In nature, orchids grow primarily in trees as epiphytes (air plants) or in the ground as terrestrials (earth plants).
Those from the trees tend to make the best houseplants, but because they are epiphytic, their needs for light, water, humidity,
growing medium, and fertilizer can be different in some ways from ordinary houseplants. However, "different" isn't
necessarily synonymous with difficult.
Success with orchids is this simple: Identify the exiting conditions in
your home, or conditions that are easy to modify, then select orchids that nature has outfitted to like living in these conditions.
Further, invest regularly in flowering orchids, and you will build a collection that blooms in all seasons.
The genus Phalaenopsis pronounced FAL-EN-OP-SIS, also commonly called the "Moth Orchid" is one of the most charming,
graceful, and beautiful of all orchids. The name Phalaenopsis is derived from the Greek words "Phalainia" meaning
moth, and "Opsis" meaning resembling, because of the similarity of its flowers to certain tropical moths. The 45
species of this genus are widely distributed throughout the Asiatic tropics, from India to the Philippines, however, the majority
and most magnificent come from Taiwan.
Mature plants will flower twice a year. The flower
spikes are tall and gracefully arched, and can carry as many as thirty blooms. Blooms can last as long as three months. When
the last remaining flowers begin to wilt, the flower spike may be cut just below the node where the first bloom appeared.
Usually a lower node will initiate a secondary spike within two to four weeks when this procedure is done, and within 90 to
120 days a new bloom will open on the secondary spike.
The cultural requirements of Phalaenopsis
is relatively simple, making them an ideal plant to grow in the house. The following is a brief summary of proven care methods
that can be very rewarding.
A minimum night temperature of 60F to 64F is required for optimum
growth, but temperatures as low as 55F will not harm the plant. Actually lowering the night temperature to 55F for a period
of three weeks will usually induce the plant to initiate a new flow stem. The day temperature should range between 75F and
85F, although temperatures as high as 95F for short periods of time will cause no harm, as long as proper humidity and air
movement are maintained.
Ventilation and Humidity
Good air circulation is essential for growth, particularly
during cloudy, damp weather. It also helps prevent bacterial and fungal diseases as well as flower spotting from botrytis.
Phalaenopsis enjoy a relative humidity of 60% to 70%.
Humidity can be added to the air surrounding the plant by placing
the pot in a shallow dish or tray containing pebbles and water. Keep the level of water just below the top level of the pebbles.
Never let water touch the bottom of the pot because capillary attraction will take place and cause water to be taken up in
the pot. This will cause a soaking condition and cause the roots to deteriorate and the plant to die.
Phalaenopsis do best with a light intensity of 1000 to 1400 foot-candles of very much the same light, as you would give
African Violets. They love the light, but not the Sun. Never put your Phalaenopsis in direct sunlight.
Always water early in the day so that your plant will dry by night. The frequency of watering will depend
on your local climatic conditions. Generally a 6" pot would be watered every 7 to 8 days, a 4" pot every 5 to 6
The soil should always be damp, not soaking wet, and should never be allowed to become completely dry. Feed
every other watering with a fertilizer high in Nitrogen, such as a 30-10-20, or a 27-8-16.
Phalaenopsis should be repotted at least every 18 months. Potting is usually done during the Spring or early Summer months
as the plants are in active growth the time of year and establish quite readily.
Fir bark is the most popular and
easiest media to use. For mature plants (6" and up) use the 1/4" to 5/8" grade, for smaller plants use the
1/8" to 1/4" grade. When repotting the new roots. Dust or seal cuts with a product recommended by your local nursery.
After repotting do not water until the following day to allow any damaged roots to heal and to avoid development of disease.
Plastic pots are best for potting because they maintain moisture longer and do not allow salt deposits to build up
as much as other types of pots.
Diseases and Pests
The main pests that bother Phalaenopsis are mealy bug,
scale, and slugs. Apply a good fungicide-bactericide monthly as preventive measure for disease. There are many products available
to control these pests at your local garden center.
Contaminated cutting tools, pots and stakes, can transmit viruses.
Be sure to sterilize cutting tools and stakes each time they are used. Wash used pots thoroughly can let dry for several days
before using again. Always keep your hands clean when handling plants as virus can easily spread that way. It is advantageous
in the long run to destroy plants with virus since they can be a direct source of infection to your entire collection.
These orchids are prized for the graceful shape of their leaves and delightful fragrance of the flowers. There are three main
Chinese Cymbidium species; Cym. ensifolium ,Cym. sinense and Cym. kanran makino. Cymbidium ensifolium is a smaller plant with
small, thick leaves that blooms in summer. Some of its varieties or forms, will flower three or more times during the summer
months. Cymbidium sinense is a slightly larger plant and always has dark green leaves. It flowers in winter. Both C. ensifolium
and C. sinense have variegated forms. The most common forms have a gold line on both sides of the leaves or have the variegation
running down the veins of the leaves.
Most of the Chinese Cymbidiums are found at 1000-meter
altitude forest. Growing temperature is the most critical factor in blooming Chinese cymbidiums. During the summer, Chinese
cymbidiums should be grown under 90-95% shade, with temperatures between 75F-85F. Higher temperatures may be maintained if
increased air movement is provided. Night temperatures in late summer and early fall (August to October) must be at least
50F-60F to initiate flower spikes. Optimum temperatures in winter are 45F-55F at night and 65-75F during the day. Most Chinese
cymbidiums can withstand light frost and survive, but this is not recommended, so do not allow the temperatures to drop below
40F. In mild climates they can be grown outside all year round.
Ventilation and Humidity
Good air circulation
is essential for growth, particularly during cloudy, damp weather. It also helps prevent bacterial and fungal diseases as
well as flower spotting from botrytis.
Humidity where Chinese Cymbidiums grow is usually high. For best results
keep the humidity at 40-60% during the winter. If it is possible higher humidity is recommended during the summer.
Shade more heavily during the summer months (about 95%) and increase the air movement. Keep about 90%
shade during the winter. The leaves should be a dark green color, not medium green or golden green.
Water and Feeding
The plants should be watered about every three days. In very dry climates, water about every two days. The plants
should remain slightly moist, but not wet. During summer, avoid watering during the hottest part of the day. Use a potting
medium that dries out quickly; like rock and tree fern fiber. Some sphagnum moss may be placed on top of the medium to keep
the plant moist but not too wet.
Feed your Chinese Cymbidiums every other week. We recommend a 15-15-30 fertilizer.
Increased phosphate may be provided during the summer months.
Chinese Cymbidiums have very
long roots, therefore deep containers are recommended. Slim deep pots are best as they restrict the roots. We have very nice
pots at reasonable priced. The medium we recommend was discussed previously under water; however, if tree fern fiber is not
available then you can use fir bark instead. Potting should be done about every two years, as the potting medium begins to
break down and salt deposited. Re-potting should be done in the spring after flowering. Select a container that will allow
for two to three years of growth before crowding the container. Carefully remove all the old potting medium from the roots.
If you wish to divide the plant maintain 2-3 bulbs, with leaves, in each division. Place the active growing bulb furthermost
from the side of the container. Spread the roots over a cone of the mix in the bottom of the container. Fill the remainder
of the container with mix, working the mix carefully around the roots while tapping the container firmly to seat the mix.
The rhizome should be about 1/2" to 1" below the surface of the medium. Supply limited amounts of water and keep
shades until new growth starts,
Diseases and Pests
The main pests that bother Chinese Cymbidiums are
mealy bug, scale, and slugs. Apply a good fungicide-bactericide monthly as preventive measure for disease. There are many
products available to control these pests at your local garden center.
Contaminated cutting tools, pots and stakes,
can transmit viruses. Be sure to sterilize cutting tools and stakes each time they are used. Wash used pots thoroughly can
let dry for several days before using again. Always keep your hands clean when handling plants as virus can easily spread
that way. It is advantageous in the long run to destroy plants with virus since they can be a direct source of infection to
your entire collection.