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How to Care for Phalenopsis Orchids (Moth Orchids)

The most common orchid acquired by people is the Phalaenopsis orchid. Unfortunately, these are often discarded after the flowers fall off. With proper care, your orchid can flower multiple times a year!


  1. Image titled Care for Phalenopsis Orchids (Moth Orchids) Step 1
    Identify that you have a Phalaenopsis orchid (Phals for short). Different types of orchids have very different care.
    • Phals usually have 3-6 very broad, somewhat floppy leaves that alternate. The flower spike comes from between these leaves.
    • The flowers on phals can be any color, including white, pink, yellow, striped or splotched. Flowers are usually 2–4 inches (5.1–10.2 cm) in diameter and bloom on a spike that may be 12–18 inches (30.5–45.7 cm) in length.
    • There may be more than one spike on a large plant and it may have anywhere from 3-20 flowers. If you aren't sure you have a phal, check the internet for images.
  2. Image titled Care for Phalenopsis Orchids (Moth Orchids) Step 2
    Do not over water your phal! This is the number one cause of death and you may not even know you are doing it until one day the plant is dead.
    • Phals are epiphytic plants, meaning in the wild they attach themselves by their roots to a tree or rock and get their nutrients from detritus that accumulate around their roots.
    • This means that their roots aren't sitting in wet soil under natural conditions. Frequently, orchids from big box stores are either over watered or under watered. Over watered plants get root rot and eventually die b/c they can't absorb water.
    • Under watered plants have hard, brittle roots. Healthy roots should be thick, a silvery green with bright green tips.
    • It's a good idea to check the roots on a new phal when you bring it home. If all the roots are brown and squishy, trim them off and repot the plant.
    • Keep it on the dry side until you see new roots forming.
    • When you do water(typically once a week works well in most homes, but you should put your finger into the substrate to feel it before watering, if wet, hold off), allow water to run until it comes out of the holes in the pot.
    • Do not get water on or in between the leaves, as this can cause rot, which can kill the plant.
    • Generally, under watering is a lot less likely to kill a phal than over watering.
  3. Image titled Care for Phalenopsis Orchids (Moth Orchids) Step 3
    Pot your orchid correctly. Proper potting of the orchid will help keep you from over watering!
    • During this time, you may want to keep the orchid in a more humid area, like a bathroom (as long as it gets some light).
    • Phals can be potted in a variety of substances, but the most important is that the potting substrate allows the roots to get some air and drys relatively quickly.
    • This means never, ever use potting soil for houseplants on phals. One of the easiest thing to use is a bark mix for orchids.
    • To re-pot your plant, get a plastic or clay pot (plastic holds water better and you water less with one than clay-if you have tendency to over water, go with clay).
    • Go with a pot size that fits the roots the best, not the leaves. Smaller is always better, as it dries faster.
    • Position your flower in the middle of the pot and fill in the pot with the bark mix. As you fill, you should bang the pot against the floor to help settle the bark.
    • It helps to soak the bark beforehand in water. Pots should always have holes in the bottom to allow good drainage.
    • You can put a plastic pot with holes into a more decorative container if you want to and then just take it out when you water it.
    • Orchids don't like to have wet feet! Not all roots may fit in the pot and that is normal
      • (Phals have aerial roots, you can mist them with a spray bottle when you water the plant).
  4. Image titled Care for Phalenopsis Orchids (Moth Orchids) Step 4
    Do not put them in direct sunlight. Phals are a lower light orchid. They do not like to be in direct sun and this can burn their leaves easily.
    • Diffused light or early morning light in an east window works well.
    • Overhead lights in your house are probably not enough though, so you should keep it near a window where it gets some natural, diffused light.
    • Not enough light will keep the plant from re-flowering. If it's been 6 months since you've seen signs of a flower spike, try putting the plant in a little more light.
  5. Image titled Care for Phalenopsis Orchids (Moth Orchids) Step 5
    Keep your plant warm. Phals do not like to get too cold. Temps at night shouldn't get below about 62 degrees. Daytime temps in the mid 70's to 80's are good.
  6. Image titled Care for Phalenopsis Orchids (Moth Orchids) Step 6
    Don't forget to feed them. Phals need plant food at some point.
    • Once a month diluted in water works well.
    • You should use about half the recommended amount on the label and avoid food that use urea for the nitrogen, as it can burn the root tips.
    • A 10/10/10 or 20/20/20 formula works well. There are several formulas especially for orchids, but they are all pretty much the same.
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    If your first flower doesn't make it, try again! Starting with a healthy plant is easier than trying to revive one that wasn't cared for properly in the store. Look for a plant with big thick roots and nice shiny leaves that don't droop too much.


  • A good way to test whether your phal is getting the proper amount of light is to see what kind of shadow your hand makes in th area you keep the plant in. If the edges of your hand are very sharply defined, that is too much for a phal. If the edges are blurry, that's probably about right. If there is no shadow at all, your flower may not get enough light to bloom.
  • Phals usually bloom around the same time every year, so if you bought it while it was blooming, you can expect bloom at that time each year.
  • Flower spikes with no flowers left on them can be cut down to the base of the plant. If you cut them down to about 2 nodes from the base, sometimes they will re-bloom. If you plant isn't in good condition though, you should let it rest and not re-bloom it this way.
  • Once a spike starts to grow, it can take awhile before flowers show up, so be patient!
  • Some people like to pot in moss and many phals come potted in moss. If you know what you're doing, this can work very well for phals (allow the moss to get almost crunchy before rewetting it)- if not, it can be easy to over water a phal in this, so go with bark if you aren't sure.


  • Orchids are addictive! It's hard to stop with just one once you've had some success!

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Categories: Growing Flowers