Apartment plants

Phalaenopsis Orchids

Phalaenopsis Orchids

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Phalaenopsis, in particular their hybrids, are the orchids that are most commonly found on the market. Their cultivation is very simple since they adapt very well to apartment life. With little care it is possible to keep them beautiful and see them flowering again, year after year, and also obtaining new plants.
The Orchids Phalaenopsis genus of about 15 species of evergreen, epiphytic orchids, originating in India. of Indonesia, of the Philippines of New Guinea and of northern Australia

Characteristics of phalaenopsis

Phalaenopsis are plants belonging to the Orchidiaceae family. They originate from tropical areas and in particular from the rainforests of South-East Asia and Oceania. These are epiphytic vegetables: this means that their roots do not sink into the ground, but cling to trunks or rocks. Water, instead, derives directly from rain or from atmospheric humidity. The environment in which they grow is in fact characterized by very high temperatures, frequent and abundant rainfall, but short, and by the strong presence of humidity in the air.
At one time they were plants intended only for lovers, but, given their beauty, in Asia, the USA, Germany and the Netherlands has long been studied to create interesting hybrids characterized by ease of cultivation and a wide range of colors and size.
The leaves, from 2 to 6, are large, shiny, thick and fleshy, of a lively green color. They are the only organ responsible for storing water, given the absence of pseudobulbs (which fulfill this task in other types of orchids). Generally they are about 10 cm wide and about 30 cm long, when ripe, but some types may even have up to 50 long ones. They overlap horizontally one to the other, opposite, with the collar at the center, from which the stems branch and then the stems.
The roots are fleshy, velvety and very numerous. The color is green from wet to become silvery as they dry.
There are about 60 species, whereas hybrids are more than 10000.
The name phalaenopsis literally means "that looks like a butterfly" was given to them by the botanist Karl von Blume in the early part of the 1800s.


They are on a short stem and are dense, broad, succulent from oblong-lanceolate to ribbon-like arranged in 2 rows.
long aerial roots stick to the sides of the vase or basket.

Family and gender
Height width Up to 60 cm / up to 30 cm
Maintenance simple
Need water Medium-low, demineralized water
Growth slow
Rusticitа Rustic (minimum temperature 10 ° C)
Exposure Very bright, no direct light
Purposes Plant for apartment, balcony or veranda
Composting Every 15 days
Substrate Various types of aggregates (bark, expanded clay, polystyrene, perlite)
Soil / air humidity Medium-high
Pests and diseases Aphids, snails, root and collar rots

The cultivation of these orchids is quite simple and, especially for hybrids, it is really within everyone's reach.

The inflorescences

Lateral, short or long, erect or pendulous, often ramified, they carry variable-shaped flowers, suitable in most species to be cut, as they are very durable.
How to make it flourish again?
Phalaenopsis tend to flower in winter, after a negative temperature change has occurred. To obtain the production of a new stem it is therefore important to place the plant during the night at a temperature of about 16 ° C for at least a week (but in some cases it can be pushed up to a month). At the same time a richer phosphorus and potassium fertilizer is administered.


Phalaenopsis Orchids are easy to grow in a hot and humid greenhouse; in the winter months they need warm and humid positions at a minimum temperature of 15 ° C. On hot days, from April to October, the greenhouse is shaded and shaded.


They are grown on portions of bark, with the rhizome wrapped in osmunda fiber or in baskets filled with a mixture of 2 parts of osmunda fiber and a part of sphagnum.
The soil for orchids that is generally found on the market is not suitable for the cultivation of phalaenopsis (unless it is found in specialized nurseries). These in fact want a very draining and practically inert material, capable of maintaining humidity, but without causing rottenness. It is commonly used what is called "bark" that is coniferous bark. We can take it in kind or buy the one in the bags. However, it is very important to avoid pests or rots, and also to make it softer and more permeable to liquids, sterilizing it by boiling it for a long time.
There are also other excellent alternatives: expanded clay, polystyrene, perlite, sphagnum, foam rubber. These last ones help to keep more humidity in case in our house it was almost always below 70%. Let us always remember, however, that the larger pieces (about 3-4 cm long) must always be on the bottom, while the smaller ones are upwards. In this way the drainage of the water will be favored and we will avoid the onset of rot.


During the growing period water is abundantly and a liquid fertilizer is administered every month. When the plants are at rest, from November to March, the compote is barely moist, it is not healthy to shade the greenhouse.
It is perhaps the most important aspect to keep our phalaenospsis healthy. They love humidity, but too frequent watering is the most frequent cause of their death. Wait for the roots to appear silvery before proceeding. The best method to rehydrate them is by immersion: we insert the jar in a container filled with water, so that the level reaches at least half. We wait about half an hour, we extract and let it drain very well. It can also be clearly irrigated from above. This method, however, rarely allows to homogeneously hydrate the entire substrate; furthermore there is the risk of wetting the collar area, where molds take root easily.
In addition to this, orchids always want a high level of environmental humidity, at least 70%. This allows the leaves to remain turgid. We can achieve this by vaporizing the leaves several times a day (avoiding the collar), using electric humidifiers or placing near trays full of expanded clay and water.
For all operations it is however very important to use only demineralized water. Too much limestone or other salts can, in the long run, obstruct the roots and the stomata of the leaves. The water for the iron is excellent; we can also collect rainwater (avoiding the first one after long periods of drought: it would be loaded with pollutants).


every 2-3 years, in March. It is advisable to repot the orchids every spring. You can, however, proceed at any time of the year, especially if you notice the appearance of root rot. It may also be a good idea to carry it out immediately after the purchase since very often retailers (especially supermarkets) put them in containers that are too small and with a poor quality substrate (then irrigating without criteria). In this way we can immediately monitor the conditions of the hypogeum apparatus and eventually remedy.
First proceed by wetting the substrate well: in this way the roots will become softer and will be able to be extracted without causing them damage (they are very fragile from dry). The entire substrate to which they are anchored comes off. Subsequently, with the scissors disinfected by flame or with bleach, all the portions that are dead or compromised are eliminated. It is put back in the jar (also disinfected). We add water to a product to prevent and treat rot (propamocarb or fosetil-aluminum). If desired we can mix half a teaspoon of cinnamon with the substrate, which is also excellent for preventing radical affections.
The best containers are the transparent plastic pots, with large drain holes in the bottom. They avoid excessive transpiration and allow monitoring of the state of the root system. Very interesting, however, is the creation of the so-called "rafts".


in May the tufts of the Phalaenopsis Orchids are divided and planted in the compote described above. The seedlings are kept in well-shaded positions and watered moderately, until new roots have formed; after this period the plants are transferred to less shaded areas and watered regularly.

Phalaenopsis Lueddemanniana

Originally from the Philippines.
15 cm tall drums.
The 5 cm wide flowers gathered in spikes up to 60 cm long bloom in May-June; they have yellowish tepals with red-brown transversal stripes and white labellum, with narrow side lobes and purple-amethyst central lobe, with lighter margins

Phalaenopsis rosea

sin. Phalaenopsis equestris: originally from the Philippines.
The bright green leaves, 20 cm long,
branched floriferous stem, up to 60 cm long.
The flowers, 4 cm wide, bloom at various times of the year, generally between February and October; they have white tepals, suffused with pink, labellum with side lobes light purple-pink, with darker stripes, and central pink-purple lobe, brown at the base.


Phalaenopsis to grow well, and above all to flower, need a lot of light. But this must never be direct. They grow very well in rooms with large windows possibly facing south, where the light is intense and arrives for many hours a day. To avoid leaf burns, however, it is recommended, especially from mid-spring to mid-autumn, to shield them with light colored curtains.


These orchids come from tropical rain forests. As a result they always require rather high temperatures. They begin to suffer already when they are less than 14 ° C and the first damage occurs when it falls below 10 ° C. The ideal climate is there when you stay between 20 and 27 ° C. The heat is generally not a problem, as long as the ambient humidity and air circulation are abundant.


Orchids live in a substrate practically devoid of any type of nutrient. Fertilization is therefore essential to achieve vigorous vegetative growth and the production of flower stems. Specific products must be purchased because they are free of elements (such as calcium and chlorine) which are very harmful to these plants.
Generally in the spring it is preferred to administer a high nitrogen titer. During the rest of the year a more balanced formulation is used, except for the arrival of autumn, when the contribution of phosphorus and potassium will be increased to induce (in conjunction with the useful temperature change) flower production.
They are almost all water-soluble formulations, to be administered after having soaked the roots well so that they do not cause "burns".

After flowering and propagation

Once the inflorescences have withered you can decide to keep the stem cleaning it from the corollas or to cut it at the base. In the first case the plant could produce new buds (generally smaller than the previous ones) and possibly keiki (new seedlings that can be detached and treated exactly like the mother), or let it dry.
In the second case there will be the production of a new stem from the lower part.

Phalaenopsis Orchids: Pests and diseases

The most frequent parasites are aphids: they are treated with specific insecticides.
Plants kept outdoors are easy prey for snails. Let's protect them by placing them up at night or using traps or specific products. Watch the Video

repotting March (all year in case of emergency rottenness)
Rest period, flowering induction From November to December
Nitrogen fertilization March April
Balanced fertilization April-October
Fertilization + phosphorus-potassium November December
Flowering January-February (but also in other periods, depending on the hybrid and temperatures)
Stem cutting From April to June