The introduction of Phalaenopsis in grocery stores about a decade ago brought the orchid hobby to millions of Americans who might never have gotten involved. Many plants were sold with limited or incorrect growing instructions, however, and owners were left to experiment. Most Phals survived, but reblooming has been hit or miss.
The horticultural advice that is missing from the attached culture tags is the technique or ‘trick’ to get Phalaenopsis to rebloom. We refer to this little piece of know-how as a ‘trick’ because it’s not intuitively obvious and magical things happen as a result. Clearly written are the requirements for dappled light, moderate humidity, damp media, and household temperatures, but nowhere does it give the secret to getting buds. Mass producers, it seems, would rather the public buy new plants each year.
These days, the demand for “moth” orchids is so strong that grocery stores receive fresh shipments each week. This constant availability masks the seasonality of Phalaenopsis and gives the impression that the plants bloom all the time. In reality, flowers appear naturally from January through April.
Blooming plants that are offered for sale during the months of May through December have likely been “forced” to produce flowers. This jostling doesn’t affect the longevity of the blossoms which will continue to delight for their normal three month duration. However, forced plants revert back to their normal January through April schedule after they bloom.
In the jungles where the species grow wild, the weather is balmy. However, there is a considerable temperature drop that occurs several months before the blooming season. This chill is more than a coincidence. In fact, it’s the reason the orchids bloom.
Industry experts recommend that the home grower provide about a 20 degree temperature difference between day and night for several weeks in the autumn. This happens naturally if the plants are grown outside during the summer and then left out for another month or two. If grown inside, a typical house is in the 70’s during the day so the plants should be put outside or in the garage when the night temps get down to the 50’s.
Carri Raven-Rieman, who is past president of the International Phalaenopsis Alliance, suggests that the plants “be grown on a windowsill for good light and the solar gain will heat the immediate area to 80 degrees. Then, the nighttime lows only have to be 60 degrees which may happen without any special effort.”
With proper encouragement, a tiny flower spike will emerge from the base of each plant with 30 days of chilling. Expect buds, then flowers, by January.
“Phalaenopsis are wildly popular these days and can be found regularly in grocery stores. But there is a ‘trick’ to getting them to bloom which is rarely mentioned on the attached care tags.”
Photo Credit – Arthur Chadwick