Phalaenopsis - Orchids - Cultivation techniques and main species of the Phalaenopsis Orchid

Phalaenopsis - Orchids - Cultivation techniques and main species of the Phalaenopsis Orchid

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Cultivation techniques

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There Phalaenopsis, the most widespread and well-known orchid in the world is native to the East Indies, Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia.

Its name comes from the butterfly shape of the flower:phalaena "Butterfly" e opsis «Similar» given in 1752 by the botanist C. L. Blume a specimen found on the island of Java because it reminded him of tropical moths when they take off. TherePhalenopsis however, it had already been discovered several years earlier (in 1600) by G. E. Rumphius who described and drew it inHerbarium Amboinense giving it the name of Angraecum album majus published however only in 1750 about 50 years after his death.

TherePhalaenopsis it is a plant EPIPHITE or lithophyte (i.e. it also grows on rocks), with structure MONOPODIAL , as it develops along an axis with only one vegetative apex.

ThePhalenopsis they have 2-6 leaves large, fleshy and leathery of a very intense green color and in many species bright, arranged very close together. They can reach a width of up to 10 cm and be 50 cm long.

The leaves are essential for the life of the plant as they are the only organ of water storage, not possessing pseudobulbs.

The roots they are very numerous, large, branched and with thanks they adhere tenaciously to the substratum. In fact, when an orchid is transplanted, it is necessary to adopt a series of precautions and take extreme care to avoid damaging them (in this regard, read the article relating to re-potting).

THE flowers of the Phalaenopsis they are carried by stems that can be simple or branched, thin and rigid and of variable length.

The flowers are usually large with sepals almost equal to each other, very open and flat. The petals are usually larger than the sepals with a trilobed lip with the lateral lobes curved inwards.


The Phalaenopsis they love the heat. The optimal temperatures are between 23-24 ° C as the maximum temperature and 16-17 ° C as the minimum temperature. They can tolerate even higher temperatures, up to 35 ° C as long as they have good shading, excellent humidity and ventilation.

If the orchid grows well in the corner of the house where it is placed, do not be overcome by the temptation to take it outdoors when the warm season begins, leave it where it is.

They love airy environments but beware of drafts that are not welcome.

(For more information on the temperature requirements of orchids, consult the article: «Temperature and ventilation of orchids»).


There Phalaenopsis it needs abundant but not direct light. Among the different species it is certainly the one that needs the least amount of light: about 10,000 lux before flowering and about 15,000 lux for flowering. At home, these conditions can be achieved by placing the plant in an area of ​​the house facing south or east behind a not too heavy curtain that filters the direct rays of the sun.

The main cause of this plant's non-flowering is a lack of light.

(For more information on the light needs of the orchid, see the article: "Light needs of orchids").


They prefer to have constantly humid roots and therefore it is advisable to water them twice a week during the summer and once a week during the winter. Obviously the situations vary from case to case. Let's take an example: if the orchidPhalenopsis it is small and therefore it is found in a small pot, the substrate will tend to dry out very quickly and therefore in this case the wetting must be more frequent than a plant that is in a large pot. Another example is related to the type of substrate: if you use bark instead of osmunda, or if the plant is grown in rafts it will water more frequently.

It is advisable to water in the morning, to allow the leaves to be dry in the evening and be careful that the water does not stagnate between the interstices of the leaves.

In consideration of the fact that the leaves are fleshy, they can resist even short periods of drought but it is necessary not to abuse this characteristic as, as previously mentioned, they have no reserve organs and therefore it is not advisable to make them exhaust the reserves contained in the leaves.

In consideration of the fact that the optimal environment for this orchid must have a humidity of around 70%, it is necessary to organize to achieve this goal even if being able to simulate a corner of the rainforest is not always easy. To be able to get close to this, we can place the pot that contains the plant on a saucer (or other container) in which expanded clay or gravel is placed in which there will always be a little water. In this way the roots of thePhalenopsis they will not come into contact with water which evaporating will guarantee a humid microclimate. Another trick is to spray once a day, in the morning, the leaves with non-calcareous water, preferably demineralized.

It is good practice, for the health of all our plants, to equip the radiators with humidifiers to prevent the air in the room from becoming too dry.

We also remember that a lack of water causes a concentration in the substrate of the nutritional elements that you have gradually administered, becoming extremely harmful for the plant.

(For more information on orchid watering see the article: "Orchid watering and humidity").


Like all orchids since they are mostly found on an inert material, the nutritional elements must be provided with fertilization. TherePhalenopsis it must be fertilized every 15 days in spring, to favor the vegetative restart of the plant by administering a fertilizer that contains a greater quantity of nitrogen (N) and that is using the formula 30:10:10 (N: P: K) which means: 30 parts of nitrogen, 10 parts of phosphorus (P) and 10 parts of potassium (K).

In autumn, to favor flower induction, together with the change in temperature, it is necessary to administer a fertilizer with the formula 10:30:20, that is to say with a higher concentration of diphosphorus and potassium.

During other times of the year, the balanced formula 20:20:20 is used.

Fertilizers must be dissolved in irrigation water at the rate of 1 gr per liter of water. Wet the substrate well before proceeding with fertilization to avoid excessive salt concentration.

(For more information on orchid fertilization you can consult the article: "Orchid fertilization").


The repotting of the Phalenopsis it is normally performed at the vegetative restart in spring, when the new roots appear, respecting the integrity of the plant as much as possible. Never during flowering unless there are serious emergencies that require this intervention.

Before repotting it is really necessary to do a series of preliminary operations: carefully wet the substrate to make the roots more elastic to avoid breakage; clean up the roots of all attached material; remove dead or severely damaged roots using sharp blades (to avoid fraying of the tissues), clean and disinfect well with alcohol or bleach (to avoid the transmission of any parasites). Proceed with great caution and try to disturb the roots as little as possible. Each cut must then be treated with broad spectrum fungicidal powders available from a good nurseryman.

As a type of soil you can use either a ready-made soil for orchids easily available from a good nurseryman or use example of bark (or sphagnum or beech leaves) mixed with polystyrene to which you can add perlite or foam rubber that are used to maintain humidity. Whatever substrate you use, it is essential to ensure good drainage (the larger pieces should be placed on the bottom of the pot). It does not like stagnation of water, it is therefore appropriate that the substrate and the pot can favor the rapid draining of the watering water therefore make sure that the container you have chosen has an adequate number of drainage holes (otherwise equip yourself with suitable tools to increase them) .

After the orchid is repotted leave it away from direct sunlight, from sudden changes in temperature and do not water for about seven days to allow the cut parts to heal. After this period, start watering very gradually. When you realize that the root activity has returned to full capacity, resume feeding the fertilizer.

For what concern type of container I recommend that it be transparent plastic. This statement is dictated by some practical considerations: a transparent vase allows you to better keep the health of the roots under control; it allows to better evaluate the time of watering and also allows the roots to carry out a certain photosynthetic activity. As for the size of the vase, it must be slightly larger than the previous one.

Before its use, the container must be washed and disinfected with alcohol or bleach. It would also be advisable that, if you do not use gloves, your hands are also well cleaned before proceeding.

(For more information on the various types of soil and on the repotting of orchids, you can consult the article: "Type of substrate and repotting of orchids").


The Phalaenopsis, if they find the optimal conditions of light, humidity and temperature, they are very generous in flowering giving splendid flowering branches and can bloom even two-three times a year with very persistent blooms for several weeks.

The flowering of the Phalenopsis it occurs mainly in the winter months, usually from December to April even if there is no general rule as they are quite bizarre plants and do a little what they like.

For how to behave when the flowers have withered, there are several schools of thought. Many recommend cutting the entire stem, others cutting the second internode.

Personally I recommend leaving it to mother nature and not cutting the stem but letting it dry naturally. In fact they are orchids that have behaviors that are not always canonical.From that stem new lateral branches can arise, or it can flourish again as in the photo above where we have a splendid re-flowering, or a keiki (photo below) which is nothing more than a new phalenopsis plant which, once large enough, can be detached from the mother plant and repotted autonomously.


New stelofiorale

To stimulate the Phalaenopsis to flourish, you need to make them feel a slight thermal shock. In fact, a constant night temperature of about 16 ° C for a period of two weeks stimulates flower induction. Together with the change in temperature, also give a fertilizer with the formula 10:30:20, that is to say with a greater quantity of diphosphorus and potassium and make sure that the light is a little less intense than usual.

A new flower stem it is easily identified as the tip remains slightly sharper than a new root. The photo to the side is a new flower stem that is growing.

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Lephalenopsis are among the different species of orchids the most susceptible to diseases. It is therefore necessary to be particularly careful in the care of this plant. Please refer to the chapter: "Diseases and treatments of orchids".


The Phalenopsis they are orchids with a very protracted flowering over time and also cut flowers last a very long time (see article: «Why orchids last a long time also as cut flower»).


See: «Orchids - The language of flowers and plants».


Within the Red List of the IUNC 2009.02 we find listed only the species Phalaenopsis micholitzii (photo below) as CRITICALLY ENDANGERED (CR) that is to say as a species in very serious risk of extinction in nature.

P. micholitzii

It is a plant that is found only in the largest islands of the Philippines, Luzon and Mindanao, and due to the fact that the forests in which they live are degraded and without any protection from the state and their collection (intended for local trade and international) it is so indiscriminate and uncontrolled that if no action is taken, this species will soon be extinct.

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  1. Bonnar

    .. Seldom.. It is possible to tell, this exception :)

  2. Tomkin

    Bravo, another sentence and in time

  3. Shaktigar

    You have understood not everything.

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