How to grow and care for Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis Orchid) Indoors

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Moth Orchid Care, Phalaenopsis Orchid Care

Botanical name: Phalaenopsis spp
Family: Orchidaceae
Subfamily: Epidendroideae
Tribe: Vandeae
Subtribe: Aeridinae

Moth Orchid Description

Moth Orchids also called Phals are popular indoor orchids that are easy to grow. They bear flat-faced, fragrant, long-lasting flowers on a stem that often branches near the end.

The flower sepals and petals in Moth Orchids 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.

Moth 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.

Moth Orchid Varieties

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

Moth Orchid Origin

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.

Moth Orchid Care, Phalaenopsis Orchid Care

Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis Orchid)

Moth Orchid Light requirements

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

Regularly turn the pot to ensure your Moth Orchid gets 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 your Moth Orchid is receiving too much light. Check out this guide on understanding light for houseplants.

How to Water Moth Orchid

Water Moth Orchid thoroughly during the growing season and allow the top half of the soil to dry out between waterings. Reduce watering for Moth Orchid during the cold season as growth is minimal at this time.

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

Water your Moth Orchid with water that is at room temperature to avoid shocking this tropical plant as it can lead to reduced growth.

Moth Orchid is sensitive to chlorine and other chemicals dissolved in water, therefore, water your Moth Orchid with chlorine-free water only.

Avoid wetting the foliage of your Moth Orchid 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.

Moth Orchids are less tolerant of dry soil conditions due to the absence of pseudobulbs, therefore they cannot tolerate long periods of dryness. Read more on how to water houseplants.


Temperature for Moth Orchid

The best temperatures for growing Moth Orchid indoors are between 10-290C.

Warmer days and cooler night temperatures with a difference of 10-150C are ideal for Moth Orchid. The cool nights are essential to trigger flowering.

Ensure there is good air circulation as your Moth Orchid cannot tolerate hot and stuffy conditions.

Protect your Moth Orchid from draughts to avoid sudden changes in temperature. Read more on understanding temperature for houseplants.

Humidity for Moth Orchid

Moderate humidity is ideal for Moth Orchid. Where the air is too dry, set the pot on a wet pebble tray to raise humidity for your Moth Orchid.

Do not mist the leaves of your Moth Orchids as it can lead to fungal diseases. Check out these techniques on how to raise raise humidity for houseplants.

Occasionally clean the leaves of your Moth Orchids by damp-wiping with a soft cloth. Read more on how to clean houseplants.

Fertilizer (Feeding) for Moth Orchid

Feed Moth Orchid every 2 weeks during the growing season with a weak solution of a balanced water-soluble fertilizer.

Withhold feeding for your Moth Orchid during the cold season as growth is minimal at this time. Do not feed an orchid that is in flower.

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

If you overfeed your Moth Orchid, it can also lead to vegetative growth at the expense of flower production. Read more on how to feed houseplants.

How to Repot Moth Orchid

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

Basically repotting your Moth Orchid every 2 years should be adequate.

Repot Moth Orchid 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 your Moth Orchid need good air circulation.

The pot for your Moth Orchid should be only 1 size larger than the previous one.

Use a loose, free-draining bark soil to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead to rotting.

While repotting your Moth Orchid, remove all the soil from around the stems and roots.

Remove any dead and dying leaves from the bottom of your Moth Orchid as they are breeding ground for pests and diseases.

Remove dead roots from your Moth Orchid to create space for the growth of new roots.

Water your Moth Orchid thoroughly and ensure that both the soil and the roots absorb all the water they need.

How to Prune Moth Orchid

Pruning Moth Orchid is easy. Remove dead and diseased leaves by cutting them at the base with sharp scissors or a knife.

When flowering is over for your Moth Orchid, cut the flower stalk 1 in. above the 3rd node from the bottom.

Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis Orchid) Propagation

Moth Orchid propagation can be done at the beginning of the growing season from keikis.

The Moth 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 Moth Orchid keiki in fresh potting medium. Direct the roots of the Moth Orchid keiki downwards and provide support for the keiki.

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

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

Moth Orchid Care, Phalaenopsis Orchid Care

Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis Orchid) Problems Indoors

Why does my Moth Orchid have mold on the leaves?

This is an indication of powdery mildew disease in your Moth Orchid.

Misting the leaves of your Moth Orchid may lead to mildew growth if the water does not evaporate quickly.

Ensure good air circulation for your Moth Orchid and stop misting it.

Why does my Moth Orchid have brown soft spots on the leaves?

Brown soft spots on Moth Orchid leaves are an indication of a fungal disease.

Remove the affected leaves of your Moth Orchid immediately to prevent further spread.

Why does my Moth Orchid have brown hard and dry spots on leaves?

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

Move your Moth Orchid to a shadier spot or protect it from hot direct sunshine.

Why are the leaves of my Moth Orchid limpy and drooping?

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

Water your Moth Orchid thoroughly, maintain the soil consistently moist and allow only the top half of the soil to dry out between waterings.

Why are the leaves of my Moth Orchid yellowish?

Yellowish leaves in Moth Orchid indicate that your orchid is getting too much light.

Move your Moth Orchid to a shadier spot. The leaves of a Moth Orchid that is receiving bright, indirect light should be dark-green.

Why are the leaf tips of my Moth Orchid 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 your Moth Orchid and 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.

Why is my Moth Orchid not blooming or flowering?

One possible reason why Moth Orchid is not blooming is too little light.

Move your Moth Orchid to a brighter spot and ensure it is receiving bright, indirect light.

Overfeeding your Moth Orchid can result in vegetative growth at the expense of flowers production.

Feed your Moth Orchid twice monthly with a weak solution of a balanced water-soluble fertilizer.

Moth Orchid pests

The common plant pests in Moth Orchids are Mealy Bugs, Scale Insects, Slugs and Snails.

Isolate the affected Moth Orchid to prevent spread to other houseplants and treat it appropriately for the pests.

Is Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis Orchid) toxic?

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

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