One of the many questions I get through the Plant Specialists blog is how to look after my phalaenopsis (moth) orchids. Believe it or not they are one of the easier plants to look after – and they can last a long time.  They can certainly be expensive but they will outlast any bunch of cut flowers !


a favorite of all – the white phalaenopsis !




You can overdo the watering by giving them water too often. The mortality rate on over watering is high. It is the number one killer of Orchids.

When you buy an orchid, it’s usually planted in something like bark, stones, charcoal or some other substance that doesn’t retain water. This means the medium is selected to dry out between watering and not stay evenly moist in the meantime.  Its really not that hard – the best way to see if its dry is to stick a finger into the pot – if its moist or wet wait a day or so. In many cases it can be several weeks before it needs to be watered again.




When watering, make sure water drains freely and runs out the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Pour water across the entire surface of the potting medium — but don’t get it onto the plant where the leaves emerge. This can aid in allowing diseases into your plant !

With other house plants some water in a saucer at the base of the pot that the plant is in is often good – not so with orchids.  Let them drain completely at the sink – you can still use a saucer to protect whatever the plant is sitting on – but don’t allow water to accumulate in the saucer.


terra cotta pots with side slits are often the standard choice for growing phalaenopsis




With moth orchids lighting is paramount ! Different orchids need different amounts of light. In general most orchids do not enjoy direct blasting light –  with the exception of some ground orchids. A diffused light works best. So a window sill or somewhere that gets a good amount of filtered natural sunlight is perfect.


close to a bright window !




Another secret to growing a gorgeous orchid is high humidity (50 percent or higher). In the wild, orchids grow as epiphytes, perched in tree branch crooks and absorbing moisture through air roots. Phalaenopsis in fact evolved in areas near rivers or waterfalls where they were in constant high humidity.

Most home environments have humidity around 40 percent, except in winter, when it drops as low as 30 percent. Increase humidity by running a humidifier, setting pots on a tray of pebbles filled with water to just below the surface of the stones.  Remember – don’t allow the water to sit on the roots of the plant itself.




These orchids like temperatures that fluctuate a bit — one for the day, another at night – night temperature is usually cooler.  But always somewhere mid range like 70*F.   

They do not like temperature extremes which can occur near a window or above a radiator.  Below 55*F and the phalaenopsis may drop its flowers.  Same goes for a hot environment.




Orchids need to be fed regularly using a mild fertilizer made for orchids.  The easiest is the one you dissolve in water – follow the directions on the package. The roots are extremely sensitive to over-fertilizing. and can actually burn if you use a stronger dosage or the wrong type.


Re Blooming


Prune the flower spike after blooms die and more flowers may form. Cut the stem just above a node, which looks like a little brown line on the stem, or it might even be a little bump. If orchids flower but don’t bloom again the following year but still look healthy, increase the amount of light that the plant is getting.


Next season


That flower is a lot smaller than I remember !

Remember that many commercial growers of Orchids are going for big oversize blooms so they are fertilizing a LOT. Your orchid bloom may not be as big the following year.  But your plant will be a lot healthier and last a lot longer  !


Tip on handling roots


Most orchid roots are covered in a spongy material called vellum.  It is usually white and shrinks when it dries out, then swells up when its watered.  Its an evolutionary adaptation to collecting water quickly from a rainstorm while hanging on a tree in no soil !

It is fragile, does not bend easily, and breaks quickly. Avoid handling them if you can ! A broken vellum can open up a path for disease to enter the roots.


For expert advise on phalaenopsis – or any indoor plant for that matter!

Contact Plant Specialists today!!!






Article written by our Staff Horticulturist, Peter B Morris, BSc, MSc, MBA

All photographs used with permission from our own customers !