Posted by: marinvit | June, 2009

Phalaenopsis Orchids

Nowadays, orchid blooms have become the most sought-after flowers and they are widely used for ornamental as well as commercial purposes. A common misconception about orchids is that they are difficult to grow as houseplants. Here are some tips to grow and care for the Phalaenopsis orchids, which are the most popular variety and comparatively less fussier to nurture.

Phalaenopsis_Orchids

Orchids are flowering plants, which belong to the family orchidaceae. It consists of 880 genera and almost 22,000 species. Phalaenopsis is one genus, which includes 60 species of orchids. These orchids are also called ‘moth orchids’, as their flowers resemble moths in flight. Phalaenopsis orchids are considered to be one of the most popular orchids, as they are easy to grow at home, as compared to their counterparts. Let us find out the methods to take care of a Phalaenopsis orchid.

General Characteristics
Phalaenopsis orchids are natives of southeast Asia, Philippines and Australia. These plants are usually found adhered to trees in deep forests or rocks. They have broad, flat succulent leaves and long arching stems with flowers. Usually, a plant has five to ten green leaves, and roots which are white in color. In some species, the stems are long with big round flowers.

There are species with short stems and flowers with flashy colors. Apart from these, there are a large number of hybrids, which are more adapted to the artificial conditions than their natural habitat. One important factor owing to the popularity of this orchid is that its flowers can last up to three months in artificial conditions. The flowering season starts in December and ends in May. Flowers of some species and hybrids last longer. Some varieties can bear flowers throughout the year.

Purchasing Tips
Phalaenopsis orchids are available in different sizes and forms. You can go in for potted ones, with or without flowers. Smaller versions without flowers are available at a cheap price. These can be in individual or community pots. Community pots contains more seedlings, which can flower within two years, if they are properly taken care of.

Seedlings of this plant are also available in flasks, in which the seeds are sown. Once they are brought outside the flask, the size of the plant depends upon the leaf span, which is the measurement from one leaf tip to the other in the opposite direction of a leaf. Normally, a plant with a leaf span of eight inches or above is considered as a flowering one, but some species can flower even when their leaf span is just four inches.

It is advisable to choose plants with firm (white or silvery) roots, and fleshy leaves without blemishes. A plant with more strong and live roots is good. It should be free of bugs and pests. Buying a plant with flowers is advantageous, as you will know the color and design of the flower, beforehand. Always go for plants with some buds along with flowers. The buds will help you to judge the lifespan of flowers. The spike should be strong and the flowers should be free of unnatural spots.

Lighting and Temperature Requirement
Phalaenopsis orchids need bright light to grow well, but direct sunlight is not advisable. You can go for artificial lights too. These lights should be kept one foot above the plant and should be lit for at least 12 to 16 hours daily. In case of a greenhouse, you should select a heavy shade cloth, especially for the summer season.

These orchids need a day temperature of 18-29 degree Celsius and a night temperature of 13-18 degree Celsius. During fall, the temperature should be maintained below 16 degree Celsius for three weeks continuously so as to initiate flower spike formation. Frequent fluctuations in temperature and humidity can cause the dropping of buds.

Humidity and Watering
50% to 80% relative humidity is perfect for Phalaenopsis orchids. If the humidity is lower, you can resort to misting, but it may sometimes lead to fungal diseases. The other remedy is to keep the plant in a bowl filled with gravel or pebbles, and partially filled with water. You need to make sure that the container in which the plant is potted is kept above water and does not touch it.

Watering these plants is important, and should be done very carefully. In the summer season, you can water the plant in every two to three days, whereas in winter, it should be done in every ten days (If the heater is working during winter, the humidity level will be lower). The best time for watering is noon, as the leaves will dry till night. Water clogging can lead to the decaying of leaves. Hence, it is best to water the plant in accordance with the season, while also considering the water requirement and medium (the most commonly used media are bark, perlite, stone, sphagnum moss, tree fern fiber, charcoal) used. Once watered, you should wait till the medium is semi-dry.

Fertilizers and Pesticides
Fertilizers should be used more frequently in summer, when the plant undergoes active growth. In winters, they should be used sparingly. Always water the plant thoroughly before fertilizing. A fertilizer with a balanced formula like NPK- (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium), (14-14-14) is good for these plants. A blooming plant formula with higher phosphorous levels is advisable during the flowering season. It is beneficial to refrain from fertilizing the plant during its flowering time.

Phalaenopsis orchids sometimes attract pests like mealybugs, mites, aphids, scale and slugs, which can be removed by smearing the leaves with soap water and then cleaning it with a soft cloth. You can even use a commercial pesticide.

Flowering Tips
The flowers of Phalaenopsis orchids usually last for up to three months. After the first flowering, you can try re-flowering by removing the whole stem. This may sometimes result in a new flowering spike, which may appear within nine months. This method is good if the old stem is brown. But, if it is green, you can cut the stem just above a node. Four to five inches of the stem should be left above that node. This can help the formation of a new spike in two to three weeks.

Repotting
Repotting can be done once in a year or in every two years. The best season for repotting is spring, i.e. after the flowering. It is done if the plant becomes unmanageable in a container, if the medium has disintegrated completely, or if the roots are rotting.

Take out the plant from the old container, remove the medium completely and trim the rotted roots. Place a new medium in a container of your choice, perhaps, a bigger one. Spread the roots of the plant over it and add the remaining medium to the pot to fill the gaps between the roots. No air pocket should be left in between the medium or the roots. The starting point of the stem should be kept slightly under the medium. Keep the plant in shade and water it after three days.

Growing orchids is not a difficult or fussy process. You can become a proud owner of these exotic plants with colorful blooms, with some extra effort. So go ahead, get a Phalaenopsis orchid of your choice and fill your life with colors and fragrance!


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