How do I care for a moth orchid?

(Question)

My local florist has just delivered an beautiful white moth orchid and I don’t know how to care for it – help?

(Answer)

Phalaenopsis which are commonly called Moth Orchids require a few things in order to thrive – see points below:

Light needs to be bright but can be somewhat diffused.  An east facing window ledge is ideal.

Humidity around the plant should be high especially in our Canadian winters when homes are heated.  Place a tray lined with stones under the orchid pot and then add water around the stones.  As the water evaporates, the orchid will make use of the moisture in the air.  Make sure that the orchid pot is not sitting in the water but is resting on the stones.

Good air circulation.  Phalaenopsis are epiphytic which means that they grow mainly on other plants such as the bark of tree branches so they don’t like to be crowded out by other plants.

Temperature during the summer is never an issue but here in Canada where window ledges can be quite cold, the orchid should be moved to a south facing warmer window ledge.  Temperatures that drop below 15 degrees C could be fatal to the plant.

Growing medium for the orchid needs to be either a loose, well drained bark mix, a slab of bark or a natural cork mix.  Many orchids are planted in a moss based mix which is not quite as good.

Watering should be done thoroughly with water that has been left to stand overnight.  Letting the plant pot stand in the water for a short period of time will help the bark mix get thoroughly moist.

Feeding with a fertilizer such as 10-10-30 should be done only when the orchid is actively growing and producing new leaves, which is usually in the spring.  Orchids are slow growing plants and therefore the fertilizer should be made up to half the manufacturer’s recommendations – half strength.

Following the above tips will help keep your orchid healthy and blooming.  These plants can be placed outside in the summer and benefit from brighter conditions in order to photosynthesize and store energy in order to put out new flower stalks.