Wendy's WanderingsWendy Wilber

Caring for a New Orchid

This article was originally published in the January 2013 issue of The Neighborhood Gardener.

I recently had a gardener ask me about their new plant. "I have a beautiful orchid that was a gift. The label says it is a Phalaenopsis orchid. The flowers are gone now, but the plant is really healthy. Is it okay to leave it inside, and how do I get it to bloom again?

Phalaenopsis, or the moth orchid, is a favorite orchid to grow as a houseplant. They bloom beautifully inside with a large flower spike of white, pink or purple flowers. The plant itself is small in nature with only a few 5 to 6-inch leaves growing in a rosette.

Your home's growing conditions of bright light and moderate humidity are probably fine for growing this easy orchid. They are best grown in a bright window with a little or no direct sun. Usually an east window or a shaded south or west window will provide perfect growing light.

Regular watering keeps the plant healthy, but don't overdo it. Let the growing medium nearly dry out between waterings. Overwatering will cause root rot and maybe death.

Fertilize your orchid twice a month with a soluble orchid fertilizer such as 30-10-10 or 20-14-13; this is a solid fertilizer that you dilute in water.

Repotting should be done about every two years in the spring. Select an orchid pot that is slightly larger, and use new orchid potting medium. There is no real soil in orchid medium; it's made up of mostly bark and plant fibers.

Temperatures between 75 to 85 degrees are great for Phalaenopis. In the fall, if you put your moth orchid out to get exposed to cool nights in the mid-50's, a flower spike or two will be initiated. After you see the spike emerging, bring the orchid back in and enjoy the flowers starting in the late winter or spring.

If you find yourself getting more interested in orchids, consider joining a local chapter of the American Orchid Society.

-- Wendy Wilber

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