phalaenopsis starts blooming in partial shade at the temperature of 64-77 ºF, and the plant can endure a higher temperature, up to 95 ºF and even up to 108 ºF, and lower – up to 54ºF. But try to keep the temperature in the range of 59-77 ºF.
Humidity level should be 30-40 per cent and a good room ventilation is required. With the lack of moisture leaves lose turgor and the flowers fall. To avoid such troubles put the plant on a tray with wet pebbles. Excessive moisture can cause root rot and spots appear on the leaves. Spraying of phalaenopsis is undesirable even in a very hot weather, because the water flows in the core and in the axils of leaves, that may cause plant decay. Furthermore, the moisture that evaporates from the surface of the leaves can cause burns on them.
Phalaenopsis feeding is carried out by mixing a combined fertilizer with the water for irrigation once a month. You can feed the orchid on a weekly basis, but then the concentration of fertilizer should be lowered. The dressing is poured only on a moist substrate.
How to water phalaenopsis
Watering of phalaenopsis is carried out after the complete drying of the soil, but it should not be dry for a long period of time. If you grow phalaenopsis in a transparent container and there is no moisture on the walls of the pot, it means that it is time to water the plant. Moreover, due to a lack of moisture green roots turn lighter. If the container is non-transparent, you will have to dig out the substrate to determine how deep it dried out. Do not pour the water on the orchid leaves. You should water the substrate, or use the method of the lower irrigation – immerse the pot in a container with water to saturate the substrate with moisture through drainage holes. Water for irrigation of phalaenopsis should be soft and pure: it should be not only filtered, but also be boiled. Or use distilled water for irrigation. Once a month, you should shower phalaenopsis or wash it under the tap, after that the plant should be wiped dry. Avoid waterlogging of phalaenopsis, otherwise its leaves may become withered and growth point may rot. At best the orchid will have lateral shoots, at worst the plant will die.
How to transplant the phalaenopsis
In what cases is phalaenopsis transplanting carried out? It should be done when the plant is in the same pot and substrate for 2-3 years already. Usually, by that time the substrate is compressed, sour and becomes unusable, therefore, it needs to be replaced. If you notice a strong branching of roots and their sprouting through the drainage holes, it is also a sign that it's time to repot the plant. This should be done after flowering. If your orchid is healthy and planted in a coarse substrate, it can be carefully put into a new, larger container with a drainage layer and fresh substrate the main component of which is the bark of fine and medium size fractions. Furthermore, substrate for phalaenopsis contains peat dust. You can buy a ready-made substrate, or can buy the components and carefully prepare a mixture for your overseas beauty: on the bottom of the pot put a drainage layer consisting of the expanded clay or pieces of plastic foam, then add the bark of the medium size fraction, then add a fine bark, mixed with shredded moss. Note that a dry bark quickly passes water, so before you add it into a substrate, it should be cleaned and left for a couple of days in water to swell, then again rinsed in a clean water.
How to prune the phalaenopsis
If phalaenopsis flowering is over, watch for some time how an old flower stalk behaves. When it starts turning yellow and withering, then remove it without any regret, but if it is still green and succulent, then it is very likely that, after a two-month rest period, the flower buds appear again on it. A new flower stalk should at first grow, and then the buds appear on it and produce flowers. If the old flower stalk is too long, shorten it leaving 0.4 inches above of the developed buds. Besides, the lower you cut the flower stalk, the more flowers the lateral shoot will have. In any case, you should not cut the flower stalk below the third bud, otherwise you will have to wait long until a shortened stalk blooms.
Blooming of phalaenopsis orchid
These plants can bloom at any time of the year, and depending on the general state of the orchids and the conditions under which it is contained flowering can last from two to six months. Usually phalaenopsis blooms twice a year, but sometimes a third flowering occurs within the same year. Flowers are from 0.8 inch up to 6 inches in diameter, located on a flower stalk in the amount of from three to forty pieces. The amount of the flowers on the stalk depends primarily on how well the stalk is branched and how comfortable conditions for orchids are created by you. Some orchids have a flower stalks 3.2 feet long with up to hundreds of large flowers on it! A delicate fragrance of phalaenopsis flowers is as attractive as the diversity of their colors: from plain white, yellow, purple, red to the different variations of flecks, spots and lines on the main background.
Blooming of phalaenopsis orchid
The phalaenopsis starts blooming again in three months after the last blooming. But sometimes it happens that the leaves grow, but phalaenopsis still does not bloom. How to make phalaenopsis bloom? First you need to find out the reasons of such an orchid problem. And the reasons may be as follows:
- insufficient lighting (remove the cause and wait for flowering);
- the plant is overfed with nitrogen-containing fertilizers (have to wait until the plant processes nitrogen and at this time you should dress the plant with phosphorus);
- the plant is just tired and it needs more time to recover (wait some time, and then stimulate the flowering of phalaenopsis).
Phalaenopsis flowering is stimulated by an insufficient irrigation using fructification stimulants. In addition, it is a good idea to lower the night temperature so that temperature difference between day and night is no less than 6-8 degrees. Such a temperature drop makes the orchid bloom.
Why phalaenopsis does not bloom
Usually after flowering the flower stalk dries up, and it is cut. But sometimes flower stalk remains green, and it is up to you what to do next. You can:
- do not remove the stalk;
- cut the stalk at the height of the branch;
- cut off the green stalk at all.
If you cut the green stalk, put it into the water, and it is likely that buds will appear on it. If you do not cut off the old stalk, then lateral branches may appear that eventually will produce flowers, but their bloom will not be as heavy as of the new stalks.
Propagation of phalaenopsis
Propagation of phalaenopsis by offshoots
If some orchids can be propagated by division of the rhizomes, for phalaenopsis this way is not appropriate. In their natural habitat, they can reproduce by seeds and offshoots. But seed method is not possible at home as well. How to propagate phalaenopsis at home? The easiest way of propagation of phalaenopsis orchid is vegetative by separating the lateral shoots that are formed on a flower stalk, or at the base of the leaf rosette (keiki). It should be done in a month or two after flowering and when the plant has rested. The keikis are separated when they have already formed a couple of leaves and aerial roots have reached a length of 2 inches. But do not let the keikis overgrow since it is bad for the parent rosette. The separated keiki should dry during a day and then it is planted in a fine substrate, constructing a small greenhouse over it, in which the temperature of 72-77 ºF is kept.
The phalaenopsis lateral shoots are a rare phenomenon, proving that you care for it improperly. So if your orchid does not produce offshoots you can artificially awaken dormant buds that will give keikis. You should do the following: find a sleeping point at the base of the old deflowered stalk, make a shallow semicircular cut of the cover scale base by a sharp blade and remove it with tweezers, and treat the bud with a growth stimulant or a fresh birch sap. In a month or two small rosettes with several leaves will appear at this place, and the roots will be in three months. To booster the process cover a plant with a plastic bag as in a warm and humid microclimate keikis grow faster.
You can get a keiki from the cut-off flower stalks: dip a flower stalk at 1.5-2.7 inches in 0.005 percent solution of combined mineral fertilizers, having removed a scale from the bud as described above. Make a small greenhouse over the flower stalk and do not forget to change the water.
Diseases of phalaenopsis and their treatment
Phalaenopsis suffer from both infectious and noninfectious diseases. And in fact, in both cases the main cause of the disease is mistakes in the care for plants. Fusarium wilt is the most often among fungal diseases. It attacks plant roots first, and then the disease spreads to the entire orchid. The main cause of fusarium wilt, as well as other rot diseases, is the excess moisture. There is no cure for fusarium wilt, therefore affected phalaenopsis should be removed and destroyed. But others rots (black, brown, root and gray rots, as well as such diseases as rust, anthracnose and leaf spots) can be treated by fungicides applied twice with 10 day interval.
Also, a common disease is urticaria that affects the leaves of phalaenopsis at an early stage by large spots of 0.8-1 inch in diameter. The reason is the low temperature, high humidity and poor air circulation in the room. Remove these mistakes in care, and the plant will return to normal.
Such disease as botrytis occurs when there is a high humidity and poor ventilation in the room, and it affects not the leaves but flowers of phalaenopsis: first dark brown spots appear on the petals, then the petals fade. If you increase the temperature in the room, the disease will slow down its development. Moreover, ensure good ventilation of moist air in the room and treat the plant with germicide.
Noninfectious diseases are caused by the use of pesticides, excessive lighting, improper dressing, inadequate watering and their symptoms are dry leaf tips, necrosis of the roots, affected plant tissues, and all sorts of spots. Find and remove the cause of the disease, and it is likely you will save your orchid, but be aware that resuscitation of phalaenopsis is a laborious and not always successful process.
In addition to diseases, phalaenopsis can be exhausted by pests. For example, such a small insect like mealybug is the cause of yellowing and leaf fall. It is destroyed by the processing of leaves and stems with an aqueous solution of a laundry soap.
At low humidity spider mite can harm any plant including phalaenopsis. Spider mite manifests itself by silver spider web on the leaves as if pierced by a needle. If you notice spider mites in the beginning of its plant occupation, you can remove it as aphids and mealybug by soapy water, but if occupation is heavy and pest firmly settles down on your orchid, you will have to apply acaricide treatment.
Sometimes thrips affect the leaves and flowers of phalaenopsis, covering them with brown spots. To get them rid off, you should apply insecticides.
If you notice bumps on the leaves of phalaenopsis, you should know that your flower was chosen by scale insects that will suck the sap out of an orchid and as the result it will wither. Treat scale insects as mealybug: process it with the soap solution twice with 10 day interval.
Slugs are the worst of all for phalaenopsis as these rather large creatures simply devour the leaves, stems and flowers of orchids. Place a few pieces of carrot or cucumber on the ground and wait until the slug appears to drag a vegetable, and move it away from the flower. If you fail to collect slugs physically use insecticides such as metaldehyde.
In spite of the above mentioned troubles, phalaenopsis is the least problematic orchids, that, if properly cared, are very rarely attacked by the raids of insect or some diseases. As a rule, they live happily and flourish in conditions of city apartment for the joy of caring owner. The main things that a happy owner of phalaenopsis should know are: a balanced watering, sufficient lighting, temperature and adjusted timely fertilizing make his orchid not only beautiful and flowering, but also completely immune to pests and diseases of plants.
References and links
- Read also about topic at Wikipedia
- Features and other plants of the family Orchidaceae
- List of all species on The Plant List
- More information at World Flora Online