My guidelines for moth orchids are simple because these plants are super easy to grow. There was a time I would never have said that. Instead, I believed that moth orchids were little divas. Due to my extreme perfectionism tendencies, I become anxious about the most ridiculous things. The thought of killing a plant might just send me into a tailspin for days. Therefore, I planned to never own one of these beauties. But, David could care less if I murdered a plant. So, in spite of my desire to never own one, he purchased me my first orchid over 5 years ago. Now, I own over a dozen of these beauties.
A Little Background
Orchids are tropical plants and the moth orchid’s (Phalaenopsis) normal habitat is hanging from the bark of a tree, not sitting in a pot. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t take proper care of an orchid. The average orchid owner is usually concerned about three issues surrounding proper care – watering, light requirements, and re-blooming.
Orchid Watering 101
I struggled to find the proper way to water my orchid when I first brought my beauty home. When David purchased the orchid, the nice vendor gave me a lecture on the necessity of an ice cube. Well, I didn’t buy it then and I don’t buy it now. In my humble opinion, placing an ice cube directly on top of the orchid’s roots is not the way to go. As I already mentioned, the moth orchid is tropical and ice is not found in the tropics.
A plastic cup that will hold your orchid
Room temperature water (not freezing cold)
Instructions for Watering
- Fill the cup almost full.
- Place your orchid that is in it’s clear plastic pot with drainage holes into the plastic cup. If your plastic pot doesn’t have drainage holes, then you need to re-pot the orchid due to lack of drainage.
- Gently continue to pour room temperature water over the orchid base sitting in the plastic cup until the water begins to run over the sides of the orchid pot. I use water directly from my sink, but not freezing cold.
- Allow the orchid to soak a minimum of 20 minutes. There have been times I have forgotten about mine and left them soaking for hours and hours and hours, and yes, even sometimes overnight. IT IS OKAY because I don’t over-water mine and they forgive me.
- Remove the orchid from the plastic cup and allow it to drain any remaining water into the sink. The roots of the orchid will now be a bright, beautiful green (almost neon in color). This is a sign that the orchid has been OVER WATERED. This is EXACTLY what you want.
- Trim away any dead roots or brown flower spikes that have stopped blooming.
- Place the orchid that is still in its plastic pot with drainage holes back in its decorative pot.
- Repeat this watering process after 7-10 days, but ONLY when the orchid has COMPLETELY dried out and the roots are no longer bright green. This is only an estimate as your home temperature will be different from mine. Obviously, I water more frequently in the summer months and less in winter. Do not water before the orchid is completely dry. If the orchid is the slightest bit damp, it is not time for the orchid to be soaked yet.
A Few Watering Guidelines for Moth Orchids
As you can see from the pictures above, I use a large plastic cup with watermelons all over it. It is just the right size to hold most of my orchids. The orchid pot does not fit all the way down into this cup. This is perfect because once the cup is full of water then the orchid pot begins to fill. The water stays contained within the orchid pot and so does all of the planting material.
I really like this method because it keeps the bark and moss from spilling out of the pot. I have tried placing the orchids in a stock pot to water them, but sometimes my orchids tipped over. This caused me to lose half of the planting material. Therefore, placing them into the smaller plastic cup contains everything nicely. I don’t have to spend my time trying find every piece of bark or moss that floated out of the pot and down the drain.
A Few More Watering Guidelines for Moth Orchids
If your orchid came in plastic cup with drainage holes that sits within a decorative pot without a drainage hole, you can also water it directly while it sits in its decorative pot. I don’t personally use this method. When I have tried this, my planting material floats out of the pot and down the drain. However, if you choose to use this method, once the orchid has soaked, do not forget to remove the orchid with its clear plastic pot from the decorative pot. The orchid has to be allowed to drain the excess water. Also, don’t forget to pour out the water sitting in the decorative pot, before you place the orchid back in its decorative pot. If you leave your orchid sitting in a pot full of water indefinitely, you will kill it QUICKLY.
I place my orchids near a sunny window or in a bright room. I do not place my orchids where they will receive direct sunlight for many hours throughout day. Most of my orchids are grouped together and placed near a window that receives morning sun only. I have found that I can place them in a window that receives afternoon sun, but I can ONLY do this in the winter when temperatures are much colder. During summer, a window with western exposure is way too hot for the orchids and their leaves will blister from the sun exposure.
You can also place moth orchids in a room with bright artificial light and watch them thrive. I have one orchid sitting on the table in my closet. She has continued to bloom for many months as she is extremely happy with the temperature and the bright artificial light.
The Secret to Re-Blooming
If your moth orchid is happy (green leaves and healthy roots), but has not ever re-bloomed for you, it is most likely do to temperature. Moth orchids have a natural bloom cycle. Typically, they produce leaves in the summer an early fall, and then set a bloom spike in the late fall and early winter. If your orchid has not set a bloom spike, it’s probably because your home temperature is constant throughout all four seasons. When growing in nature, orchids will automatically sense the temperature change when moving from summer into fall. They love a one to two week period where the temperature drops into the 60’s at night. This is how they recognize its time to set a bloom spike.
But, if your home is at a constant temperature, your beauty might miss her cue to set the spike. So, if your orchids are not recognizing the cooler fall temperatures when they are sitting near a bright window, try the following. Move your orchids outside into filtered light for a few weeks when the temperatures start to drop into the 60’s. Then move them back to their happy place in your home. This should trigger them to begin their bloom cycle, and the bloom spike will magically appear.
If you have always wanted to grow a moth orchid, but were afraid to take the plunge, go for it. If you are an orchid owner, but have struggled with care, hopefully my guidelines for moth orchids will help you. Here’s to hoping your orchids reward you with beautiful blooms that last for months and months and months.