Many people think that orchids are really exotic, therefore they should be very difficult to maintain indoors. But actually, just the opposite is true. The moth orchid, or phalaenopsis, is much more easy to take care of indoors than most any other houseplant. They shouldn’t be placed in front of a window. They need bright light, but indirect, and never have the sun shine on them. They’re typically grown in a large chunk bark. The chunk bark gives the roots something to hold onto to hold them in the pot. It’s not really for nutrient or water holding capacity, like you would need for most plants.
Just once a week, hold them under the faucet, or use a pitcher to pour the water through it. It runs out the bottom, but that’s more than enough water year-round. You only need to water them one time a week. Keep it off the foliage. And a dilute houseplant fertilizer once a month is more than enough. Avoid using fertilizer in the winter – and just enjoy them!
As you can see here, they come in a variety of colors. We have the petite flowers like this yellow with the magenta veins, all the way up to the larger pure white flower on this one. The lime greens, which is a popular decorator color, and the purple tones are also available.
They’re typically grown in plastic pots – usually just to give the roots something to hold onto. But very often it’s advisable to take these out of the pot and put them into another pot. You might notice that these pots I have have holes in the side of the pot. That’s because that as they grow they attached to the leaves they’re up in the air in their native state on the tree branches. A solid pot isn’t necessary. These open pots simulate open air, and the container holds them in place and gives the roots something to hold onto. When the roots come out, it looks very decorative. Different hole patterns are available, and are simply for decoration. Just pick a color and hole pattern that you like, transplant the plant into it, and it will do really well. This one has been planted already, and we’ve added some decorative moss and a couple of little black Japanese type river stones. It’s just been added for a little visual interest. That changes the whole appearance of the pot as it’s dressed up for interior use as a decorator item.
The other thing to note, they bloom on these flower spikes. And they’ll typically bloom for six to eight months. If they finish blooming, it’s important to never cut the flower spike off. If you do, it may not rebloom, or you’ll have to give it special treatment to rebloom. But, if it’s devoid of flowers, you can cut it back about three to four joints up from the roots. Over time, it will send out new branches with new flowers. Sometimes you can keep them in bloom for several years.
They’re very easy to take care of. Just remember to water them once a week. Remember to never put them in full sun, and of course keep them out of drafts. We don’t want the door to open and blow cold winter air across them. Nor do we want an air conditioner or heating vent to blow on them. They’re very simple to grow. In fact, they’re now the number three selling potted blooming plant in the United States. It’s only behind poinsettias and chrysanthamums.
This feature story prepared with Alan Stevens, Kansas State University Research and Extension State Leader, Horticulture. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.