Moth Orchids

Credit: Carolyn Jones

Among the easiest orchids for home gardeners to care for – and get to rebloom – are those in the genus Phalaenopsis, the moth orchids. Blooming moth orchids can tolerate low light and cool temperatures, which extend the flowering period. Mist the leaves (not the flowers) with room-temperature water. Keep plants out of direct sunlight. Don’t overwater: plants should be moist but not wet. Water with room-temperature water and increase ambient humidity by placing a pan of wet pebbles near (not beneath) the plants. When the flowers are finished, cut the flower stem down about halfway. Wait six to eight weeks – a new flower stem may emerge. If not, cut it off at the base. This encourages the orchid to commence growth. Water it with a mild solution of 20-20-20 every second watering. Do not fertilize blooming plants or the flower buds will drop. While plants are growing, warm daytime temperatures of 20° to 25°C (68° to 77°F) are required. The trick to getting moth orchids to bloom again is to reduce the nighttime temperatures by at least 5°C (10°F). The ideal position might be a south-facing room that warms up during the day but is unheated at night.