Orchid Care

The most commonly available orchids, in the genus Phalaenopsis, are called moth orchids. Usually sold in bloom, the flowering time can be extended by keeping the plant cool and withholding fertilizer, which causes the flower buds to drop. Keep the plants out of direct sunlight at all times. Water only when the plant is nearly dry; the potting mix should be moist but not wet, meaning that 5 to 8 cm (2 to 3 in.) below the surface it should still be damp.

Air circulation can be improved by a small fan, and humidity can be increased by placing a pan of wet pebbles near (not beneath) the plants and misting the leaves (but not the flowers).

Once the flowers have finished, cut the flower stem down about halfway. Wait eight weeks – a new flower stem may emerge. If not, cut the old stem off at the base. This is a signal to the plant that it can resume leaf and root growth. Water with a mild solution of 20-20-20 every second watering. 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 nighttime temperatures by at least 6˚C (10˚F).

With more than 30 years experience in horticulture in B.C. – in wholesale, retail and at VanDusen Botanical Garden for a decade – Carolyn Jones brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to GardenWise and www.gardenwiseonline.ca as staff horticulturist.