Tricks for Phalaenopsis

Q) I am an ‘amateur’ grower of Phalaenopsis. I have 12 pots and all seem very healthy with
bright green leaves. My problem is they are not blooming. Some haven’t bloomed in 3-4 years!
My house doesn’t have much light so I’ve added grow lights. Jane E.

A) Even ‘professionals’ don’t have Phalaenopsis blooming at this time of year! Moth orchids
are seasonal and their normal flowering begins just after the New Year. (Any specimens found
in stores right now were ‘forced’ and will return to the regular schedule). Growers are primarily
focused on attaining nice new leaves and strong roots during these warm summer months.

Anyone who has a dozen or more well grown plants is pushing the boundaries of ‘dabbling in
the hobby’ or calling themselves an ‘amateur’! All that is needed now is to produce bountiful
blooms and we can upgrade your orchid ability from beginner to intermediate level. Here is the
well kept secret to achieve this modest goal:

1. As fall approaches, night temperatures begin to drop into the 50’s. Phalaenopsis
require cool nights to trigger their internal clocks that blooming season is
approaching. Successful growers in this part of the country place their plants outside
(out of direct sunlight or rain) in late September.
2. After three weeks of ‘chilling’, plants are returned to their comfortable home
environment. Expect the orchids to look exactly the same as before the cool spell.
3. Within a month or so, every single epiphyte should develop a ‘green tip’ that, to the
untrained eye, might be mistaken for a new root.
4. This ‘green tip’ starts to turn upward and, in the coming weeks, may reach a foot or
more in length before tiny buds appear along the stem.
5. Each day, the buds get a little larger until finally POOF! The first petals unfold in
early January.

A poorly lit house is not an issue for Phalaenopsis which are shade loving plants which is one
reason moth orchids are so wildly popular. Consequently, grow lights are not necessary although
they can improve overall vigor.

It’s an exciting moment for hobbyists of all skill levels when an orchid re-blooms for the first
time and Phalaenopsis, with their easy growth habit and predictable seasonality, are the best
place to start.

Q) Which orchids are fragrant? I’m looking to expand my collection. Nancy P.

A) Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (or so the saying goes) but imagine if both the looks and
the scent of the orchid were alluring. Such is the case with many hybrids in the Oncidium family
as well as most of the Cattleya alliance.

For many enthusiasts, the chocolate smelling Onc Sharry Baby is the Grande Dame Dancing
Lady with long wispy sprays of burgundy and white blossoms. One whiff conjures up visions

of waking up in a cocoa processing facility. Other candy store fragrances can be found in
those Oncidiums that are bred with Brassias (aka the spider orchid) as well as those bred with
Miltonias (aka the Pansy orchid). The typical blooming duration for these epiphytes is six weeks
so there is plenty of time for sensory stimulation.

Women who grew up during the depression know firsthand the intensity of Cattleya scents
since these flowers were worn as corsages at all noteworthy social events. My father, now in his
eighties, claims to be able to identify most of the large flowered species strictly by their smell!
And while the delicate blossoms last on average three weeks each year, there exists no floral
treasure that turns heads like the Queen of the Orchids.

Monday, August 1, 2011 - 17:15