Taking Care of Your Phalaenopsis

Purple Orchids
Triple Orchid Delight

Looking for a new floral friend? It might be time to reconsider an orchid. Trust us – they’re lower maintenance than you might have heard. Beginning table top gardeners should consider beginning with a Phalaenopsis Orchid – pronounced fayl-eh-NOP-sis.  Phals are among the easiest to care for and will reward your attentions with several months of blooms.


6 Things to Know About Caring for Your Phalaenopsis Orchid


Where to place it…

Phalaenopsis Orchids originated in the jungles of South, Southeast, and East Asia. They naturally thrive in hot climates, but under a canopy of leafy shade.

1. Phals need light, but don’t like direct sunlight.

In order to keep your Phal comfy, keep it out of direct sunlight, but near a bright window.  Why? Direct sunlight is like the kiss-of-death for these delicate jungle plants. When exposed to high levels of light, the succulent like leaves can burn, or even scorch. Damage to the leaves will inhibit healthy growth by messing with how the plant takes in it’s nutrients.

2. Phals like to stay warm.

Phals can live in temperatures from roughly 59-86 degrees Fahrenheit. The plant generally puts out a new bloom spike in autumn and flowers through winter. If the temperature is irregular and fluctuates often (drafty windows, maybe) the plant may suffer bud drop – new blooms that fall off before opening.


What to give it…

3. Phals need water…sometimes

Phals are not very thirsty and enjoy humidity more than lots of water. A good rule of thumb is to only water your orchid when it’s potting mixture feels almost dry. Be very careful to avoid overwatering your plants as this can cause the roots to rot. The frequency of your Phal’s water needs will depend on the planting medium, the amount of light it gets and the temperature it is in. A couple things that will help you determine this :

– A bark potting material retains less water than a moss mixture.

– Heat will dry out your Phal faster than cooler temperatures.

–  The more light your Phal gets, the more quickly it will dry out.

It is also good to remember :

 – Hold the fancy waters – Phals want to drink tepid tap water.

 – Water your orchids in the morning.

 – Remove any excess water that remains on the leaves or crown (where the leaves met the stem) gently with cotton balls or a tissue – pat them dry gently to avoid rot which could kill your Phal.

– Drainage is really important to your orchid’s health. Standing water at the base of the plant has downright dastardly effects. Starbright Floral Design does our best to help you out by incorporating a drainage layer of river rocks into the bottom of our glass planters.

It will take a minute to perfect this. In the meantime, orchids generally need to be watered about once a week in the temperate months – more if it’s hot, less if it’s cold. After a couple waterings you should have the feel of when and how much your plant needs. And the very best rule of thumb – if you aren’t sure if it’s time to water, wait a day.

4. Phals like food…sometimes

Orchids aren’t big eaters either. When selecting a fertilizer, go for a balanced orchid mix. Then, when feeding your orchid, dilute the recommended amount by half. Phals don’t want or need a full dose of the mix and excess fertilizer can build up as solid salts in the potting mix. Feeding your orchid a diluted solution once a week or every two weeks is ok year-round. But make sure to water your plant with clean tap water at least once a month to help break up any buildup that has been left behind.  It is also ok to use a bloom booster in autumn to encourage flower growth.


What happens next…

5. Phals get sick too

If you begin to see streaks of white in the fleshy leaves of your Phal, that means your floral friend is stressed out – yeah, they get stressed too. These white streaks often indicate issues with watering or light. Black blisters are a little more ominous – if you see these, reduce watering to dry the plant and isolate the affected orchid to avoid spreading the pests to any other nearby orchids. Black honey mold  can also build up on the leaves. This mold is dull, black and mossy. It can be wiped off with water and a small amount of mild detergent and won’t leave lasting damage.

6. Phals need to be trimmed

After your Phalaenopsis has bloomed, if the leaves are strong and healthy – you can cut the stem above bottom two nodes. Nodes are the little brown lines on the stem below the bloom spike where the flowers are. This, coupled with cooler temperatures at night, will initiate and generally produce another bloom spike with flowers within eight to twelve weeks. If the leaves are not healthy, the stem down to the level of the leaves and the plant will bloom with larger flowers and a strong stem within a year.


And that’s it! That’s all you need to maintain a healthy orchid plant.


Don’t worry, if this sounds like a lot of work, Starbright Floral Design offers a special orchid service to help you have a healthy plant year-round.




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For the Orchid Enthusiast…

A double stemmed purple phaleonopsis orchid

Orchids give us so much majesty and beauty that they sometimes are intimidating and we feel that we cannot take proper care of them, or that we do not have a “green enough thumb” to be able to care for an orchid.  We shy away from the most majestic flowering plant simply because we do not feel competent or capable of caring for it.   Well for all the glory that orchids give, they do not ask for very much in return.  Here is a primer on orchids to help you over the initial fear…

FIRST – Come to Starbright (or any other reputable florist in your area) and purchase a Phaleonopsis orchid plant.  They come in a variety of colors but the most basic white or pink will do.  Remember that you are not buying this orchid as an expert or as a connoisseur, but rather as a novice trying to learn and to gain confidence that the plant can actually survive around YOU!

When you go home, place your orchid plant in a brightly lit room, but away from direct sunlight.  The orchid loves to bask in the sun but the more sun you give it the faster the blooms will open and eventually lose their petals.  You want a room that has sunlight but where the rays of the sun never hit directly on the plant.  Room temperature is fine.  In most cases if you are comfortable so is your plant.  This holds true for ANY plant (for the most part).   Also try to keep you plant away from sudden drafts.  A burst of cold air or hot air will certainly not help the orchid at all.

So far it is pretty simple, right?

Now make sure (at least for your first orchid) that you have a pot with good drainage.  Most orchids (phaleonopsis for certain) do not live in a swamp and if the water sits in the pot and does not drain, you are killing your plant.   So make sure that your pot allows excess moisture to escape.

Lastly – do not bother your plant.  The less you do for your orchid the more it will give back.  This is because there is not much that you can really do to care for the plant and in reality the plant requires very little care.  Water is about the only thing that it needs.

My advice to folks is instead of water; give your orchid ice cubes.  That is right – ICE CUBES.  Why?  Well for one, because when ice melts it becomes water.  It is a slow watering process because the ice melts slowly and it allows for the roots of the orchid to drink the water as opposed to the water running through the plant.  You also do not run the risk of the water ever building that swamp I mentioned earlier at the bottom of the pot.  So your orchid will get the water it needs and it will never be too much.  In most cases if the environment is not too hot or too dry, a handful of ice cubes a week will do.

Eventually the blooms on the plant will begin to wilt.  As they do, clip them off because they are unsightly.  As time goes on all the blooms will have opened and they will all have wilted. Eventually there will be nothing left but a bare stem.  Depending on what stage you had purchased your orchid in (how many blooms were open already, etc), this process should take no less than three weeks and in many cases an orchid will last over two months.

At the end of that period you should feel confident that orchids can in fact survive around you!  Hopefully you found enjoyment in caring for a live plant that gave beauty every day.  Now it is time to experiment!  No time to lose…

What do I do with that long stem that is bare and just sticking out of my pot?

Can I get my orchid to re-bloom?

What other orchid varieties are there?

What colors can I get?

Where do orchids come from?

There is a whole new world out there ready for you to explore!  It is a lot of fun and you can delve into it as much or as little as you want to.  Short of being a professional “orchidologist”, there are orchid clubs you can join, websites and books you can read from and there are even artists and photographers who have become known around the world simply because of their love for this magnificent plant.

You can go as far as you want to, or you can stay close to home.  Either way, it is a relaxing and enjoyable journey or hobby – depending on how you define it.

Here are two orchid websites that you should consider visiting:

The Orchid Board

American Orchid Society

I have found them to be informative and worthy of your interest.

Do you have a question? Send me a note at nic@starflor.com.  I will always be happy to hear from you and share some thoughts.  You can even visit our website (www.starflor.com) or call us at our store at 800-520-8999.  Reach out to us any way you would like to.  We will always be happy to hear from you and to help however we can.

A little bit about Starbright Floral Design – We are a full service florist located in the heart of New York City’s Historic Flower District (on 28th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues).  We are open every day and most evenings till 8PM (Sunday until 6PM).  We deliver all over the world and can help you in selecting your gift to fit any taste design or budget.

Starbright was voted on Citysearch.com as the Best Florist of New York City in 2009.  We are the most reviewed and highest rated florist in New York.

TheKnot.com has also rated us as The Best Florist in New York City to partner with for wedding and bridal Florals.

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