The Phalaenopsis orchid is undoubtedly one of the most popular orchids that we can keep as a houseplant. On the one hand, this is certainly due to the relatively low price and, on the other hand, to the fact that it is not as demanding in terms of care as other orchids. The moth or butterfly orchid, as this exotic plant is also called, is a prime example for orchid beginners. They are ideal as indoor plants, tolerate indoor air, like it warm and are not particularly demanding. If you see Phalaenopsis on the market, it is in the vast majority of cases hybrids. These plants are specially bred to cope with our indoor climate. The buds are very durable and getting the plants to bloom again is fairly easy.
Table of Contents
- Sogo ‘Fairyland’ – small-flowered variety, pink, white striped flowers, long lasting, elegant structure and extremely floriferous
- phal. Sogo ‘Tris’ – small-flowered variety, white with a little pink
- phal. Sogo ‘Twinkle’ – small flowered variety, pink with white
- Sogo ‘Anna’ – small-flowered variety, yellow with pink flowers, very showy
- phal. Taida ‘Salu’ – crimson flowers with white speckles, finest markings
- phal. ‘Little Emperor’ – color stable yellow variety
- ‘Confetti’ – white flower with irregular spotted cultivar of light purple tones
- ‘Spots’ – white flower with few bright pink spots, sometimes converging
- Hsin ‘Black Jack’ – white flower with numerous bright pink dots running into each other (cow spot orchid)
What to look out for when buying
Many of the butterfly orchids today come from Dutch production. In Germany, too, there are nurseries specializing in orchids. Most orchid lovers buy their favorites in florists, hardware stores, garden centers or even discounters. Good advice and quality are often not guaranteed. That’s why you have to pay attention to a few things before you take such a plant home with you.
- The leaves must all appear flawless. Leave plants with limp, damaged or diseased leaves.
- The same applies to visibly damaged roots or shriveled bulbs.
- If the plant substrate falls apart or the orchid wobbles in the pot, there is a high probability that the plant has been too wet for a long time.
- This is also indicated by algae growth on the inside of the pot or moss.
- At least half of the flowers should already be open. Excessively budding specimens often react with shedding of buds during the changeover.
- The temperatures in the salesroom must not be too low.
- Drafts are also harmful.
- Both also apply to transport home.
- Wrap the plant in several layers of paper!
- Especially with Phalaenopsis, the popular plastic packaging often leads to gray mold infestation. Orchids in these cases are better left standing.
The care of the butterfly orchid is not particularly demanding. She likes it light, warm and needs high humidity. The right pot is important. Plastic pots have proven themselves, if possible quite transparent. In this way, light also reaches the numerous aerial roots and they can also participate in photosynthesis. However, these pots also have a disadvantage, their low weight. Due to the flower spikes, which do not always grow straight up, it can happen that the stability dwindles and the whole pot tips over. It is therefore advisable to place the cachepot in a flat container (see air humidity). In any case, it is important that the orchid itself does not stand in the water. The plants don’t tolerate it. The roots rot quite quickly. Too much water is the leading cause of death in orchids. Large-flowered Phalaenopsis varieties need support for their panicles. Such orchid sticks in which the panicles are not tied but threaded are favorable.
In my experience, butterfly orchids do better when not overly coddled. The plants that were more likely to be forgotten flowered better than those that were nurtured and cared for. Even less than ideal locations produced more flowers than the “good” locations. What you always have to watch out for are pests. Often you already buy these. Mealybugs are particularly common. When buying and also at home, always keep an eye out for the little pests. They can spoil all the fun.
Phalaenopsis form small stems about 30 cm high with large leaves and numerous aerial roots. The flower spikes can reach a length of up to 100 cm. Healthy orchids can be recognized by their leaves and roots. The leaves should be green and smooth. Wrinkled leaves indicate too much moisture and thus root damage. Healthy roots are plump and have a green tip. Abundant roots are a sign of good care.
- Bright, but without direct midday sun
- Best west or east window
- South-facing windows are only suitable with shading. A curtain is usually sufficient.
- In summer temperatures between 18 and 25° C.
- Similar temperatures in winter, but often lower at night, around 16°C.
- Phalaenopsis like fresh air, but no draught.
- Orchids generally do not like smoky air. They are non-smoking plants!
High humidity is important, no matter where the plant is located. 50 percent or more is ideal.
- A place on the window sill, directly above the heater, means warm feet, but extremely dry air.
- Then it is better to use a room bowl. It is filled with expanded clay and water and the orchid pot (with cachepot) is placed in it. The water must be refilled regularly. This can increase the humidity by about 30 percent.
- Regular spraying with water also increases humidity. Use lime-free, soft and room-warm water!
- It is best to spray in the morning so that the plants do not go too wet at night (when temperatures drop)
- The leaf care product for orchids (from Compo) avoids lime stains on the leaves. It also strengthens the plant with nitrogen.
It is important to ventilate regularly! Otherwise rot threatens. Caution – temperature differences of 10 degrees and more often lead to leaf damage and bud drop.
As epiphytic plants, orchids, including butterfly orchids, need a particularly coarse and structurally stable plant substrate. Special orchid substrate is well suited. It’s commercially available. You can also get it directly from a breeder. Knowledgeable orchid lovers mix their own substrate. The finished soil is sufficient for beginners and all those who have neither space nor time.
Plant pots with an irrigation system?
These planters are often recommended for orchids. I swear by the Lechuzza planters and have housed almost all of my plants in them. But I can’t recommend it for orchids. But maybe I’m making the mistake. The plants are fine. They look great and are growing, but there are no more flowers. I’ve given some away and had the same problem. Well, I prefer to use the traditional plastic pots and transparent glass jars as a cachepot for the butterfly orchid (from Leonardo). Then it works with the flower too.
plant and repot
An orchid needs to be repotted regularly. However, this does not depend on the season as with other plants, but on the Phalaenopsis itself. When the plant substrate has decomposed or there is no room for a new shoot in the pot, it is time to repot.
- As soon as a new sweetheart appears, it should be repotted.
- Always plant in a good quality orchid substrate.
- Water vigorously again two to three days before repotting. Take the plant out of the plastic container.
- Shake off old substrate. It is replaced with fresh.
- The new plant substrate must be moistened before potting so that it holds together loosely but also falls apart easily.
- Always check plants for diseases and pests. Take countermeasures immediately.
- Remove damaged foliage. Also carefully cut off damaged, diseased or too long roots.
- The new vessel should be about 3 cm larger in diameter than the old one.
- Put some Styrofoam chunks in the pot for drainage.
- Plant the orchid and water well.
watering and fertilizing
Unlike other varieties, the substrate for butterfly orchids must not dry out completely. The plant doesn’t die right away, but the flowers or their formation get bad.
- Pour by finger test only. As long as the substrate is wet or cool to the touch, do not water!
- Use room temperature water for watering.
- Water should be soft and lime-free.
- Water plentifully, but be sure to let excess water run off!
- Fertilization is especially important for hybrids.
- Use fertilizer every third watering.
- Commercial orchid fertilizer in the specified concentration is sufficient.
- Adapt the fertilizer application to the growth rhythm, i.e. do not fertilize in the resting phase.
- In order to avoid salinization of the substrate, it should be flushed through every three months during the growth period!
There is not much to cut with the butterfly orchids. Older leaves die off. You let the sheet dry properly and then just carefully break it off. Withered flowers are cut off. This promotes the growth of a new flower panicle. If rotten spots are found on the roots, these are also carefully cut out. Then the plant needs new substrate.
- The higher the pruning of the stem is set, the higher the probability of a new shoot.
- Phalaenopsis like to sprout a new flower stalk from the very top bud. But then you have a very long, bare stalk. It doesn’t look very nice visually. That’s why you cut off the panicle above the second or third node from the bottom immediately after the flowers have faded.
Hibernation is not a problem. The plant can remain in a warm room, but also tolerates nighttime temperatures of up to 16° C. Many orchid friends advise overwintering the orchid in a cooler place. This is to encourage flowering. 5 to 10°C should be sufficient. However, the plant must then be dry, because at these temperatures and humidity, it quickly rots. I’ll try that once this winter. Lets see what happens.
The easiest way to propagate Phalaenopsis is by division. This is also a rejuvenation of the plant at the same time. The plants are carefully pulled apart. Don’t tear! Another possibility is the separation of children. However, these must first have properly formed roots before they are cut off together with a piece of the stem and planted separately. The bigger such a child, the better it survives after the separation. Kindel can be promoted with the so-called keiki paste. It is applied to a dormant eye of the inflorescence every few days. After a few weeks, a child should form there. I haven’t tried that yet.
diseases and pests
Most orchids, no matter what species, die because of wet feet. Plants can’t take that. They are sitters, the rainwater in their home can run off unhindered. Wet is deadly. Brown roots are a clear sign of too much water. Bacteria and fungi have an easy time of it.
- Bud drop – doesn’t have to be a disease. Often it is the adjustment after purchase, lack of water, root damage, lack of light, drafts, smoke in the air or ethylene, a gas emitted by ripe fruit.
- Leaves rot from the base – also too much moisture
- Curling or wrinkling of the leaves – accordion growth – too much moisture, too low humidity, mealybugs or spider mites
- Translucent Leaves – Bacterial infestation, enter through wounds and multiply very quickly
- Light green or yellowish leaves – lack of light, lack of nitrogen or pest infestation
Malware is annoying, but not a problem if you discover it early enough and take countermeasures quickly. Wiping or wiping often helps. Be careful with pesticides. One may only use funds that are also tolerated by orchids.
- Scale Insects – Wash off with a sponge and mild soap
- Mealybugs – like to hide under the leaves and the base of the bulbs
- Spider mite infestation – promoted by heat and low humidity
- Snails – Butterfly orchids kept in a greenhouse or outdoors in summer will attract snails like a magnet.
If you are enthusiastic about orchids, but cannot or do not want to put too much work and time into these beautiful flowering plants, butterfly orchids are just right for you. Even in less than ideal site conditions, these plants bloom for months. They are also quite good at stimulating new blooms. Care is fairly easy as long as you don’t make the mistake of overwatering. High humidity and a bright, warm location are important. Otherwise, the plants are not very demanding.