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Most people catch the orchid bug with a moth orchid (Phalaenopsis spp. and cvs.), which can cope with the typical environment of the home. These beauties flower in winter and early spring, making them popular gift plants. Here are tips for keeping your phalaenopsis orchids healthy. Be warned—your success with phalaenopsis will only lead you deeper into the fascinating world of orchids!
Light: Moth orchids prefer bright light, with no direct sunlight. Try an east-facing window, or a south- or west-facing window that’s shaded by trees or equipped with sheer curtains.
Temperature: The air should be between 60˚F and 85˚F at all times for phalaenopsis orchids. They can take short periods up to 95˚F, however, and several weeks of nighttime temperatures of 55˚F in the fall will help prompt flowering.
Water: Unlike some other orchids, phalaenopsis do not have any means to store water. Therefore, do not allow the pot to completely dry out. It shouldn’t be waterlogged, either. Water the plant thoroughly, allow the soil to approach dryness, then water again. You may find a good schedule, but be aware that it can change depending on the time of year. Increase the humidity around the plant by setting its pot on top of (not partially submerged in) a tray of moist gravel.
Repotting: Phalaenopsis orchids typically need to be repotted every one to three years. They require a porous (well-draining) potting mix; try one labeled for orchids. Young moth orchids can grow quickly and may need a larger pot every year, while mature plants can be repotted in the same pot (using fresh medium) every few years.
Feeding: Phalaenopsis orchids in bark-based potting mix need high-nitrogen fertilizer twice a month while actively growing (generally in warm weather). Balanced fertilizer will suffice for plants in soil-based mixes. Fertilizers high in phosphorus (the second number in the N–P–K rating) will help promote blooming. Cut back on feeding your moth orchid in the cooler months.
Source: The American Orchid Society
Recommended related reading:
Master orchid care with The Orchid Whisperer by Bruce Rogers, which covers all of the essentials such as light, watering, repotting and more.
Learn to choose and care for all kinds of plants within your home with Houseplants: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Growing, and Caring for Indoor Plants by Lisa Eldred Steinkopf.