How do I take care of my Phalaenopsis for optimum reblooming and longevity?

Answer from Jay Balchan

The Phalaenopsis orchid is now the number one selling “pot plant” in the United States. You can find them in every grocery and home improvement store in a wide range of flower colors and patterns. The flowers can last up to 4 months with proper care, and you can easily grow and rebloom them. Here are the basics about caring for your Phal.

Watering: Watering is the most important area of care for your Phalaenopsis. Overwatering is the surest way to send your plant to orchid heaven. Avoid following the “ice cube a day” recommendation, which will keep your plant too wet. An ice cube a week is not enough. Instead, the best technique is to water your plant when it needs it. How do you determine that? Almost all Phals are potted in a clear liner pot which has been placed inside a decorative pot. Look at the roots in the bottom third of the liner pot. If they are deep green, not silver, then do not water the plant. If those roots are turning silver to match the color of the top roots, then it is time to water. Water by soaking the plant overnight in a cereal bowl in the sink. In the morning, all the roots will be a deep kelly green. You should likely water every 2 to 3 weeks.

Fertilizing: Phalaenopsis orchids are very light feeders. You can use a 1/4 tsp/gal treatment every other watering. Any balanced fertilizer is fine. Or you could sprinkle a very light dose (1/2 tsp) of time-release fertilizer 2x per year on the plant. Even if you go months without feeding, the plant will likely be fine.

Pest and diseases: Phals do not suffer from many diseases when grown in the home. If you see any critters on them, then use a solution of 1/2 water and 1/2 rubbing alcohol with a dash of soap thrown in. Spray every other day until all bugs are gone.

Repotting: Chances are your Phal is planted in sphagnum moss. That media will last 2 to 3 years without needing to be repotted. If the plant needs to be repotted, then use a bark-based orchid mix in a clay pot. You can find both at a home improvement store. Put some Styrofoam peanuts in the bottom 1/4 of the pot for drainage. Trim all dead roots away and firm the mix around the remaining live roots. Remember that clay pots will dry out faster than plastic pots so your watering frequency may need to be increased. Use the same cereal bowl soaking technique to water.

Reblooming: Phals need a 20-degree temperature drop to initiate a bloom spike. A plant placed directly next to a window often gets that in the winter. If your plant is not reblooming, however, try placing it outside under cover in the fall when the nights are in the upper 50s for 7 to 10 days. That should be enough for the plant to throw a bloom spike.

Flower duration: To maximize flower duration avoid places where your A/C can directly blow on the flowers. Avoid placing your plant next to ripening fruit. The flowers will ripen along with the fruit!

Best of luck with your Phal, and don’t throw it away after it has stopped blooming. It is easy to grow and can reward you year after year with new blooms!

Inspect the roots in the bottom third of the pot. If they are green, don’t water. If they are silver, it’s time to water. Overwatering is the surest way to send your Phalaenopsis to plant heaven.