Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis Orchid) Indoor Care and Propagation, Growing Problems with Solutions

Moth Orchid, Phalaenopsis Orchid

Botanical name: Phalaenopsis spp
Family: Orchidaceae
Subfamily: Epidendroideae
Tribe: Vandeae
Subtribe: Aeridinae
Common names: Moth Orchid, Phals


Phalaenopsis Orchid commonly called Moth Orchids or Phals are popular orchids which bear flat-faced, fragrant, long-lasting flowers on a stem that branches near the end.

The flower sepals and petals in Phals are all free and widely apart from each other. The petals are are much wider than the sepals.

The lip (lowermost petal) in Moth Orchids is significantly different from the other petals and has three lobes.

Several of these flat-faced flowers blooming along an arching stem look like moths in flight and hence the common name, 'moth orchid'.

Moth Orchids are monopodial; these are plants which grow from a single point, they add leaves to the apex each year and the stem grows longer accordingly.

Phalaenopsis Orchids have long-coarse roots and short, leafy stems hidden by overlapping leaf bases; they do not have pseudobulbs.

The leaves in Moth Orchids are dark-green on top with streaks of red or burgundy on the the undersides. They are usually arranged in two rows, relatively large and leathery, oblong and sometimes succulent.

The genus name, Phalaenopsis is derived from the Greek word phalaina meaning "a kind of moth" in reference to the moth-shaped flowers.

The genus name, Phalaenopsis is abbreviated as "Phal" in horticultural journals.


Many hybrids and cultivars of Phalaenopsis Orchids have been developed. Flowers are available in red, white, pink , yellow and purple and sometimes spotted and often with a contrasting lip and veins.


Phalaenopsis is a genus of orchids occurring in the wild from tropical to subtropical Asia with the majority in Indonesia and Philippines where they grow on trees.

Is Moth Orchid toxic?

Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis Orchid) are non-toxic to both humans and pets. They are safe to grow indoors.

Moth Orchid, Phalaenopsis Orchid

Phalaenopsis Orchid Care Indoors

Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis Orchid) blooms in bright, indirect light, warm and humid conditions and moderately moist, loose, rich, well-aerated soil coupled with regular feeding during the growing period.

Phalaenopsis Orchid requires regular pruning to keep them neat as well as encourage flowering. Repotting is needed only when they become pot-bound or the soil becomes completely broken down. Keep on reading for more on these growing conditions.

Light requirements

Moth Orchid grows best in bright, indirect light of about 10 hours per day. Keep it away from direct sunshine to avoid sun scorch on the leaves.

Regularly turn the pot to ensure that the Orchid receives adequate light on all sides for uniform growth.

A Moth Orchid that is receiving the right amount of light has dark-green leaves.

Yellowish leaves means that the Phalaenopsis Orchid is receiving too much light.

Phalaenopsis Orchid will also grow under a grow light where natural light is inadequate.


Water Moth Orchid thoroughly during the growing season and allow the top half of the soil to dry out between waterings to keep the soil moderately moist.

Decrease watering in the cold period as growth is minimal at this time to keep the soil slightly moist but do not let it dry out completely.

To take the guesswork out of watering a Phalaenopsis Orchid, check the roots. Whitish-green and plump roots indicate that the Orchid is well hydrated. Whitish-silvery, thin roots indicate the Orchid needs to be watered.

Use water that is at room temperature to avoid shocking this tropical plant as it can lead to reduced growth.

Phals are sensitive to chlorine and other chemicals dissolved in water, therefore, water with chlorine-free water only.

Avoid wetting the foliage as it can lead to fungal diseases. Water the orchid from the bottom instead. Should you wet the foliage, dry it by wiping with a dry soft cloth.

Phalaenopsis Orchids are less tolerant of dry soil conditions due to the absence of pseudobulbs, therefore, they cannot tolerate long periods of dryness.

Temperature and Humidity

The best temperatures for growing Moth Orchid indoors are between 10-290C. The warmer days and cooler night temperatures with a difference of 10-150C are ideal for Phals. The cool nights are essential to trigger flowering.

Ensure that there is good air circulation as Phals cannot tolerate hot and stuffy conditions which can cause disease infestations.

Keep the Phalaenopsis Orchid away from draughts to avoid sudden changes in temperature which can negatively affect the growth of the orchid

Moderate humidity is ideal for Moth Orchids. Where the air is too dry, set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier to up humidity.

Do not mist Phalaenopsis Orchids as misting encourages fungal disease infestations. Occasionally clean the leaves by damp-wiping with a soft cloth to get rid of dust as well as discourage pests and diseases.

Potting Medium

Use loose, free-draining, bark mix like this orchid potting mix available on Amazon to avoid getting soggy soil which can cause rotting of the Moth Orchid.


Feed Moth Orchid during the growing season with an orchid's fertilizer as per the manufacturer's instructions.

Do not feed Phals during the cold season as growth is minimal at this time. Do not feed an orchid that is in flower as it can shorten the flowering period.

It is better to err on the side of underfeeding than overfeeding a Moth Orchid as overfeeding can result in loss of the roots thus death of the orchid.

If you overfeed the Phalaenopsis Orchid, it can also lead to vegetative growth at the expense of flower production.


Repot Moth Orchid only when growth begins to suffer which is when the lower leaves begin to die as it blooms best when it is pot-bound.

Basically repotting a Moth Orchid every 2 years should be adequate. Repot it only when new growth begins, shortly after blooming is over.

Do not repot an orchid that is in flower as it may shorten the flowering season.

Use a pot with proper drainage holes or slits as the roots of a Moth Orchid need good air circulation.

The pot should be only 1 size larger than the current one. While repotting, remove all the soil from around the stems and roots.

Remove any dead and dying leaves from the bottom of the Moth Orchid as they are breeding ground for pests and diseases. Remove dead roots to create space for the growth of new roots.

Thereafter, water the orchid thoroughly and ensure that both the soil and the roots absorb all the water they need.


Pruning Moth Orchid is easy. Remove dead and diseased leaves to keep it neat and reduce pests and diseases. Cut them at the base with sharp scissors or a knife.

When flowering is over, cut the flower stalk 1 in. above the 3rd node from the bottom to encourage more flowering.


Phalaenopsis Orchids (Moth Orchids) propagation can be done at the beginning of the growing season from keikis.

The Phalaenopsis Orchids naturally produce "baby" orchids called "keiki" which normally appear on an old or new flower spike or at the base of the orchid.

Keikis are identical copies of the parent plant. Keiki growth can be triggered by prolonged exposure to high temperature during the final phase of spike growth.

How to propagate Moth Orchid from keikis

The keiki can be detached from the mother Moth Orchid when about one year old when it has developed 2-3 leaves and 1-3 in. long roots.

Pot the keiki in fresh potting medium. Direct the roots of the keiki downwards and provide support for the keiki.

Place the set up in a well-lit, warm place and mist the keiki regularly to maintain a humid enviroment.

The Phalaenopsis Orchid keiki may take 6-12 months to bloom.

Moth Orchid, Phalaenopsis Orchid

Phalaenopsis Orchid Problems

Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis Orchid) growing problems include black leaf tips, lack of blooms, mold, drooping leaves, leaf spots, discolored leaves, pests and diseases among others. Keep reading for more on these problems and how to fix them.

Lack of blooms

One possible reason for lack of blooms in Moth Orchid is too little light as it blooms best in bright, indirect light away from direct sunlight.

Place the orchid in a brighter spot and ensure it is receiving bright, indirect light or instal a grow light if the natural light is not adequate.

The second possible reason for lack of blooms in Phalaenopsis Orchid is overfeeding. Overfeeding can result in vegetative growth at the expense of flowers production.

Feed the Moth Orchid during the growing season with an orchid's fertilizer as per the manufacturer's instructions but do not feed during the cold season.


Common pests in Moth Orchids are Mealy Bugs, Scale Insects, Slugs and Snails. Isolate the affected orchid to prevent spread to other houseplants and treat it appropriately with Neem oil to get rid of the pests.

Mold on the leaves

Mold on the leaves in Moth Orchid is an indication of powdery mildew disease which is promoted by damp conditions coupled with poor air circulation.

Misting or wetting the foliage of the orchid can lead to mildew growth if the water does not evaporate quickly due to poor air circulation.

Improve ventilation to make sure that there is good air circulation for the orchid and stop misting it or wetting the foliage during watering.

Brown soft leaf spots

Brown soft leaf spots in Moth Orchid are an indication of a fungal disease. Remove the affected leaves immediately to prevent further spread.

Brown and hard dry leaf spots

Exposure of Moth Orchid to direct sunshine will result in scorch marks which are brown and hard dry spots on the leaves.

Move the Phalaenopsis Orchid to a shadier spot where it will receive bright, indirect light or protect it from hot direct sunshine.

Limpy and drooping leaves

Limpy and drooping leaves in Moth Orchid are caused by underwatering. Do not allow the soil to dry out completely.

Water the orchid liberally during the growing season while allowing the top half of the soil to dry out between waterings and maintain the soil moderately moist.

Cut down on watering in the cold period and keep the soil slightly moist but do not allow the soil to dry out completely.

Yellowish leaves

Yellowish leaves in Moth Orchid indicate that the orchid is getting too much light. Move the orchid to a shadier spot. The leaves of a Phalaenopsis Orchid that is receiving bright, indirect light should be dark-green.

Leaf tips turning black and dying

The cause of black leaf tips in Moth Orchid is the presence of chemicals like chlorine and flourides in the water or accumulation of salts in the soil.

Use chlorine-free water only to water the orchid and regularly flush out accumulated salts from the soil by running a stream of water through the soil for about 10 minutes until it comes out through the drainage holes.

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