Our easy orchid care tips will keep your phalaenopsis orchids looking healthy and gorgeous! Orchids are stunningly beautiful and easy to keep.
This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. See my full disclosure here.
What is a Phalaenopsis Orchid?
There are many different types of Orchids in the world, but this post is all about the Phalaenopsis Orchid. Also known as “moth orchids” because of their flower shape and name, Phalaenopsis orchids are very popular and relatively hardy.
Please note, I could write a hundred posts about Orchids and still not cover everything. This is a basic care guide to get you started off on the right foot with Phalaenopsis orchids.
Orchid Care Tips Start With Understanding Orchids in Nature
Orchids are unlike other plants, not only in beauty, but in their biology too. In their natural environment, orchids are epiphytes; found living in the crevices of trees or on other plants.
What on earth is an epiphyte, and why does it matter?
Epiphytes are a family of plants that grow on another plant, but not in a parasitic way. Orchids, air plants and bromeliads are some examples of types of epiphytes.
Orchid roots are exposed to the air, and not rooted in soil. Epiphytes absorb water and nutrients from the air. Some epiphytes can even absorb water through their leaves. This is important to understand as caring for an orchid’s roots is much different than caring for other plants.
Orchid Root Care, “Soil” and Pots
Because orchids are epiphytes, their potting requirements are different than other houseplants. When an orchid is purchased from the store, they are typically potted in either orchid bark or sphagnum moss. Orchids should never be potted in soil, as traditional soil will suffocate and kill the roots of the plant.
When purchased from the store, orchids are usually potted in a plastic pot or cup and then the cup is placed inside a pot. The plastic nursery pot should have many drainage holes, but we’ll get more into watering orchids in a little bit.
For a beginner orchid-keeper, I recommend starting off with a large Phalaenopsis orchid potted in orchid bark. Miniature Phalaenopsis orchids are adorable, and traditionally sold potted in sphagnum moss. Care for mini Phalaenopsis is very similiar to caring for their larger cousins, however closer attention needs to be paid to the smaller varieties to ensure their needs are met.
My Best Orchid Care Tip: A Clear Plastic Nursery Pot
This may sound silly, but the key to orchid success is in the root system. Using a clear plastic nursery pot allows us to be able to inspect the orchid’s roots.
Healthy orchid roots should be green or silvery in color, feel firm and are not mushy. When an orchid is hydrated, the roots will be green. As the orchid starts to dry out, it’s roots become more silvery colored.
There are many fancy orchid pots on the market and they are beautiful, but placing the clear plastic nursery pot inside of a decorative pot is the way to go.
Drainage is very important, because remember orchids are epiphytes. Orchid roots do not like to stay wet, and should never remain submerged in water.
Orchids are traditionally potted in “orchid bark” and bags of it are readily available at most garden centers. This bark consists of (… well, tree bark) along with charcoal, perlite, or coconut husk chips. Orchid potting medium is chunky and big, this allows the roots to breathe without suffocating.
All About Watering
If we picture wild orchids again, imagine orchids getting lightly rained on every day or so and then drying out before the next rainfall. Orchids don’t need to be watered too frequently, generally a little water every 10 -14 days is sufficient. Every household and environment is different, and you’ll have to practice a bit to get into a routine with your orchids.
Some orchids are sold with instructions for watering with ice cubes. While this is a great way to determine how much water to provide to your orchid, we have to remember that in nature Orchids would not have such an extremely cold temperature water on their delicate root system.
It’s best to water orchids with warm water, enough so water drains out of the bottom of the pot’s drainage holes. Wait until all of the excess water has been drained before putting the orchid’s nursery pot back into the decorate pot.
If the orchid’s leaves appear wrinkled, it’s generally a sign of dehydration and the orchid should be watered more frequently. Remember roots will turn a more silver color when they are getting dry. Bright green roots are freshly watered.
Orchid Care Tips About Lighting
Orchids thrive with indirect lighting, making them great additions to many areas of the home as they don’t require high amounts of light. For reference, our Orchids are about 3 feet away from an East facing window. These orchids get gentle morning sun, but are shielded from the sun’s harsh afternoon rays.
I break down different lighting situations for houseplants in our Houseplant Care: A Beginner’s Guide.
Orchids and Humidity
Humidity can often be intimidating when we talk about houseplants. Often plant-people worry about how to get enough humidity to their plants, so here are some different ways to achieve ultimate humidity!
Generally speaking, orchids prefer some extra humidity in their environment. Here’s how to increase the humidity near your plants:
- Add a humidifier: this is the simplest way to increase the humidity of your plant space.
- Use a humidity tray: these can easily be purchased or made. Place the orchid’s pot over the tray of pebbles and add water to the tray. As the water evaporates, it will provide extra humidity around the plant.
- Group plants together: a group of plants will increase the humidity of the air better than just a single plant by itself.
- Skip the misting: Many plant keepers mist their plants often, but I personally don’t believe this is very helpful. After lots of research and experimenting at home, I don’t believe misting plants provides sufficient humidity that makes it worth it for the plant(s).
Orchid Bloom Care
Those beautiful flower stalks are just plain stunning. Orchid flowers remain intact for quite some time, making Orchids true show-stoppers. Flower stalks should be staked to prevent them from falling over and breaking.
Once the flowers are spent, the stalk can be cut down at the base. Occasionally, the orchid will spike again soon but often not until the following year.
To “force” an orchid to bloom, decrease the night time temperatures about 10 degrees.
Orchid Care Tips In A Nutshell
- Use orchid bark or sphagnum moss as a potting medium, not soil.
- Water infrequently using warm water.
- Support heavy blooms with stakes.
- Provide ample indirect sunlight.
- Reduce night time temperatures about 10 degrees to encourage the orchid to re-bloom.
Much like other plants, orchids love being placed outdoors during the warmer months. Exercise caution as not to place the orchid in direct sunlight outdoors.
Pin It For Later
I am very lucky to be in a small community of fellow co-workers and plant lovers. The orchid photos shared in this post were sent to me by my colleagues and friends, who are orchid lovers too! A very special thank you to everyone who shared their stunning orchid pictures with me so that I could post them here!