Plant and Garden

Phalaenopsis (Orchidaceae) aka “Moth Orchids”

Exotic, beautiful, with thousands of species and as many hybrids, orchids are popular with homeowners and can be an obsession for the serious collector. And contrary to popular belief, they’re not difficult to grow.


Many orchids thrive in Florida’s heat and humidity, like Cattleya and Phalaenopsis, and can do well in the home and around the yard.

Most orchids need to be repotted every few years, and many can be divided into smaller plants. Orchids typically prefer at least partial shade or filtered sunlight and should be protected from cold temperatures.

Most orchids are epiphytes and they need special media in which to grow. Some of the most common ingredients in commercially available orchid mixes are chopped tree fern fiber, chopped fir tree bark, osmunda fiber, charcoal, and volcanic rock. These materials all help to create the loose, well-drained environment that orchids crave.

Choose from containers made of plastic, clay, wire, or redwood. Some orchids can be mounted on a piece of cork or other bark. Every two years or so you’ll need to replace the orchid growing media for each of your plants.


Aphids, which are soft-bodied, pear-shaped insects about 1/8th-inch long, are a common Phalaenopsis pest. These green or black bugs suck plant juices and excrete a sticky sap that grows sooty mold if not detected early. Dispatch them by squirting the plant all over with a strong stream of water from a spray bottle. Repeat every few days. For a serious infestation, spray with insecticidal soap according to label directions. Spray again each week for two weeks following the initial spraying to eliminate successive generations.


Both soft scale, which is cottony white, as well as hard scale, which is round and brown bumps on stems and leaves, are known to attack Phalaenopsis orchids. Under the protective covering is tiny, sucking insects. Use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to dislodge scale or rub with your fingers or a soft toothbrush, with or without alcohol. Repeat treatment to kill recently hatched insects. For a serious infestation, spray the plant with neem oil, which will smother the insects.


Mealybugs are about 1/8th-inch long, oval white insects with filaments on their bodies that give the impression of legs. They hatch and hide in potting media and will lodge in crevices and under pot trays, not just on plants. Dispatch mealybugs with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol or spray the entire plant with rubbing alcohol, letting it dribble into the base and into the planting medium. Let stand five minutes, then spray with water. Neem oil and insecticidal soaps also kill mealybugs.

Spider Mites

Spider mites are tiny pests that often are not detected until the result of their damage appears. Leaves look silvery or stippled because the mites have killed the cells of the surface layer by sucking. They also spin webs among leaves. If you suspect mites, wipe a white cloth over both sides of a leaf. If mites are present, red or brown streaks will dirty the cloth. Humidity is crucial to preventing mites, so wipe the plant with water and increase the humidity in the growing area. A spray of rubbing alcohol mixed with a few drops of dishwashing liquid also kills mites. Repeat weekly for several weeks to kill newly hatched pests.

Light and Temperature

To encourage flowering, your plant will need good light levels in the winter, making an east- or west-facing window a perfect location. In the summertime, you will need to move it to a shadier spot, but away from direct sunlight. When the leaves get dusty, you should just wipe the dust off with a damp cloth (dust keeps the leaves from receiving a proper amount of light). Moth orchids will grow the best in a warm environment with temperatures in the 60s at night and from the high 60’s to the mid-80’s during the daytime. You should always place them in an area away from drafts. If you have a large, healthy plant but it is not producing flowers, you can reduce the temperature by 8-10 degrees for a month, which should result in the development of a flower spike.

Moth Orchids:                                                                                  You WILL Be Successful With These!


Moth OrchidPhalaenopsis orchids, or moth orchids, are an excellent choice for the beginning orchid grower because of their months-long bloom period and ease of care. Due to increased commercial propagation, they are one of the most affordable orchids available and one of the few that will rebloom under household conditions. Common pests that attack most houseplants also target orchids. As with other plants, prevention is the best cure. With more than 25,000 different kinds of orchids on the planet, it’s no wonder that more than a couple of them made our weird list. The Moth Orchid is actually the most common type of orchid and bears the name because of its supposed resemblance to a moth in flight. Native to southeast Asia, the Philippines, and northern Australia, the Moth Orchid isn’t exactly hard to find and it comes in nearly every color of the rainbow. So what exactly sets it apart from its 24,999+ orchid siblings? The Moth Orchid’s uncanny ability to have multiple blooming periods!

Phalaenopsis Culture

Place moth orchids in an east-facing window, out of direct sun. Night temperatures should not dip below 62 degrees Fahrenheit and daytime temperatures should range from 70 to 80 degrees. The plants can summer outdoors in a shaded spot. Water them weekly, in the morning, using rainwater or distilled water. Don’t let the plant sit in water, but provide extra humidity by placing it on a saucer full of stones or gravel. Remove dead plant material promptly, and inspect plants regularly for pests, particularly on the undersides of leaves

How to Identify a Phalaenopsis Orchid

Before you do anything, you must first determine if your plant is, indeed, a moth orchid, because different types of orchids require different care.

Moth orchids usually have three to six very broad floppy leaves, and the flower spike appears between those leaves. The flowers can look differently and can be pink, yellow, white, or they can have stripes or a splotchy effect. They are usually about two to four inches wide and they will bloom on a spike that could be from a foot to 18 inches long. It is possible that there will be more than one spike on a large plant, which could have up to 15 flowers (or even more). There are a lot of images on the internet that you could use for comparison.

Once you are sure that your plant is a moth orchid, then you can safely follow the tips that I have presented here for you.

Flowering Moth Orchids

Your blooms should last about three months but sometimes can last even longer, and they can bloom all through the year. When the flowers fade, cut the flowering stalk back (just above the second node, which should be visible beneath the spent blooms. Once you cut them back, it is possible that a new flowering side shoot could develop.


Your plant will need to be watered regularly (about once a week) during the growing season, but during the winter, you can reduce the watering slightly. Always make sure you have proper drainage. The foliage needs to be kept dry, so when you are watering the plant, be careful not to get the water on the leaves, but in the summertime, you can lightly mist your plant.

Over-watering will kill this gorgeous plant. Under-watering it is much less likely to have detrimental results.

Using Fertilizer

Feed your plant about once a month with a 10/10/10 or 20/20/20 plant food formula. Feeding can be done more often in the growing season. It is important to make sure that harmful accumulations of salts are leached from the compost, so about every fourth watering, use only plain water with no fertilizer. During the winter months, you only need to feed your plant very sparingly.

Most orchids sold at Crazy Critters are grown in clear pots so that you can see what is happening with the roots in an effort to avoid root rot, which will kill the plant.

Here’s a list from the American Orchid Society that gives a general outline growing requirements for orchids that do well outside in Florida:

* Cattleya Alliance Hybrid is the showy corsage variety, especially Laelia anceps, and requires half sun. It’s temperature-tolerant.

* Phalaenopsis is great for beginners and does well in full shade.

* Dendrobiums: The Indian and Australian types are best, requiring half sun. They are temperature tolerant.

* Vanda flowers in summer months and takes a lot of suns.

* Epidendrums, especially the brilliant reed-stem types, do fine in South Florida. They need almost full sun but are temperature tolerant.

* Oncidiums: Choose the Mexican species, or higher-elevation types, with light requirements of bright shade to half sun.

* Paphiopedilums are slippered orchids and fare best in shaded gardens.

* Spathoglottis have broad, palm-like leaves and spikes of purple and yellow flowers. Grow them in shade to half sun.


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