Who can resist the temptation of buying a beautiful Phalaenopsis orchid or giving one as a gift to a fellow plant lover? However, when they have finished flowering, these plants are often cast aside or left to perish. Cobus Coetzee, horticulturist at Woolworths, explains how best to care for these plants and get them to bloom again and again...
1 [GROWING MEDIUM AND WATER]
Since Phalaenopsis orchids are air plants, their roots should never lie in water. If you give them too much water, they will die. These orchids can be grown in bark or Sphagnum moss (also known as peat moss).
A plant growing in moss looks beautiful in a glass container - the moss keeps it in position while the roots are still visible.
Plants that grow in bark drain better and need a little more water. Give them 100ml of water a week in summer and every two weeks in winter. Orchids growing in Sphagnum moss need less water as this growing medium doesn't drain as well as bark so the roots rot more easily. Give them goml of water every week in winter every second week). The growing medium should be fairly dry before you wet it, but it should never dry out completely.
You can also immerse the plant in its plastic pot in water for a minute or two. Do this once a week in summer for plants growing in bark and every two weeks in winter. For orchids in Sphagnum moss this is only necessary every two weeks, and only if the moss is fairly dry. Make sure the water drains completely before placing the plastic pot back in its pretty container.
The easiest and safest way to water orchids is with ice cubes. An ice cube contains about 25ml of water. Place them at the base of the plant on top of the bark or moss (see photo right). With ice cubes, the plants should get the same amount of water and just as often as mentioned above (.e. 4 or 2 cubes on bark and moss respectively).
Phalaenopsis orchids are tropical plants that like filtered sun. They occur naturally in forests with high humidity where the temperature ranges between 16 and 35°C.
In order for the plants to perform at their best, you must try to create similar conditions at home. Place them in a warm room or on a windowsill that gets enough bright light and filtered sun, but remember: they should never stand in direct sunlight.
Direct sun will cause the leaves to get large yellow spots.
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