The Orchid plant, and especially the Phalaenopsis orchid has become the no 1 bestselling houseplant over the past few years. This is no surprise considering the ease of care, their incrediblle beauty and their long life as a houseplant when looked after correctly.
In order to find out how to look after these wonderful flowering house plants, let’s find out some more about the Phalaenopsis Orchid.
Phalaenopsis Orchids, as any other orchid, are epiphytes.
Epiphytes are plant that grows upon or are attached to another plant or object merely for physical support. Epiphytes are found mostly in the tropics and are also known as air plants because they have no attachment to the ground or other obvious nutrient source. They obtain water and minerals from rain and from debris on the supporting plants. Orchids, ferns, and members of the pineapple family are common tropical epiphytes. Lichens, mosses, liverworts, and algae are epiphytes of temperate regions.
Knowing how they grow in their origional habitat will explain us a lot about how we should care for these plants in the home. For those that had a closer look at the soil that your potted Phalaenopsis orchid is planted in will have noticed that it contains of a very loose structure of mostly small pieces of bark. Knowing orchids grow on trees in their natural habitat, were water flows away immediately after rainfall, explains us that we may never have any remaining water in our container after watering our orchid. Over watering is one of the most common causes of orchid plants not surviving in the home.
Always place your Phalaenopsis orchid in a place in your home were you have a relative constant temperature(e.g. sitting room), away from drafts and direct sunlight. Water very moderately and feed once every two weeks when in flower or bud and once every four to six weeks when flowers are finished. Always use special orchid feed, and never more than is indicated on the bottle. Personally I give my orchids half the amount as is written on the bottle to avoid burning the roots.
Your orchid plant can easily flower up to six months at a time. When finished flowering cut the flower stems down to one inch above the second “knot” from the base. This is where your new flower will appear after some patience. Also reduce the water and food you give your plant for approx four months to give the plant a rest period. Leave the plant in the same position and sort of forget about it for a while. When your new flower buds appear you can slightly increase your feeding.
Orchidaceae are cosmopolitan, occurring in almost every habitat apart from deserts and glaciers. The great majority are to be found in the tropics, mostly Asia, South America and Central America, but they are also found above the Arctic Circle, in southern Patagonia and even on Macquarie Island, close to Antarctica.
It is no wonder that it was in Asia, Tokyo to be specific, where I saw the most impressive selection of Phalaenopsis Orchids for sale. After all tropical Asia is home to most known varieties of Orchids (approx: 300 families), followed by tropical America and tropical Africa who are both home to approx: 250 families of Orchids.
In this Tokyo, Orchid Shop, they never watered the plants, however they mist the leaves and the heart of the plant twice daily with pure spring water.
Apart from their wonderful qualities as a stylish, elegant houseplant in our modern homes the Phalaenopsis orchid is becoming increasingly popular as a cut flower mainly used for wedding bouquets and elegant table centre pieces.
In the bouquet above I used the white Phalaenopsis orchid in combination with creme Avalanche roses and pure white Lily of the Valley. A perfectly elegant winter white wedding bouquet.
In this table centre piece I used the smaller lilac Phalaenopsis Orchid as a support to the lilac and peach roses.
This cascading wedding bouquet combines the bright pink “Aqua” Roses with the “Hot Lip” Phalaenopsis Orchid.
This soft and elegant bridal bouquet with a selection of creme and peach roses, Lily of the Valley and soft ferns contributed to a wonderful day for Maria on her wedding day.
I hope that I have helped to grow your enthuasiasm for this wonderful family in the plant world.
For any of you who would like to know more about all varieties of Orchids, were they come from, how to grow them, build up an impressive collection and much more there is a book I bought almost ten years ago and can highly reccommend: Orchids – A Practical Handbook by Brian & Wilma Rittershausen ISBN 1-84309-209-3
Lamber de Bie
Dutch Master Florist