Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Phalaenopsis - the Moth Orchid

Out of the 25,000 to 30,000 species of orchids

and over 100,000 hybrids and counting,

the Phalaenopsis, or Phal

is one of the easiest orchids for beginners to grow.

These lovely orchids, also known as moth orchids,

are the ones you are most likely to see

in the big box stores and the grocery stores.

Be aware, that the orchids you purchase there

will usually be unnamed varieties, though.

This does not make them inferior, per se,

although the true orchid enthusiast might turn

his or her nose up at such a creature.

This certainly does give one the opportunity to name

the lovely plant once it comes home

and graces the table or window sill.

Phals are epiphytes,

meaning that in their natural environment

they can be found growing high in the canopies of trees,

tucked comfortably in the crook a tree,

or lithopytes, meaning that they cling in crevices on rocks.

There, some debris will gather,

supplying nutrients and a bit of moisture.

Epiphytes are not parasitic plants

and do not harm the host plant.

They merely use the host plant as an anchor

and derive no nutrients from the host.

The orchid’s aerial roots, called velamen roots,

pull moisture from the air and

help anchor the plant to the host plant or rock.

Phals are monopodial.

They grow from one point and generally upright, like grasses.

The natural genus is made up of about 50 species

and originates in South-East Asia, Indonesia, India and Australia.

Hybrodizors have been busy with phals,

crossing them with Doritis orchids,

resulting in a slightly smaller orchid.

The label will identify such a cross as Dtps.

Phals and their hybrids come in almost every color but blue,

but even that color has been showing up in stores lately,

thanks to the clever use of a dye in the growing medium.

However, it is likely that subsequent blooms will

appear as the natural white once the blue dye has


Common growing mediums for orchids include

sphagnum moss and bark chips.

However, these dry out easily and in a drier environment,

a mixture might be preferred.

This is the mixture I use for my orchids

since my home environment is so dry:
•1 part potting mix and 2 parts bark chips
•Rock, clay pot fragments,

or packing peanuts may be put in the bottom of the pot for drainage.

If the environment is too dry,

then a humid micro-climate can be created

by placing the pot on a tray with rock in it.

Then water is poured in the tray,

but not so high that it touches the pot.
As the water evaporates,

it will create humidity for the plant.

Phals must be watered thoroughly and then allowed to dry

out completely before watering again.

Do not allow them to sit in water or they will rot.

They also need good air circulation

and bright, but indirect light.

And east-facing window is ideal.

And now that you know a bit more about Phals,

I will just let you enjoy the lovely flowers that we

fell in love with at the show.

But, you really should let one of these

"follow you home"

sometime from the store.

This beauty won Best of Show.

The judge pinned the ribbon on it as we were admiring it

and declaring that it was worthy of such an award.

Glad to see that the judges agreed with us!

Now admit it, you're beginning to get the orchid bug,

aren't you?

Next up, the Slipper Orchids.


Rosie Hawthorne said...

Beautiful. But I've already killed three of them. :(

Marilyn said...

The Master Gardener is in: after reading through this post, do you think you might have overwatered them or perhaps underwatered them? Usually when people kill orchids, they are overwatering them.

I am the exception of course. I tend to forget to water them and the poor dears think they have been transported to the Sahara.