Phalaenopsis: The most famous orchid for indoor

Phalaenopsis orchids are one of the most well-known and widespread orchid species in the world, characterized by an overwhelming mix of colors according to varieties and hybridizations with flowers of truly whimsical shapes. Orchids of the genus Phalaenopsis are shaped like a butterfly, hence their common name. Beautiful and elegant, the Phalaenopsis adapts well to all domestic environments, although not without specific care. In this article we will give all the useful tips for growing and caring for these fantastic potted orchids.


The genus Phalaenopsis is not very large but it is quite broad. Currently there are 70 recognized species of which only a few are the most cultivated for floristry. You have to know that of each species, there are then varieties and hybridizations to bore. They are native to Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and northern Australia as we can see on the map, with some specific species in South America.

Phalaenopsis distribution. Extracted from

Although some of the species of the genus are lithophytes (they use rocks as a support) they are mainly epiphytic plants , that is, they use another plant, to adhere using it as a support even if they do not feed on it (that would be parasitism). The vegetative part of Phalaenopsis consists of few, large, fleshy, deep green leaves that can reach a maximum width of 10 cm and a length of up to 50 cm. The leaves are of vital importance for the butterfly orchid as they are the only water storage organ.

The Phalaenopsis flower, which opens into simple or branched stems, thin and rigid, is characterized by its beautiful shades of white, yellow, pink, magenta and purple. The flowers, which can reach a diameter of 15 cm, are wide open and flat. It is a hermaphrodite flower that blooms at any time of the year , with a flowering period of about 2 months. Flowering will depend mainly on irrigation, fertilizer, light and temperature. Almost nothing! The roots are numerous, robust, branched and aerial, thanks to which the plant adheres perfectly to the branches or trunks of trees. The roots are delicate . They are special roots that consist of a structure called canopy, which is nothing more than a lignification of the outer layer of the roots, making them rigid, almost like small lignified stems, but no. They are aerial roots that serve as support.

Detail of the vegetative part and substrate. Photo by: Maja Dumat


Orchid care is delicate if we want it to flourish. And let’s face it, the vegetative part of an orchid isn’t something spectacular either.

Sun exposure and temperatures

At this point we must be careful with direct exposure to sunlight. Although they are plants that require quite hot temperatures, temperature is one thing and direct sunlight is quite another.

But we do have to provide a good dose of indirect light since it is essential for a good flowering . Abundant but filtered light with a curtain or fabric.

Optimal temperatures for Phalaenopsis are around 24ºC on average with a minimum of 16ºC . They withstand somewhat higher temperatures even if the humidity of the root system and the environment around the plant are adequate. We then deal with this point.

Substrate and subscriber

 The substrates for Phalaenopsis are as varied as they are complex . We do not have to complicate life too much but there are many plant materials for this substrate. Very good aeration and exemplary drainage are needed so the basic premise is that it be a porous soil. The base is usually pine bark, you can add charcoal, parts of perlite … There are many commercial formulas with various materials that ensure that porosity and drainage.

In the case of Phanaelopsis , if we want to make a simple and colorful substrate (we remember that the continent must be transparent) it is done with 3/4 of Sphagnum moss and 1/4 of a mixture of equal parts of charcoal and perlite.

The subscriber is another of the key points for a good growth and above all a good flowering. The Phalaenopsis fertilized every 7-10 days in spring using a liquid fertilizer NPK proportions 05/05/30. To promote an intense and uniform bloom in the fall, more phosphorus is administered. Therefore, we must change the ratio to for example 10-44-10 for a lush flowering. At other times of the year you can use a more balanced fertilizer, for example 18-18-18. The dilutions per liter are usually indicated according to the manufacturer.

Photo by Lisagnes


We must pay special attention to the humidity around the plant. Many times, in homes, with winter heating it is not easy to achieve a relative humidity of 70%, so the most basic solution is to put a larger diameter plate with expanded clay beads. The roots must be constantly moist, and must be sprayed with water often. Be careful in areas where the water is limestone. It does not suit them at all. It should be non-calcareous water. The ideal time to water is in the morning.


Phalaenopsis flowering takes place from December to April, although there are no general rules. Under optimal light, humidity, and temperature conditions, Phalaenopsis can produce multiple, long-lasting blooms. The failure of the flowering is not normally due to a fertilization error, but to insufficient light. To promote new phalaenopsis blooms, the stem should be cut above the last node as soon as the flowers begin to fade. After that, it is advisable to apply a specific high phosphorus fertilizer like the one we mentioned a moment ago. It is also necessary to keep the plant at a constant night temperature of 13 ° for about two weeks to stimulate new flowering.


We should do a Phalaenopsis transplant when:

  • The roots are rotten and the plant is infested with pests and mold (if we think it is still recoverable). Sometimes it is not possible to save them.
  • The plant has grown a lot and the pot that houses it is too small.
  • The substrate breaks down and is too wet and sticky. It is the most common.

Transplantation is a delicate operation. Substrate or other residual material adhering to the roots must be removed very carefully. Dead, damaged or diseased roots should be cut with sharp blades and disinfected with alcohol to prevent infection. Place the plant in a transparent pot with new substrate already mixed and prepared.

It is advisable to use a fast-acting rooting agent to stimulate the growth of the root system and re-root without problems.

Flower detail. Photo by: Peter Stenzel


They can suffer from numerous pests. If you notice small white or brown balls that are easy to remove with your fingers, it will most likely be the scale. Actually, phalaenopsis can be attacked not only by spider mites and other mites, but also by phytophagous insects such as numerous aphids. Furthermore, the secretions produced by parasites and insects that remain in plant tissues can cause the development of cryptogamic diseases.

In particular, if there is a gray mold along the stems and leaves, we are dealing with a fungal pathology called bold . Other diseases are Botrytis cinere a,  Fusarium oxysporum and anthracnose, also known as chancre, produced by various fungi genera such as   Colletotrichum , Gloeosporium . Also, butterfly orchids can be attacked by bacteria and viruses. They are mainly mosaic virus and ring spot virus . Transmission of the virus occurs mainly through the use of contaminated instruments, for example in a transplant.

Orchid diseases can be caused by improper growing techniques and various environmental factors. In fact, lack of ventilation, excessive humidity, use of unsuitable substrates, and non-sanitized handling equipment are the triggers for various diseases that can affect the P halaenopsis orchid . Therefore, it is advisable to apply good culture techniques and all appropriate measures to prevent attacks not only by parasites, but also by fungal, bacterial and viral diseases.

It is, therefore, a matter of activating the endogenous defense mechanisms of the plants, in case of attack by pathogens, parasites, insects or if the plant suffers other forms of stress. There are biostimulants for plants that reinforce the vigor of the plant and therefore its barriers to entry of pests and diseases.

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