Grow Phalaenopsis hybrids & enjoy an easier life, surrounded by flowers!
I hold two National Collections of orchids – a National Collection of Miniature Aerangis and Angraecum Species and a National Collection of Miniature Phalaenopsis Species. I set up these collections to raise awareness of the dangers that these miniature orchid species (and other plants) are facing in the wild and to help conserve these fascinating plants.
I grow my species orchids inside a number of terrariums that I’ve crammed inside my small cottage. Many of the orchid species in my collections are challenging to grow and require seasonal weather changes, specific temperatures, high humidity levels, and specially tailored watering regimes to encourage the plants to really flourish. Not all of my species orchids flower every single year and when these wild orchids do flower, their flowering periods can last anywhere from a couple of days for the most fleeting of flowerers, to a couple of weeks or a month for the majority of species. I do also grow one or two species that will flower for up to a maximum of a couple of months – it all depends on the particular orchid species.
When I set up these National Collections, I wanted to raise awareness of the threats and dangers that these plants are facing in the wild and show the world the beauty of miniature Phalaenopsis, Aerangis, & Angraecum species, with the hope that others would want to protect these plants and realise the importance of plant conservation. I propagate the orchids in my collections to create new plants for botanical gardens and to conserve these species. I never intended to encourage everyone to grow all of the orchids from my collections – many of the plants that I grow are rare and are threatened in the wild – these orchid species desperately need our aid and protection. I am scared that the growing popularity of the plants I’ve written about will contribute to their downfall and that’s not what I want at all – I want to help save and protect plants – not harm them.
Use your plant buying power for good
We’re not always aware of how powerful we are both as individuals and as groups of people with a shared vision, or common aim. Through my writing, I try to remind us all of the power we hold with our spending – let’s use our power for good – by resisting the temptation to purchase rare species plants (orchid species = wild plants), we can curb and lessen the demand for that plant. In abstaining from purchasing rare species plants, we can give orchids greater protection and make it less likely that these orchids will experience over collection and be stolen from the wild. Customer demand focuses any market – sellers want to stock popular and saleable plants – if a plant doesn’t sell they’ll stop selling it – therefore by not purchasing a rare wild plant we can influence the demand for plant sales and create a more sustainable worldwide orchid market. Instead of purchasing Phalaenopsis species, why not invest in Phalaenopsis hybrids – plants grown in cultivation that have not been taken from the wild?
I’ve been contacted by readers who have ordered a number of the plants they’ve seen in my National Collections and were disappointed that they were unable to keep these orchids alive for long, or were frustrated that their plants haven’t bloomed, or felt saddened that their plants’ flowering periods were brief. This has made me feel very guilty and uncomfortable – I am sorry for anyone who hasn’t succeeded with their orchids and my heart goes out to the plants that have been lost. I’ve never intended to encourage anyone to grow rare species orchids. I recommend orchids that are easy to grow inside our homes and are sustainable.
Grow hybrid Phalaenopsis
I’ve got a suggestion, instead of purchasing species orchids that are more difficult to grow, why not grow hybrid Phalaenopsis? A vast range of Phalaenopsis hybrids are available; these plants are easy to find – we can buy Phalaenopsis in garden centres, supermarkets, and nurseries, as well as online. We can discover (and collect) new, old, or interesting hybrids. Fashions change and new advances in plant breeding mean that we now find different coloured Phalaenopsis hybrids for sale in the shops than were available previously. If owning a rare plant is an ambition of yours, it would be more environmentally friendly to cultivate a new or rare Phalaenopsis hybrid which is grown in cultivation and not taken from the wild. Large, medium, small, and miniatured sized Phalaenopsis hybrids are available. With so many varieties to choose from you could fill your house with Phalaenopsis – what a lovely thought!
Phalaenopsis plants grown in the UK at Double H Nurseries – available from Love Orchids online!
All of the plants that you can see pictured here (except Phalaenopsis ‘Purple Princess’ – a birthday gift from two of my best friends, and the plants in the photograph I took at Kew) in this post were sent to me by Love Orchids – a lovely online orchid shop, based in the UK. My plants were carefully packaged and arrived safely via courier this winter; these Phalaenopsis hybrids have been a wonderful feature in my home over the past few months.
Love Orchids sell Phalaenopsis orchids grown by Double H Nurseries in New Milton, in the South of England. Double H are growers of a wide range of Phalaenopsis hybrids; their plant range is regularly updated and new hybrids are added from time to time. Love Orchids sell their orchids by colour and size. I’m growing some of Love Orchids’ larger flowering orchids and some of their mini Phalaenopsis, too.
Choose easier to grow, more floriferous orchids
Over many years, Phalaenopsis hybrids have been bred to adapt to the conditions we enjoy inside our homes – making Phalaenopsis hybrids much easier to grow than their wild relations. Phalaenopsis hybrids, like the plants you see here, are more suited to growing in rooms with lower humidity levels than species orchids. For long term growth and success, hybrid Phalaenopsis plants still require raised humidity levels, but these plants are much easier to please than their wild relations – there’s no need to buy a terrarium to grow these plants, they’ll be very happy growing alongside other houseplants or perhaps as part of a beautiful display of Phalaenopsis.
Raising humidity levels around Phalaenopsis plants
If you grow Phalaenopsis at home and you’ve found that your plants’ flower buds are aborting, it’s likely that your plants require higher humidity levels to flower successfully. To raise the humidity levels around your plant, try growing multiple plants together as a group. Spraying a mist of water around your plants will create a more humid environment until the water evaporates – so if you’re misting your plants remember to do this a few times a week or every morning, if you can.
Another option to create higher humidity levels is to place Phalaenopsis plants above a tray of pebbles or leca and top the pebble tray up with water. However if you’re using this method, take care to ensure that your plants’ roots are above the waterline. Phalaenopsis don’t want to sit in water like this constantly, as these plants like their roots to dry out a little between waterings; the extra water will also cause the plants’ growing media to break down more rapidly, which is detrimental to the plants. To avoid any risk of your Phalaenopsis containers taking up water, you could place an upturned saucer on top of the pebbles – take care to level the saucer and then place your plant on top of the saucer.
Growing Phalaenopsis in containers
It’s so easy to grow hybrid Phalaenopsis; these plants grow very well as potted plants. I find that Phalaenopsis like to have their roots restricted. These orchids are happiest growing in what might at first appear to be too small a pot; in fact growing a Phalaenopsis in too large a pot will almost always cause the plant to decline.
Phalaenopsis growing medias
Phalaenopsis composts shouldn’t bear any similarity to the traditional compost we use outdoors in our gardens. Orchid composts are made from pine and cork bark, pumice, and other large pieces to create a free straining substrate; this growing medium is absolutely perfect for Phalaenopsis orchids who want to grow in a long-lasting, open and airy, free draining growing medium. Phalaenopsis hybrids will grow happily in small planters with holes at the base for drainage. Fill your container with large firm bark chips, charcoal, pumice, leca, or stone chips. When you’re choosing a growing medium for your Phalaenopsis, look for a substrate that creates lots of air spaces inside the pot – this is of great importance as Phalaenopsis orchids’ roots need air.
If you’re growing Phalaenopsis orchids in containers of bark, do take the time to repot your plants every couple of years. Once the bark begins to break down, your orchid’s roots will have less access to air, which is incredibly detrimental to the plants. Old growing mediums may absorb more water and hold extra moisture in the centre of your plants’ pots, these factors will undoubtedly cause your plant to decline.
When re-potting Phalaenopsis, usually your plant can be re-potted into fresh growing media, using the same pot your plant was growing in. These orchids enjoy having their roots restricted. Phalaenopsis plants won’t be happy growing in planters that are too large for the plant.
At home, I collect rainwater from my roof for my orchids. I water all of my orchids and houseplants with rainwater. During autumn, winter and early spring, it’s important to ensure that rainwater is collected and then brought indoors to warm up and acclimatise to room temperature before you consider watering or misting your orchids; as your plants won’t enjoy being watered with icy cold water!
When it comes to fertilising orchids, it’s important to use fertilisers that have been especially designed for orchids, as standard fertilisers are too potent for these plants. I use the same fertilisers for all of my orchids – I use Orchid Focus Grow for plants that are in growth, and Orchid Focus Bloom for orchids that are in bud or in bloom. Any plants that are struggling I fertilise with Orchid Focus Ultra and any plants that aren’t actively growing just receive plain water. These products are all made by Growth Technology Products.
Orchids don’t want high strength fertilisers. The plants that I’m growing are mostly epiphytes (plants that grow upon another plant) or lithophytes (plants that grow on stones, rocks, or cliffs). I fertilise my orchids once a week, for three weeks in a row, and then on the fourth week I give my plants plain rainwater; then the cycle starts again.
Phalaenopsis light levels
Phalaenopsis hybrids are really quite accommodating. These orchids thrive in bright, soft light. Take care to avoid placing your plant in reach of harsh or direct light, as intense sunlight could damage your Phalaenopsis plant’s sensitive leaves.
When looking to place your plants in a room, the position you choose may seem ideal at that moment, but be mindful of the sun moving around us and how light changes through the day. Afternoon sunlight is more intense, and so tends to be more damaging than more preferable and gentler, morning light.
Mistakes to avoid when growing Phalaenopsis
Radiators are the enemy of Phalaenopsis!
To succeed with Phalaenopsis there is one thing you absolutely must not do – never ever try to grow Phalaenopsis on a window sill above a radiator that’s turned on – this is a truly detrimental thing to do to a Phalaenopsis! Move Phalaenopsis plants away from radiators, heaters, stoves, and open fires. These orchids prefer a humid atmosphere, they thrive in bathrooms. Look for a position where the light is bright but kind, and the temperatures are above 13C (55F).
Take care when watering
When you water your Phalaenopsis, take care to avoid any water running into the centre of your plant’s leaves. This central part of a Phalaenopsis is known as the crown; the health of the crown is key to the vitality of the plant. If water enters the crown it can cause a devastating fungal disease known as Crown Rot, which is usually fatal. To avoid water running into your Phalaenopsis plant’s crown, direct the water over the roots and away from the crown. If water runs into the crown of your Phalaenopsis take prompt action – gently remove as much water as you can using absorbent kitchen paper. I find that using the corner of a sheet of kitchen paper is very effective, the point can be gently pushed into the top of the crown to absorb moisture. I must stress that gentle action is key, don’t use pressure – it’s a delicate operation.
Don’t use ice to water Phalaenopsis!
There is some crazy advice on the internet; for some years now people have been advocating watering Phalaenopsis with ice cubes. I would never advise using ice on any Phalaenopsis plant. I recommend that Phalaenopsis are watered with water that’s at room temperature or has been gently warmed. These plants do not want to be watered with ice! Please don’t put ice anywhere near your orchid’s roots or leaves – save ice for refreshing summer drinks!
Phalaenopsis are tender plants that can be killed by low temperatures, so please don’t ever expose your plant to temperatures lower than 12C (53F).
Phalaenopsis plants look fabulous grown en masse in a Phalaenopsis collection, or as part of an indoor display with other houseplants. It’s easier to grow these plants as part of a group, as having multiple plants grouped together like this helps to raise the humidity levels around the plants and creates a more welcoming and beneficial environment for your Phalaenopsis.
Broken your orchid’s flower stem? Broken stem = cut flowers!
If you accidentally snap a stem, pop your Phalaenopsis stem in a vase. If you break off a flower, don’t waste the bloom – I display my snapped Phalaenopsis flowers floating in a bowl of water. I am unfortunately the clumsiest person I’ve ever met, but happily I’ve found that Phalaenopsis flowers last for a few weeks floating in water.
Phalaenopsis hybrids awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
Love Orchids grow a range of Phalaenopsis plants, including plants that have been given the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. The Award of Garden Merit is presented to plants that have been proven to be reliable growers, given their appropriate growing conditions.
These Phalaenopsis orchids have all been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit:
- Phalaenopsis ‘Ariadne’
- Phalaenopsis ‘Be Tris’
- Phalaenopsis ‘Brother Little Amaglad’
- Phalaenopsis ‘Brother Pico Sweetheart’
- Phalaenopsis ‘Chengdu’
- Phalaenopsis ‘Chingruey’s Goldstaff’
- Phalaenopsis ‘Diffusion’
- Phalaenopsis ‘Dover’
- Phalaenopsis ‘Honeybee’
- Phalaenopsis ‘Kleopatra’
- Phalaenopsis ‘La Paz’
- Phalaenopsis ‘Linz’
- Phalaenopsis ‘New Life’
- Phalaenopsis ‘Picasso’
- Phalaenopsis ‘Puebla’
- Phalaenopsis ‘Purple Princess’
- Phalaenopsis ‘Rong Guan Peacock’
- Phalaenopsis ‘Santos’
- Phalaenopsis ‘Sunshine’
- Phalaenopsis ‘Stripe Beauty’
- Phalaenopsis ‘Tiny Tim’
- Phalaenopsis ‘Violet Queen’
- Phalaenopsis ‘White Apple’
- Phalaenopsis ‘Yellow Lightning’
- Phalaenopsis ‘Zurich’
Named Phalaenopsis hybrids
If you’re looking for something different, why not buy your own Phalaenopsis ‘Sunshine’? These mini Phalaenopsis orchids have zesty lime-green coloured flowers. This orchid was awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit.
If you’d prefer something larger, Phalaenopsis ‘Cadillac’ forms bigger plants that produce an abundance of these gorgeous pink flowers with wonderful freckle-like markings. This is such a beautiful orchid!
Phalaenopsis ‘New Life’
Phalaenopsis ‘New Life’ is an absolutely gorgeous orchid with delicately perfumed flowers in soft ivory and pink. This is another Phalaenopsis that has been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit.
Phalaenopsis ‘Champion Swan’
This is Phalaenopsis ‘Champion Swan’, an orchid with loud and truly striking flowers!
I adore white flowered orchids! This beauty is Phalaenopsis ‘Dover’.
Phalaenopsis ‘Purple Princess’
Phalaenopsis ‘Purple Princess’ is a miniature to small sized Phalaenopsis with stunning flowers. This gorgeous plant was a birthday gift from two of my best friends. It’s another Phalaenopsis that has been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit.
Does it matter if you don’t know the name of your Phalaenopsis?
Almost all Phalaenopsis hybrids are sold unnamed. This can be quite frustrating, as I’ve found that everyone likes to know the official names of their plants and so unnamed orchids can sometimes be a source of disappointment for gardeners. I grow quite a few unnamed Phalaenopsis, it doesn’t matter that I don’t know their registered name, as I know the plant and I love the flowers!
I love this large, pure white flowered Phalaenopsis from Love Orchids. I have no idea of this Phalaenopsis hybrid’s official name, but it doesn’t matter this doesn’t stop me enjoying this plant. I adore white orchids; this one is another of my larger Phalaenopsis plants from Love Orchids. These Phalaenopsis flowers enhance any style: from cool modern, minimalist apartments to period properties, and everything in between!
How to re-flower your Phalaenopsis
Usually we buy or receive our Phalaenopsis plants whilst they’re in bloom and we all enjoy their flowers during this initial blooming, but not everyone can coax their Phalaenopsis plants to flower again. I hope that my tips will help you to successfully re-flower your Phalaenopsis.
- Firstly, make sure your plant is in good shape – use my tips above to create ideal growing conditions and raise humidity levels around your plant. If your Phalaenopsis flower buds are aborting, take action to raise the humidity levels around your plant.
- Secondly, fertilise your orchids using a fertiliser that’s specially formulated for orchids – I use Orchid Focus. I’ve been buying this product for about six years; I’ve tried other orchid fertilisers but I’ve not found any that are as good as Orchid Focus.
- Thirdly, provide your plant with cooler temperatures at night – give your plant a marked difference in its daytime temperature compared to night time temperatures – as this will encourage flower production. NB. Phalaenopsis are tender plants that can be killed by low temperatures so don’t ever expose your plant to temperatures lower than 12C (53F).
- I allow my Phalaenopsis plants’ flowers to bloom and then fade naturally. I remove the faded flowering stems by cutting them off at the base when all the blooms have finished and the stem has turned brown. However, to encourage your Phalaenopsis to continue flowering – cut your plants’ flowering stems just above a leaf node (a small bump – a growing point on the flowering stem) when some of the flowers have faded but at least one or two blooms are still in their prime. If you try this technique, it’s imperative that you cut your flowering stem whilst healthy flowers are present; if all the blooms are starting to die back you’ve left it too late. Start at the base of your plant’s flowering stem (nearest the container) and count three nodes and cut just above a leaf node, using clean, sharp secateurs or snips.
- Finally, Phalaenopsis plants need sufficient light to flower. If your Phalaenopsis is growing in the shade, try moving your plants to a slightly brighter position where your Phalaenopsis will enjoy bright but indirect light – light that is bright but never harsh or intense.
- Good luck!
I love these gorgeous Phalaenopsis ‘Cadillac’ flowers!
Whatever your favourite colour and style, I’m certain you’ll find a Phalaenopsis hybrid that will perfectly fulfil your heart’s desires and compliment your home. Phalaenopsis plants flower for an absolute age, they require only minimal care, and can be easily replaced if things do go wrong!
Other articles that may interest you………
To find out about types of orchid species that are easy to grow and flower and are not endangered in the wild, please click here.
For ideas of beautiful and floriferous orchids, please click here.
To see more articles about Double H Nurseries, please click here.
For more houseplant ideas, please click here.
For more articles about specialist nurseries, please click here.
For more articles about plant breeding, please click here.
To see a calendar of Specialist Plant Fairs, Plant Festivals, Plant Sales, Plant & Seed Swaps, please click here.