The Moth Orchid is a perennial orchid that blooms from autumn to early spring. Phalaenopsis amabilis is scientifically classified as an epiphyte plant. An epiphyte is a plant that grows non-parasitically on another plant, such as a tree or other substrate. Instead of soil, it derives its moisture and nutrients from the air and rainfall. This orchid is often seen growing on trees and sometimes on rocks in the wild.
The flowers are usually white, growing in clumps of 3 to 5. They are also the main attraction, incredibly long-lasting in the right conditions. This plant is native to the East Indies and Australia. However, since it is a forgiving orchid, providing high returns on little investment, you can find it in every corner of the world, being grown as a decorative indoor houseplant.
- Phalaenopsis amabilis Main Characteristics
- Phalaenopsis amabilis Care
- Propagating Phalaenopsis amabilis
- Potting and Repotting Phalaenopsis amabilis
- Common Pests
- Common Problems
- Moth orchid care tips: how to keep your plant healthy and happy (Video)
Phalaenopsis amabilis Main Characteristics
|Common Name||Moon Orchid, Moth Orchid, Phalaenopsis Orchid|
|Botanical Name||Phalaenopsis amabilis|
|Synonyms||Epidendrum amabileCymbidium amabileSynadena amabilis|
|Native Range||East Indies, Australia|
|Mature Size||up to 4 feet|
|Bloom Time||April to December|
|Propagation methods||by cuttings, by offshoots|
Phalaenopsis amabilis Care
Moth Orchids are particularly suited for beginners. They are low maintenance and thrive in indoor environments, making them a perfect introduction to the fragrant world of plants. Here are the basics to consider when caring for one of these beauties.
Light and Location
Phalaenopsis amabilis is a beautiful tropical flower that can be cultivated indoors and outdoors, given the right conditions. Moth Orchid prefers bright, indirect sunlight or fluorescent light when grown indoors. Outdoors, it needs a shady location with dappled sunlight. It’s crucial this plant isn’t exposed to direct sunlight in the summer.
The plant should be watered regularly, about once a week, but it is important not to overwater it. Dip the entire pot into water and then drain it quickly. Repeat about four times in one watering session. This plant is usually planted in a bark mix, which doesn’t behave the same as soil, so it needs to be watered this way.
Overwatering can cause rot, while underwatering will cause the plant to shrivel up and die. As a general rule, wet all of the potting media thoroughly and discard any water not absorbed by the potting mix to avoid letting the water sit. You can tell if the plant has had its fill of water is by the aerial roots. If they are silver, it needs more water. If they are green, it doesn’t.
The ideal temperature range for the cultivation of Moth Orchid is between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (15–30°C). These temperatures need to be maintained throughout the year consistently. Try not to place the plant near radiators and air conditioners, as sudden temperature changes are detrimental.
The humidity requirements for this orchid are high. The plant needs a relative humidity of 60-80%. As a rule of thumb, warmer temperatures necessitate higher humidity.
Fertilizer is relatively straightforward. In the growing season, you want to feed the plant with diluted orchid fertilizer with every watering. Occasionally, water without feed to flush out the remnants of previous feeding sessions. Winter months are when you want to pump the breaks; little to no fertilizer depending on the plant condition.
One of the great things about Moth orchids is that they don’t require a lot of pruning. In fact, they only need pruning to encourage new growth. If your plant is growing well and has plenty of healthy flowers, you don’t need to do anything. However, once the flowers have died out, pruning becomes a necessity. Stems with dead flowers need to be cut off from just above the node to allow new shoots to form. If you suspect a stem is spent, cut it off from the base.
Propagating Phalaenopsis amabilis
The hard part of propagating Phalaenopsis amabilis is waiting for an appropriate offshoot to grow from one of the nodes of the flower stem. These offshoots or small plantlets are called “Keiki” and emerge from nodes naturally. You can also influence a node to produce these plantlets using specific hormones. Once you’ve located an appropriate plantlet with large enough roots (at least 2 cm), you can begin.
- Cut off the plantlet (Keiki) from the mother plant, making sure to include at least two leaves and the roots.
- Dip the cut end into rooting hormone.
- Insert the dipped end into a small container filled with moistened potting mix.
- Be stingy with the water but mist the leaves.
Potting and Repotting Phalaenopsis amabilis
The potting requirements for this plant are exact. It needs to be in a well-draining potting mix that resembles a substrate or a tree branch. These are epiphytic plants, which grow on other plants, usually trees. Most gardeners prefer to use bark mix as it has the right texture and is readily available. You should never use garden soil or potting soil from the store as your potting mix.
Moth Orchid should be repotted every 2-3 years using the same potting mix as initially used. Repotting is also needed when the bark mix in which you originally planted the plant has decomposed into fine grain-like soil. Take note that the flowers will die if you repot while the orchid is flowering. Therefore, unless you don’t care about the blooms at all, it’s best to wait for the growing season before proceeding.
- Remove the orchid from its current pot and clean off the old bark mix from the root system.
- Gently place the plant on a thin layer of bark mix in a pot.
- Fill in the empty spaces with more bark mix until it reaches the rim of the pot.
- Try not to leave space between the roots but don’t pack the potting mix in too tightly; the roots of these orchids like to breathe.
Moth orchids are non-toxic, making them a safe choice for homes with pets or children.
Phalaenopsis amabilis are generally pest-free. But occasionally, it can get infested with mealybugs, aphids, or spider mites. These pests can be difficult to eradicate once they become established, so it is essential to prevent them from becoming a problem. One way to do this is to inspect the plant regularly for the early signs. Then, if any pests are found, you can use horticultural oil or insecticidal soap to deal with the problem before it becomes a bigger issue.
Lack of flowers
Moving the orchid to a slightly cooler location should do the trick if all other care needs are met (temperature, water, fertilizer, etc.). Maintain slightly lower temperatures for about a month to see results. If no new flowers emerge, revisit the care requirements and make adjustments.
If you give the plant too much water, or if the potting mix isn’t well-drained, overwatering could cause the roots to rot. On the flip side, if the roots don’t get enough water, the plant will quickly shrivel up and die. Maintaining the proper balance is key. Once you figure out the right amount of water needed for the plant, the rest is easy.
Change in Leaf Color
Older leaves become yellow naturally; it’s a sign that their lifespan is at its end. If younger leaves become yellow, they’re probably getting too much sun and need to be moved somewhere shadier. But underfeeding can also cause this. If leaves are becoming darker, it’s a sign of too little sunlight. Move it to a brighter location.
Moth orchid care tips: how to keep your plant healthy and happy (Video)
How to water a Moth orchid?
Phalaenopsis amabilis should be watered by submerging the pot in a water container and then allowing the pot to drain. Repeat this process until the water drains out of the pot completely. Do not allow the plant to sit in water, as this can cause root rot. Check the condition of the aerial roots to determine if the plant needs more water or not. For example, silver aerial roots indicate that the plant needs more water, while green aerial roots mean that the plant does not need more water at this time.
How to repot a Moth orchid?
1. Remove the orchid from the current pot.
2. Clean off old bark mix from the root system.
3. Place the plant on a layer of bark mix in a new pot.
4. Fill the rest of the pot with more bark mix until it reaches the rim of the pot.
5. Leave the roots above the rim uncovered and exposed to the air.