Phalaenopsis - Tips for Newbies

Phalaenopsis Orchid Care for Beginners

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Phalaenopsis Orchid Care for Beginners

When I first began growing orchids, I carefully followed the directions on the label. And, my orchids kept dying. It wasn’t until I learned more about orchid culture that I was able to properly care for them. And, I don’t mind telling you, that now my orchids look AMAZING!

I started out growing phalaenopsis orchids. The instruction to add a couple of ice cubes didn’t work for me – and my orchids died. I’ve since learned several things that have helped me. To help you avoid the same mistakes I did, here’s phalaenopsis orchid care for beginners:

pro tips for new orchid growers

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First, Phals Like Their Potting Mix Slightly Damp

Don’t let phalaenopsis orchids sit in water, but don’t let them dry out either. These orchids do not have water storage in the form of pseudobulbs and need water. The rule of thumb for moth orchids is to keep their potting mix barely moist.

To get a handle on watering orchids, begin by understanding the properties of the potting medium you are using.

Fir bark is a popular potting medium for 2 reasons. First, it is well-draining. Second, it is chunky and allows for air movement around the roots. Both of these elements are essential for healthy orchids. But, sometimes bark can too fast-draining for phalaenopsis orchids. Phals do not have any water storage. Hence, phals need damp, not soaking potting medium.

The next most popular potting medium for orchids is sphagnum moss – which is highly water retentive. This is great because it keeps orchids from getting dehydrated, but sphagnum moss can result in rotted, over-watered roots.

How to combine the best of both worlds so your phalaenopsis gets a lightly damp mix and lots of air flow in a fast-draining medium: Use fir bark based mix supplemented with a couple cubes of wool rock.

Second, Don’t Use Aerial Roots to Determine if Your Orchid Needs Water

Check the roots that are growing down into the mix. (I know, that sounds like a no-brainer). When I first started growing orchids, I kept looking at the aerial roots, because hey, they were easy to see, and I’d think, ooh those look dry – and I’d add a few ice cubes to the potting mix.

Don’t do what I did. Instead, look at the roots growing down in the potting medium. Lots of orchids come in a clear, plastic grower pot. These are wonderful because they allow you to look at the roots.

If your orchid is in an opaque pot that won’t let you see the roots, stick your finger or a wooden skewer down into the medium to check for dampness. You can also heft the pot if it feels heavy, the potting mix is wet. If the pot feels light, your orchid is ready for water. This method takes a bit of practice – but it is reliable.

Third, If You’re Growing an Orchid in Sphagnum Moss, Remove the Plastic Liner Pot

I know, I just recommended clear plastic pots and I still do. These pots give you a front-row seat to what’s going on with your orchid roots.

BUT, if your orchid is growing in 100% sphagnum moss, it may be retaining too much water. By removing the culture pot, the moss will dry out faster and won’t retain as much moisture, and will allow air to the orchid’s roots. It’s a win, win, win.

Fourth, You Don’t Have to Stake the Flower Stalks

When a new flower first stalk emerges, that’s the time to train the flower stalk to grow upward. If you wait too long, it is easy to snap the stalk in half.

I know, at the store all the orchid flower stalks are carefully staked so that the orchids can line up like good, little soldiers. This makes perfect sense for shipping orchids.

Now that your orchid is at home, the original flowers have faded, and, miracle of miracles, you see a new flower spike emerging and it is growing out at a 90-degree angle from the orchid. No worries. You can let the spike grow out naturally, or you can train it to grow upwards.

TIP: If you’ve waited too long to stake the flower stalk, all is not lost. Position the orchid near a window so the the new stalk is pointing away from the window. The stalk will then re-orient itself so that it grows toward the light source.

At any rate, you don’t have to worry about shipping thousands of orchids, so it doesn’t matter which direction the flower spike grows.

Orchids are Rewarding!

Whether growing your 1st, or your 101st orchid, these plants continue to brighten our days. No matter how experienced (or inexperienced) you are at cultivating orchids, there is still more to learn, and experiments to try.

Remember these 4 phalaenopsis orchid care for beginners tips and you’ll be well on your way to growing gorgeous moth orchids:

  1. Phalaenopsis orchids like their soil slightly damp.
  2. Don’t use aerial roots to determine if your orchid needs water.
  3. Orchids growing in sphagnum moss benefit from removing the liner pot.
  4. You won’t be penalized for not staking the flower stalk.

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the ONE email you'll open every week

Saturday mornings I send out an exclusive email sharing my best tips on how to grow healthy orchids.