How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Phalaenopsis Orchids

Thinking of adding a Phalaenopsis Orchid to your indoor or outdoor plant collection? These popular orchids can be a bit picky about their maintenance needs, but bloom profusely when properly cared for. In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss examines everything you need to know about this particular orchid species, including their maintenance and care.

phalaenopsis orchids

Contents

Some of the most common orchids grown indoors are Phalaenopsis orchids. This type of orchid blooms intensely in pink, white, purple, and many colors in between. But as with all types of orchids, they are a bit picky when it comes to their maintenance and care.

These popular flowers make excellent houseplants and prefer more humid environments when available. They make wonderful bathroom or kitchen houseplants. In more tropical and humid climates, they can be grown outdoors.

These popular plants are more than just a uniquely shaped flower. Let’s dive in a little deeper and take a look at everything you need to know about Phalaenopsis orchids and their care.

Phalaenopsis Orchids Overview

Phalaenopsis Orchids Overview
Plant Type Perennial Epiphytes and Lithophytes
Family Orchidaceae
Season Varies
Pests Aphids, Thrips, Scales
Exposure Moderate to Bright Indirect Light
Diseases Black Rot, Root Rot
Genus Phalaenopsis
Plant Spacing Individual Containers
Maintenance Moderate
Species 63 with 7 natural hybrids
Planting Depth Shallow
Soil Type Bark Mix
Native Area Southeast Asia, Indonesia
Height up to 2’ tall
Plant with Palms and Succulents
Hardiness Zone 10-12
Watering Needs Once Per Week
Attracts Pollinating Insects

About Phalaenopsis Orchids

Close-up of a blooming Phalaenopsis orchids in a greenhouse against a blurred background of a hanging black flowerpot. The flowers are large, flat, bright orange with darker red-orange veins and red-orange labellums.
Phalaenopsis orchids are native to Northern Australia and produce magnificent moth-like flowers.

Phalaenopsis orchids are native to Northern Australia, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, and the Philippines. The genus was established in 1825 by Dutch botanist Dr. Karl Lud-wig Blume.

The history of this orchid species is rich and extensive, dating back as far as 1750 when the earliest published account of a member of the genus was recorded as having been discovered on the island of Amboina and published by German born botanist Georg Eberhard Rumphius in the sixth volume of his series Herbarium Amboinense.

These graceful plants are one of the most common genera of orchids in terms of commercial availability. They are easy to find and commonly sold in grocery stores and among florists, as they are easy to care for and do quite well as houseplants.

Once considered delicate and elusive, as a result of hybridization and research, phalaenopsis orchids are now an important cut flower crop. Their hardy, long lasting flowers are a staple among growers, hobbyists, collectors, and novices alike.

Classification

There are 63 recognized species, and 7 natural hybrids in the phalaenopsis genus. Natural hybrids refer to hybrids of two or more species that occur naturally, without human intervention. Additionally, there are numerous man-made hybrid varieties of these pretty plants. They are classified as perennial, monopodial epiphytes or lithophytes.

Monopodial

Close-up of a Monopodial moth orchid against a blurred background in a sunny garden. The flowers are large, flat, pale purple with white edges. The flowers have three sepals, two large rounded petals and one dark pink labellum.
This type of orchid grows upwards, produce a lot of aerial roots, and have a climbing habit.

Monopodial refers to the vertical growth of the plant along a single, central rhizome. Where some types of orchids are sympodial, which means that they continue to reproduce horizontally, with each pseudobulb producing only one flower spike during the life of the plant, a monopodial orchid continuously grows upward. 

The flower spikes are produced from the rhizome, any number of times over the life of the plant. Monopodial orchids tend to produce more aerial roots than their sympodial cousins, and can have a climbing habit, rather than a running habit.

Epiphytes

Close-up of a Phalaenopsis orchid growing on a tree in a sunny garden. Large, flat, flowers with pure white sepals and petals. The flowers have white lips with rich purple centers.
Epiphytic orchids are air plants that grow well around trees and get moisture and nutrients from the air.

Epiphytic refers to the plants tendency to establish and grow around trees, essentially making them air plants. They derive nearly all of their moisture and nutrients from the air, rather than soil and decaying organic matter the way a terrestrial plant does.

Most Phalaenopsis orchids fall into this category, and this is the most common growth habit across the orchid family of plants in general.

Lithophytes

Close-up of blooming orchids on a green blurred background. The flowers are medium, white with bright pink-red labellums. The two large, rounded side petals are pinkish towards the center of the flower.
Lithophytic orchids are found mainly in the wild growing on rocks.

There are a handful of phalaenopsis orchids that fall into the category of lithophytes. Lithophytic refers to a plant’s habit of growing on rocks. Most of these species are uncommon as houseplants and are mainly found in the wild.

Phalaenopsis pulcherrima is an example of a lithophytic orchid. Found scattered about in much of tropical Asia, this species is threatened as a result of over collection for trade as well as habitat degradation.

Flower Formations

Close-up of blooming Phalaenopsis orchids on a blurred background. The flowers are large, flat, oval in shape, consist of three sepals, two rounded petals and a lower lip. Bright pink flowers with darker veins.
Phalaenopsis orchid flower consists of three sepals, two petals and a labellum.

Most Phalaenopsis species have similar flower formations, although the shape and sizes of the blooms vary greatly. A dorsal sepal stands upright at the top of the bloom, flanked by a larger, rounded petal to either side.

Two lateral sepals appear just behind and below these two large petals. The labellum, or lip, of the phalaenopsis orchid is complex and beautiful, and often appears in a different shade, variegation, or color altogether than the rest of the flower.

The labellum sits just below the column of the flower, which is the fingerlike structure that houses the reproductive system of the plant. This consists of an anther cap, which protects the pollinia, and stigmata surface.

The labellum acts as a landing platform for pollinators. In phalaenopsis orchids the labellum is made up of two side lobes, a mid-lobe, and a tendril, which in many cultivars resembles the mouth of a serpent. The labellum curves backward into a callus and throat, at which juncture it meets the column and anther cap.

Propagation

There are two ways to propagate orchids, the first is by division, and the second is by seed. One of these methods is significantly more effective and successful. The other is incredibly complex and requires at the least, a sterile environment, and ideally, a laboratory setting, to achieve.

By Division

A close-up of a bare-root Phalaenopsis orchid prepared to propagate by division and plant in new soil. The plant has long thick greenish roots and two rosettes of long dark green, oval leaves. A dark green spatula filled with soil mix lies next to a small pile of soil on a white table.
One of the most successful propagation methods for orchids is division.

Division is the easiest, most successful way to propagate orchids. This is universal across genera, and species. Phalaenopsis are monopodial orchids as I mentioned earlier, so in order to understand the process of division, let’s briefly discuss what that means,

All orchids have a rhizome, or central root/stem along which they grow. Some orchids reproduce horizontally (sympodial), where the rhizome runs sideways, and sends up individual pseudobulbs.

The pseudobulbs each produce one (unifoliate) or two (bifoliate) leaves, and either a single flower or a single flower spike with multiple flowers. When the flower spike drops, the pseudobulb is considered spent, and will never produce another bloom.

Phalaenopsis orchids do not fit into this category, as their central rhizome runs vertically up the center of the plant, and produces leaves, and flower spikes, continuously throughout its lifespan.

The plant has a root system at the bottom, where it takes in nutrients and water from the air around it, as well as producing aerial roots along the rhizome, which, in a potted orchid, will be the roots that are visible above the potting medium. In nature, these aerial roots act as anchors for the orchid by which it clings to the tree upon which it lives and grows.

To divide a monopodial orchid, using a clean, sharp blade or tool, slice through the rhizome in-between two sets of leaves. There should be at least two leaves left on each division in order for the division to be successful.

The bottom portion of the orchid can remain in its original container, where it will continue to produce upward growth from the area where it was cut.

The top portion of the orchid will, likewise, continue to grow from the top. This portion should be potted and tended to with a bit of extra care and attention, until it has formed a root system of its own. In this manner, you now have two orchids that are exactly alike, the offspring will be an exact replica of the parent plant.

From Seed

Close-up of growing phalaenopsis orchids seed pods against a blurred background. Seed pods are elongated, oval, yellowish-green in color, with brown spots and dry tips.
Orchid seeds are very tiny black specks that are very difficult to grow into a plant outside of their natural habitat.

Propagating orchids from seed is incredibly difficult, time consuming, and involved. Orchid seeds are very, very tiny. If you have ever opened a vanilla bean pod and scraped the inside to use for baking some delectable dessert, you have seen firsthand just how tiny orchid seeds are. That’s right, all those tiny black specks are the seeds of the vanilla orchid

The seeds are so small that they have no nutrient or energy reserves of their own. In their native environment, they attach themselves to other substances to utilize energy in order to germinate. These tiny seeds are highly susceptible to bacterial and fungal diseases.

This combination of factors makes orchid seed germination a very complex practice in cultivation outside of their natural habitat. If you love a challenge and are set on growing an orchid from seed, it can be done in one of two ways, symbiotically, or asymbiotically.

Symbiotic Germination
A plant scientist uses tools to separate spores from orchid pods in a sterile laboratory. He has special tweezers in his hands with which he holds an orchid pod and separates the seeds into a transparent jar. In the background there are 4 jars filled with spores.
This type of germination is nearly impossible outside of a sterile laboratory environment.

Symbiotic germination is the process by which an orchid seed attaches itself to mycorrhizal fungi. The fungi have the ability to absorb the nutrients that the orchid seeds need to create photosynthesis and make use of them for their own growth.

It is nearly impossible to recreate this process outside of a sterile, controlled laboratory environment. Since most hobby gardeners do not have a sterile laboratory available to them, I will stop here, and not bore you with the details of this process.

Asymbiotic Germination
Asymbiotic Germination. Close-up of a glass bottle in which orchid seeds sprout. Small green sprouts grow and form small long green leaves and pale green roots. The bottle lies on a wooden stand.
This type of germination can be recreated using the glass bulb flaking method.

Asymbiotic germination, while it is not as simple as division, can be achieved by most determined gardeners with the patience and precision to carry out this rather lengthy process. I will say this, the process is painstakingly long, so if you are hoping to have an orchid baby that blooms within the next few years, you may as well skip this section.

The most commonly used method of asymbiotic germination is known as flasking. Flasking is, essentially, the in vitro fertilization of orchid propagation.

Without the symbiotic relationship that orchid seeds have with fungi in nature, they have no energy available to them to cause germination and help them grow. Because this process is so difficult to replicate, this flasking method is a way to achieve a similar effect in a controlled environment.

During this process, the orchid seed is germinated inside of a glass flask using a nutrient rich substance. This substance is bioavailable to the seeds and allows the seeds to germinate inside of the flask. As I mentioned this is a long-term project.

The seeds will need to remain in the flask for up to 2 years in some instances, and then will take several more years before you have a mature plant that is able to produce flowers.

Growing Phalaenopsis Orchids

Growing orchids is quite easy if you live in the right climate. Orchids thrive outdoors in zones 10-12 and can live outside almost all year in zone 9 as well. In these climates, growing orchids is as easy as placing them in a spot with bright, filtered light and watering them once a week, maybe twice a week in the hotter months.

If you live outside of these zones, you will have to bring your orchids indoors for at least part of the year. Growing orchids indoors is slightly more complicated, but it can be done successfully if you create the right environment.

Soil

Close-up of female hands in bright green gloves pouring orchid substrate into a translucent plastic purple flower pot using a grey-green spatula on a white table in the garden. A soil substrate for orchids is scattered on a white table. On the table, there are a blue watering can, an orchid plant, and a dark green pot filled with potting soil. The woman is dressed in a striped white and black sweater.
Commercial orchid bark is an excellent medium for most orchids.

Orchids need a lot of air circulation around their roots. They are very susceptible to root rot, so it is important that their potting medium does not remain moist for very long. Standard potting mix will nearly always mean death for an orchid.

When you purchase a phalaenopsis orchid, it will very likely be packed into a small pot filled with sphagnum moss. This is great for the orchid while it is in bloom, as the flowers will need some extra moisture to sustain themselves.

However, this potting medium will hold too much moisture once the blooms fall, so you will want to repot the orchid once it has finished blooming. Avoid repotting any plant while it is in bloom, as this will almost certainly shorten the life of the flowers.

Commercial orchid bark is a great medium for most orchids. It is predominantly made from bark, perlite, charcoal or pumice and sometimes coconut husk.

All of these ingredients combine to make a loose medium that drains quickly and completely and does not hold moisture. Phalaenopsis orchids do like a bit more moisture than some other types of orchids, so it’s ok to mix some sphagnum moss in with your potting medium for these orchids.

Containers

Close-up of hanging wooden orchid baskets hanging in a sunny garden. Hanging baskets are large, square, wooden, consist of long flat boards superimposed on each other with holes.
The most suitable orchid pots are hanging wooden orchid baskets and terracotta orchid pots.

Specialty orchid pots are the best containers for orchids. There are a few different types of orchid pots that do a great job of containing an orchid without holding water, and thus, causing the roots to rot.

The first, and my personal favorite, are hanging wooden orchid baskets. These open weave baskets do a great job of mimicking the natural environment of an epiphytic orchid. They allow for maximum airflow and water drainage.

I do find that I have to water my orchids in this type of container more frequently, as they really do not hold any water at all. They can also be a bit messy indoors as they tend to drop any bits of potting medium that fit between the slats. But these baskets are perfect for orchids kept outdoors.

Terracotta orchid pots are wonderful as well. Terracotta naturally wicks water away from the roots, but it retains moisture better than wooden baskets, so you don’t have to water as often. These typically look like a run of the mill terracotta pot, but have more drainage holes, on the sides as well as the bottom.

You will find similar ceramic, glazed pots in specialty stores. These work well, but don’t have the same wicking property as the terracotta. They are visually pleasing for indoor orchids though. Just be careful about pots with attached dishes. You never want to let an orchid’s roots sit in water.

Planting Depth

Close-up, top view, of female hands in gray gloves transplanting an orchid into a translucent plastic pot on a white wooden table. The plant has bare long roots, and 5 dark green, oval, elongated, leathery leaves. Nearby is an empty plastic pot with the remnants of the soil mixture.
When planting an orchid, it is recommended to cover the roots with a substrate to give it a chance to hold on.

Orchids really don’t need to be contained at all as long as they have enough humidity in the air and are not exposed to too much light. However, potting them makes care easier.

When potting an orchid, place the orchid in the pot so that the roots are completely contained, and then fill in around the roots with your potting medium. Depth is not important but covering the roots will help hold the plant in place and give it something to hold onto.

Light

Close-up of a blooming Phalaenopsis orchid on a windowsill against a blurred background. Tall peduncles form 6 flat, pale purple flowers, illuminated by sunlight. The flowers consist of three sepals, two large, rounded lateral petals, and one orange-tinged labellum.
Phalaenopsis orchids prefer to grow in indirect sunlight.

Phalaenopsis orchids are lower light orchids. Some orchids like a lot of bright light. Phalaenopsis needs bright light, but it needs to be filtered or indirect. Direct sunlight will burn the glossy leaves of this plant, and once they burn there is no bringing them back. Burned leaves tend to rot and will have to be removed or they will eventually lead to whole plant death.

Placing your phalaenopsis near a brightly lit window, but not in the direct sun, is perfect. Another option is to use a sheer curtain to filter the light. Either of these options will keep your phalaenopsis orchid happy and help it to produce flowers. A phalaenopsis orchid will survive low light conditions, but it won’t flower without sufficient light.

Water

Close-up of a woman's hand with a green sprayer in her hands who are about to spray water on yellow-green orchids. The plant produces large, flat, oval, greenish flowers with a yellowish labellum. Many round green buds grow on a thick, green peduncle.
If your orchid is indoors, then water it once a week.

Orchids don’t like to stay wet in between waterings. The fastest way to kill an orchid is overwatering. Orchid roots are highly susceptible to bacteria and fungus, and when they sit in water for very long, they begin to deteriorate, which lets the bad guys in. Once an orchid’s roots begin to rot, it is a complicated and precarious process to bring it back to health.

Kept indoors, an orchid should only be watered once per week. It should be watered thoroughly and then allowed to drain completely and dry out between waterings. When an orchid is about to bloom, and while the flowers are present on the plant, their moisture needs to increase slightly, but care should still be taken to keep the roots from staying wet.

Outdoor orchids can tolerate more frequent watering. If kept outdoors in a pot with ample drainage, an orchid can be watered every few days, particularly if you live in a climate with lower humidity levels, or during times of little rainfall.

Climate and Temperature

Close-up of blooming Phalaenopsis orchids in a white decorative pot on a wooden table covered with a mint wicker round tablecloth. The flowers are small, flat, white with deep purple thin veins. The dorsal sepal stands upright at the top of the flower, surrounded by larger, rounded petals on either side. Immediately behind and below these two large petals, two lateral sepals appear. The lower petal is highly modified and forms a labellum.
Phalaenopsis orchids require high humidity from 55 to 75%.

The ideal temperature for a phalaenopsis orchid is between 65° and 80°, which is fairly tolerable for most humans. However, their ideal humidity level is between 55 and 75%, which is slightly higher than most people prefer to have in the home.

A sunny bathroom is a great place for an orchid to live. The humidity in bathrooms tends to be higher than other parts of the home. If you don’t have a bathroom with a window, or you have your heart set on keeping your orchid in a different room, make sure it gets enough light.

There are several ways to raise the humidity around your orchid. Using a humidifier works best, but a daily, light misting can be effective, and so can a dish of water placed beneath the orchid’s pot.

Fertilizing

Close-up of female hands in gloves pouring fertilizer for an orchid from a green bottle into a red cap. In the background, there are many potted orchids with large, long, dark green, leathery leaves. There is also a yellow plastic bottle in the foreground.
Fertilize your orchids with a balanced fertilizer once a week while they are in bloom.

Orchids should be fertilized regularly. Once per week while they are blooming, use a balanced fertilizer, a 10-10-10 standard fertilizer at half strength is great if you don’t feel like purchasing a fertilizer made specifically for orchids.

During their growing season, when not in bloom, once every two weeks is adequate, and off season, reduce to once every 3-4 weeks.

This means that when your orchid is in bloom, you should fertilize every time you water it. Once every few weeks, flush the potting mix with plain water to wash away any salt buildup on the root system.

Maintenance

Close-up of many blooming Phalaenopsis orchid flowers against a blurred background. The flowers are large, flat, oval, bright yellow in color, consisting of three sepals, two rounded petals and one dark pink labellum.
Make sure your orchid has the right environment to thrive.

If your orchid is potted in the right medium, and the correct type of pot, you are halfway to ideal maintenance. Making sure that your orchid gets the right balance of light, water and moisture is about all there is otherwise to handle, until it is time to repot it.

 A Phalaenopsis orchid doesn’t need repotting very often, as it will continue to grow upward and thus, it will not overflow the container. If you feel as though the orchid is looking pot bound, this is a great time to divide and repot, and now you have two beautiful orchids!

Pruning

Close-up of scissors cutting the dark green orchid leaf at the base of the plant. A plant with bare green-white roots is in an empty plastic pot.
Old dry orchid leaves need to be cut near the rhizome.

Orchids require little to no pruning. Once per year, your phalaenopsis orchid’s oldest pair of leaves will turn yellow, then brown. This is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about.

When you notice this happening, wait until the leaves begin to dry out before you remove them, as the older leaves provide water and nutrients to new growth. Using a clean, sharp tool, slice the leaves off close to the rhizome.

The only other time you will need to prune a healthy phalaenopsis orchid is after it has dropped blooms and has a bare flower spike. Pruning off the spent flower spike about an inch above the first node will redirect energy back to the plant, and sometimes, can result in a second spike forming, and an additional bloom, which is wonderful when it happens!

There are a number of popular varieties, many of which can be found easily at local plant stores and online. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular, with names and pictures of each!

‘Harlequin’

Close-up of Phalaenopsis aff. orchid flower. Harlequin gx on a blurred background. The flower consists of 5 large rounded white petals with intense dark purple spots and one modified petal forming a lip with a yellow tint.
‘Harlequin’ is a unique variety producing large white flowers with intense dark purple spots.
botanical-name botanical name Phalaenopsis aff. Harlequin gx
sun-requirements sun requirements Bright Indirect Light
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10-12

This unique variety is the result of a breeding mistake. In 1983 a grower in Taiwan cloned two spotted yellow orchids hoping to get a resulting orchid with more intense spots. They were successful and the resulting plant was named Golden Peoker.

Through a deformity, a plant occurred with overlapping spots that looked more like blotches. While this was not desired, it caught the attention of the American Orchid Society, who gave the plant an award of “Judges Commendation.”

The plant took off among breeders and one of the resulting plants was the Harlequin variety. This white orchid is covered in irregular purple blotches. The blotches are different on each flower that a single plant produces, with the first bloom that opens looking quite different from successive flowers on the same spike.

‘Strawberry Lemonade’

Close-up of a blooming Phalaenopsis Yu Pink Lemonade orchid on a gray background. The flower is large, flat, consists of three sepals and two petals, similar to each other, and one lower petal forms a lip. Petals and sepals are warm yellow with deep pink veins.
‘Strawberry Lemonade’ is a long-blooming orchid that is bright pink with a hint of yellow.
botanical-name botanical name Phalaenopsis Yu Pink Lemonade
sun-requirements sun requirements Medium Indirect Light
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10-12

This pretty phalaenopsis is a long bloomer, remaining in bloom for 3-5 months at a time! Pink Lemonade has large (4”) flowers in a bright pink, with a hint of yellow.

The back side of the petals and sepals are a rich, warm yellow that shows through the pink front side with deeper pink veining. The lip of this variety is striking. A deep reddish pink with just a hint of yellow speckling on the throat, the labellum of this orchid is a real standout.

This variety also comes in a dwarf size with paler yellow petals that have a whisper of pink toward the center and a pink and white labellum. Dwarf Phalaenopsis orchids are prized for their compact size and ease of care.

‘Jiuhbao Fairy’

Close-up of a Phalaenopsis Jiuhbao Fairy orchid flower against a blurred greenhouse background. The flower is large, flat, oval in shape, petals and sepals are bright orchid pink with dark purple markings along the edges and closer to the center of the flower. The lower petal is highly modified, forming a lip with a yellowish tint.
Jiuhbao Fairy is a delightful orchid that produces bright orchid pink flowers with deep purple markings.
botanical-name botanical name Phalaenopsis Jiuhbao Fairy
sun-requirements sun requirements Bright Indirect Light
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10-12

This orchid is a stunner. Once in a while I come across an orchid that I just can’t pass over and this fits that category. Another hybrid bred in Taiwan, ‘Jiuhbao Fairy’, has the most wonderful blooms. This highly sought after orchid can be difficult to find, but can be ordered online if you are willing to pay a premium.

The flowers are large and colorful. Petals and sepals are orchid pink with deep magenta markings that fade from speckles into a solid band just inside the margin of both the petals and sepals. The lip is somewhat less spectacular, yellow and inconspicuous, but those petals are a thing of dreams.

‘Holm’

Close-up of a blooming Phalaenopsis Mini Mark 'Holm' orchid against a blurred background. The flower is tiny and has three sepals and two creamy white petals with tiny orange freckles. The flower has a bright orange labellum with a yellow stripe.
‘Holm’ is a gorgeous orchid that blooms with tiny creamy white flowers with bright orange labellum.
botanical-name botanical name Phalaenopsis Mini Mark ‘Holm’
sun-requirements sun requirements Medium Indirect Light
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10-12

This sweet miniature phalaenopsis is a hybrid cross between P. Micro Nova and P. philippinensis. It is known for its long (3 months) and variable blooming time. This pretty orchid can bloom any time of year with the right care and conditions.

Holm features five uniform petals and sepals in a creamy white shade with tiny purple freckles. The column is pronounced and pure white. It is the lip that this variety is known for, though. The labellum is as large as the petals, and brilliant orange with a yellow streak down the center. This orchid is lightly fragrant as well, which is an added bonus!

‘Bellina’

Bellina is a stunning orchid that produces small purple flowers with pale green margins. The column and labellum are small in comparison, dark purple with yellow accents. Petals are dark pink with green edges.
‘Bellina’ is a stunning orchid that produces small purple flowers with pale green margins.
botanical-name botanical name Phalaenopsis bellina
sun-requirements sun requirements Bright Indirect Light
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10-12

This is a species rather than a variety, but it is spectacular, so it deserves a spot on the list. This small orchid is native to rainforests in Borneo where it grows in pendant-like clusters in tree canopies. It only produces 2 or 3 flowers at a time, but they are so beautiful, more would seem like too much beauty to stand.

The flowers are highly fragrant, which would be enough to sell me on this species. Their coloration is stunning though. Magenta in the center, they fade first to white and then pale green at the edges.

The tips of the five uniform petals and sepals are pointed and curve lightly forward. The column and labellum are small in comparison, and deep purple with yellow accents. A very inviting specimen for pollinators.

Pests and Diseases

Sadly, orchids are susceptible to quite a few pests and diseases because of their tender new growth, and vulnerability to overwatering.

The best way to avoid and mitigate pest and disease damage from wreaking havoc on your prized phalaenopsis is by using your powers of observation. When watering weekly, inspect your orchid’s leaves and flowers, as well as any visible roots, for damage or rot. Early intervention is imperative.

Aphids

Close-up of an orchid plant with dry flowers and a swarm of black aphids on a green blurred background. Aphids are soft-bodied insects with oval black bodies. There are also a few ants on the orchids.
The aphids feed on plant sap and leave a sticky secretion that can lead to rot.

An aphid’s favorite food is plant sap, and orchids have this in spades, particularly in their new and forming buds. When aphids attack a bud, they can completely destroy the flower and then your orchid won’t bloom at all. Aphids also leave behind honey dew, a sticky secretion which causes mold to grow on orchids which can lead to rot.

Aphids will also suck the life out of tender new growth, leaving an orchid stunted and shriveled. These little, green insects can decimate an orchid quickly.

They usually enter the home on infected plants, so be sure to inspect any new plants you purchase before introducing them into the home. If you see these little killers, isolate the plant, and treat with an insecticide until there is no trace of these little bugs.

Scales

Close-up of a scale on a white orchid petal. The scale is small, oval and flat, with a protective brown shell coating (scales).
When scales appear, the orchid must be transplanted and treated with neem oil.

Scales are the absolute worst enemy of plants. They reproduce very quickly and can take over and take down an orchid just as fast. They are usually introduced on new plants, so again, prevention is the best medicine.

Scales leave a white moldy mess behind and leave plants looking lifeless and wilted. If you end up with a case of scale, you must be vigilant about treating because of their rapid reproduction. Repotting the orchid is a must, dispose of old potting medium away from plants. Scale can be treated with neem oil or other natural insecticides. You are likely to have to treat it more than once.

Thrips

Close-up of three thrips on a green leaf. Thrips are tiny insect pests, oval oblong in shape, with fringed wings.
These insects are able to suck the juice from the plant, which will lead to the death of leaves and flowers.

This is another sap sucking insect that will drain your orchids of their precious fluids and cause foliage and flowers to shrivel and die. The danger of thrips is their size.

They are so tiny that they are difficult to detect until the damage is progressed. An orchid with thrips needs to be isolated and treated with an insecticide, either natural or chemical, so that the insects do not spread and infect other plants.

Black Rot

Close-up of black rot orchid leaves. The leaf is large, leathery, oval, dark green in color with a black rotting spot.
This fungal disease manifests itself in the form of black spots on the plant and can lead to death.

Black rot is a fungal disease that travels by water. It is typically introduced by bringing home an infected plant and allowing water to splash from one to another while watering.

Black rot is different from root rot. It shows up on new growth first and can cause young plants to die altogether. On older growth it will show up first as black spots and then swaths of black.

Keep your orchids off the ground, and trim off any affected tissue as soon as you notice these spots. Practicing good plant hygiene is the way to avoid this issue. Keeping your orchids in an area with good air circulation will help as well.

Root Rot

Close-up of white gloved hands showing rotten orchid roots on a white wooden surface. Orchid roots are brownish, thick, intertwined with the substrate. A soil substrate for orchids is scattered on the table and a yellow leaf of an orchid lies.
The first sign of root rot is drooping yellowing leaves.

This is, by far, the greatest killer of all types of orchids. Orchid’s roots are completely exposed in their natural environment, which means maximum air circulation. Orchid roots need to dry out completely on a regular basis, so when an orchid is potted incorrectly, or watered too often, the roots will begin to deteriorate, leaving them vulnerable to fungus and bacterial infection.

Root rot will show up first as mushy, dark brown roots, but if your orchid’s roots are rotting, they probably aren’t visible. The first signs above the roots will be droopy, yellowing leaves. Eventually, the leaves will turn brown and fall off. Once root rot is progressed there is very little that can be done to rescue a plant.

At the first sign of rot, an orchid needs to be repotted and treated with sulfur or another fungicide. Remove the orchid from its container and gently loosen any potting medium, taking care to keep the roots as intact as possible. Trim off any damaged tissue. Dust the roots with cinnamon, sulfur or other fungicidal agent and repot properly, with new potting mix. Water sparingly until the plant has recovered.

Final Thoughts

Phalaenopsis orchids are one of the easiest orchids to care for, they like a moderate amount of light and water, and they tolerate indoor temperatures very well. When potted and cared for properly, a phalaenopsis orchid will live for many years and can produce flowers more than once per year, unlike most types of orchids.

Orchids can be intimidating with their unique needs, but once you’ve got the hang of it, they are relatively easy to maintain and absolutely breathtaking when they bloom.

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