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Growers of Fine Phalaenopsis Orchids

Frequently Asked Orchid Questions


The leaves on my orchid are wrinkled and limp. Am I over watering or under watering?

Yes, you are over watering or under watering.

The leaves on your Phalaenopsis should be firm. Limp leaves are a sign that the leaves do not contain enough water to maintain their normal turgid state. Obviously, lack of water in the leaves can be caused by under watering.

However the problem can also be caused by over watering. Phalaenopsis roots like a lot of air. If the plants are over watered the roots will stay soggy in the wet medium. Over time, soggy roots will rot. Once they've rotted it is hard for them to absorb moisture and then the leaves take on a limp, desiccated appearance. To confirm the source of the problem take the plant out of the pot and examine the roots.

My orchid has roots growing everywhere out of the top of the pot. Is this a problem?

As orchids grow they continually send out new roots, and often the new roots start above the surface of the medium and begin to head off to parts unknown. This is typical orchid behavior. The next time the plant is repotted be sure to select a (probably larger) pot into which these new roots will fit comfortably.

Your orchids seem to be growing in dirt. Why don't you use bark?

At Stony Brook Orchids we grow most of our orchids in a mixture of peat moss and perlite (about 4:1). We have been growing in this mixture as hobbyists and commercial growers for over 20 years. We find a number of advantages in using a peat mixture:

1. Less frequent watering. A peat medium retains moisture much longer than bark so the plants do not have to watered as often. Our home orchid growing customers tell us that they only need to water once every 10-14 days in the winter, and every 7-10 days in the summer, depending on the conditions in their home. You can take a vacation without worrying about arranging for someone to care for your orchids.

2. It is easier to tell when to water. Because a peat mixture is light and loose you can easily dig your finger into the medium to check the moisture level. When the top inch of the mixture is dry, it is time to water. Other indicators include the color of the medium changing from dark brown to light brown, and the weight of the pot decreasing.

3. Easier watering. Phalaenopsis orchids grown in a peat mixture can be watered like a normal house plant. Just water from the top and avoid getting water on the leaves. It is not necessary to carry the plant to the sink or to flush a lot of water through the pot or to immerse the pot in a bucket of water.

4. Less water and fertilizer used. When watering a plant potted in a peat medium it is only necessary to water the plant, from the top, until a few drops of water come out of the bottom of the pot. If your plant is on a pebble tray or humidity tray, which we recommend, you can water the plant right where it grows. For optimum plant growth and health we recommend watering with a dilute fertilizer solution (1/4 teaspoon fertilizer per gallon of water) every time you water.

5. Better plant growth. A peat medium keeps Phalaenopsis roots evenly moist, minimizing problems caused by drying out, and helping the plants to absorb nutrients. We find that orchids grown in peat are strong and healthy.

6. Less plant stress when repotting. We repot our mature plants once per year and younger plants more frequently depending on their growth rate. A peat medium does not cling to the roots of the orchids, simplifying the task of removing the old medium. In addition, we find that upon repotting most of our plants experience a growth spurt, in contrast to the adjustment period often observed when repotting in bark.

What are the drawbacks of growing orchids in peat?

If you have a heavy hand with the watering can you need to be careful when growing in a peat mixture. Because the medium stays moist longer you need to be careful not to over water. Wait until the top inch of the medium is dry. If you're not sure wait another day or two. Our customers find that Phalaenopsis orchids grown in peat require watering only half as often as plants grown in bark.

Peat is light weight, especially when dry. We find that our specimen plants, with long flower spikes and heavy blossoms, tend to become top heavy. Unfortunately our top-heavy specimen plants tip over when they're in light-weight peat, in light-weight plastic pots. Between the light medium and the light pot there isn't enough weight to keep a plant upright. So when plants are specimen sized we move them into heavy clay pots.

As mentioned above, we repot our plants once per year (seedlings more often). Plants grown in bark only need to be repotted every year and a half to two years.

What kind of fertilizer should I use?

We find that any balanced house plant fertilizer works well. Use a dilute solution (1/8 to 1/4 strength) every time you water.

How much humidity do orchids need?

Phalaenopsis orchids enjoy 50% humidity. If your home is dry because of winter heat or summer air conditioning place a small humidifier near, or a humidity/pebble tray under, your plants to maintain optimum humidity. Grouping plants together will also help maintain humidity around your plants.

My plants look great. They have healthy roots. The leaves are firm and a beautiful deep green, but I never get any flowers. What's going on?

If you plant isn't flowering and the leaves are a deep, dark green then your plant may not be getting enough light. It can vary with individual plants, (pink Phalaenopsis tend to have darker leaves than white Phalaenopsis) but Phalaenopsis leaves should be a medium green. Plants that aren't getting enough light make excess chlorophyll to compensate for the lack of light, giving the leaves that great looking dark green color. We find that Phalaenopsis require about 4-6 hours of either morning or afternoon sun. They are lower light orchids, but they do need sun. A few hours of sun, directly on the leaves, every day, are needed. Either an east or west window, providing morning or afternoon sun, will work well.

My plant gets plenty of light but it still doesn't flower. What can I do?

If your Phalaenopsis is getting sufficient light and is still not flowering try exposing the plant to cooler air in the evening. In our area, here in the wilds of New Jersey, in late August and September the temperature drops to 58 degrees at night. When your nighttime temperatures are the same try opening a window near your plants to let in the cool night air. Continue the cool nighttime air treatment for three weeks. The variation in temperature between warm day and cool night will often initiate a flower spike.

If you have other questions please give us a call or send us an email.