Learn how to care for a Phalaenopsis Orchid indoors.
The name “orchid” comes from the Greek word orkhis, and was named by an ancient Greek botanist named Theophrastos, who thought the orchid's roots resembled a part of the male anatomy. Orchids are epiphytic in their native habitat, growing on trees and rock formations, instead of directly in the ground. Species from the orchid family Orchidaceae can be found in almost every habitat around the world besides glaciers – but the most diverse types of orchids can be found in the tropics. These tropical orchids are known for their bright, showy flowers that come in many different colors. There are over 25,000 different orchid species around the world, and over triple that number in cultivars and hybrids.
The popular Phalaenopsis Orchid is one of the easiest varieties of orchids to grow as a houseplant, and is often called the beginner orchid due to its easy going nature, or the moth orchid due to the shape of its blooms. Native to India, China, and Southeast Asia – this orchid with leafy stems and long-lasting flowers does best a bright, warm, humid spot. Indoors, the Phalaenopsis will typically bloom about once a year, for up to three months. After a blooming cycle, the flowers will wilt and fall off. When this happens, don’t worry, your orchid is not dead – it’s just storing up energy to re-bloom again next season.
Thrives in bright, indirect light, but can tolerate medium, indirect light. Not suited to withstand harsh direct sunlight.
There are three different watering methods for Orchids that can be used as long as watering is only done when the potting medium is dry, about once every 1–2 weeks depending on the light levels provided. The methods are:
1. Placing 2–3 ice cubes in the surrounding potting medium.
2. Placing the orchid's pot under running water for a few minutes, allowing excess water to drain out.
3. Soaking the orchid in water for 30 minutes to one hour (just the pot with roots and potting medium, not the foliage).
Orchids do not like dry air, so be sure to keep humidity around the plant anywhere from 50–70%. During the fall or winter, you can help to boost humidity with a humidifier or wet pebble tray.
Average home temperature of 65°–75°F. They can tolerate as low as 55°F and as high as 85°F.
Smaller orchids are potted in either a coco plug or sphagnum moss. They can remain in this potting medium for 1-2 years, until their roots and leaves have outgrown the size of the pot and the orchid needs fresh nutrients and larger space. When repotting these orchids, you can pot them into bark media.
Larger orchids are potted in a bark media. Bark provides the proper airflow required to keep mature roots happy and healthy. Because orchids are epiphytes that grow on trees in their natural habitat, they need air to flow around their roots, and traditional potting mix just won't do. (If you gently dig into the bark media with your fingers, you might just spot the coco plug at the center of the pot – where the baby orchid was first potted!)
Learn how and when to repot your orchid into a bark media, or potting mix specially for epiphytic orchids, here.
Symptom: Drooping and wrinkling leaves
Symptom: Yellowing leaves
Cause: Overwatered, or too much sun
Symptom: Leaf scorch
Cause: Exposure to direct sunlight, or over-fertilizing
Keep growing your plant knowledge.
Want more tips? Sign up for our plant care newsletter and find out how to keep your plants healthy and happy.