Moth orchids


Moth orchids (Phalaenopsis spp) have become increasingly popular. They are often given as gifts, which can be somewhat intimidating for the novice orchid grower. But, with just some basic care, they can be found to be one of the easiest orchids for beginners.

The ‘moth’ part of their name refers to their broad, winged petals although, with their exotic colours and markings, they might more appropriately be called ‘butterfly’ orchids.

As with other orchids, the roots will rot if they are kept too wet, so it’s best to grow moth orchids in a bark mix that ensures good drainage. Healthy roots should be thick and creamy white with bright green tips. Sometimes roots can be seen on the surface of the mix or growing over the side of the pot. This is quite natural.

Because moth orchids come from tropical areas, they enjoy plenty of humidity. It’s helpful to mist spray the leaves with water a couple of times a week or to have the pot sitting on pebbles in a saucer. A layer of water at the base of the pebbles will evaporate to increase the humidity level around the plant.

Moth orchids can flower a couple of times a year, often from the same flowering stem. After the flowers have finished, it’s wise to leave the flowering stem alone to see if it develops new shoots. If, eventually, part of the stem dies back, the dead section can then be trimmed off.

Feed regularly during the growing period. Robyn Eldering has written to Yates about the great results she has had using Yates Orchid Food. “I wish to thank you for this absolutely wonderful product,” Robyn writes. “I use exclusively Yates Orchid Food with stunning results. The plant photographed (see picture) sent up one flower stem which then branched into another three stems. The end result was at least twenty flowers.”

Moth orchids make wonderful indoor plants that, unlike cut flowers, will last for many weeks. They need a position with plenty of light, although not direct sunlight. They can be watered every day (preferably in the morning) but make sure the water drains rapidly through the bark mix.

Check the plants regularly for pest problems. Sap suckers like scale and mealybugs are the chief suspects. These can be removed by hand (with the help of a cotton bud) or sprayed with Bug Oil.

As the flowers develop, the spike becomes heavier. Because most plants are purchased when in full bloom, the flowering stem will most likely come attached to a supporting stake with some small clothes peg-type clips. Don’t discard these supports, even if the spike dies back, as they’ll come in handy when it re-grows.


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