Characteristics of phalaenopsis
Phalaenopsis are plants belonging to the family Orchidiaceae. They are native to tropical areas and in particular to the rainforests of South-East Asia and Oceania. They are epiphytic plants: this means that their roots do not sink into the ground, but cling to trunks or rocks. Water, on the other hand, comes directly from rain or atmospheric humidity.
The environment in which they grow is in fact characterized by very high temperatures, frequent and abundant rains, but short, and the strong presence of moisture in the air.
Once, they were plants intended only for the connoisseurs, but, seen their beauty, in Asia, in the USA In Germany and the Netherlands, it has long been studied to create interesting hybrids that are easy to grow and have a wide range of colours and sizes.
The leaves, from 2 to 6, are large, glossy, thick and fleshy, bright green in colour. They are the only organ responsible for water storage, given the absence of pseudobulbs (which perform this task in other types of orchids). Usually, they are about 10 cm broad and about 30 cm long when ripe, but some typologies may have them even long up to 50. They overlap horizontally one to the other, opposite, with at the centre the collar, from which the stems and then the stems depart.
The roots are fleshy, velvety and very numerous. The color is green from wet to silvery as they dry.
The species are about 60 while the hybrids are more than 10000.
The name phalaenopsis literally means “like a butterfly” was given to them by the botanist Karl von Blume in the early 1800s.
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They are on a short stem and are dense, wide, succulent, from oblong-lanceolate to ribbon-like arranged in 2 rows.
long aerial roots are attached to the sides of the pot or basket.
Family and gender
Up to 60 cm/up to 30 cm
Medium-low, demineralised water
Not very rustic (minimum temperature 10°C)
Very bright, no direct light
Floor plan for apartment, balcony or veranda
Every 15 days
Various types of aggregates (bark, expanded clay, polystyrene, perlite)
Pests and diseases
Aphids, snails, root and collar rot
The cultivation of these orchids is quite simple and, especially for hybrids, is really affordable for everyone.
Lateral, short or long, erect or pendulous, often ramified, they carry flowers of variable shape, suitable in most of the species for being cut, as they are very durable.
How to make it flourish again?
Phalaenopsis tend to flower in winter, after a negative temperature change has occurred. To obtain the production of a new stem it is therefore important to place the plant overnight at a temperature of about 16 ° C for a period of at least one week (but in some cases you can go up to one month). At the same time, a fertilizer richer in phosphorus and potassium is administered.
The Phalaenopsis orchids are easy to grow in hot and humid greenhouses; during the winter months they need warm and humid locations at a minimum temperature of 15°C. On hot days, from April to October, the greenhouse is ventilated and shaded.
They are grown on portions of bark, with the rhizome wrapped in osmundan fibre or in baskets filled with a mixture of 2 parts osmundan fibre and one part sphagnum.
The orchid soil that is generally found on the market is not suitable for the cultivation of phalaenopsis (unless it is found in specialized nurseries). In fact, they want a very draining and practically inert material, capable of maintaining humidity, but without causing rottenness. It is commonly used what is called “bark”, that is bark of conifers. We can take it in nature or buy it in bags.
It is very important, however, to avoid pests or rottenness, and also make it softer and permeable to liquids, sterilize it by boiling it for a long time.
However, there are also other excellent alternatives: expanded clay, polystyrene, perlite, sphagnum, foam rubber. The latter help to retain more moisture in the event that in our house was almost always below 70%. Always remember, however, that the largest pieces (about 3-4 cm long) must always stay on the bottom, while the smallest upwards. In this way the draining of the water will be favoured and we will avoid the onset of rottenness.
During the growth period, they are abundantly watered and a liquid fertilizer is administered every month. When the plants are resting, from November to March, the compost is kept just moist, it is not healthy to shade the greenhouse.
This is perhaps the most important aspect for maintaining the health of our phalaenospsis. They love humidity, but too frequent irrigation is the most frequent cause of their death. It is, before proceeding, to wait for the roots to appear silvery. The best way to rehydrate them is by immersion: place the pot in a container filled with water, so that the level reaches at least half. Let’s wait about half an hour, extract and let it drain very well. You can clearly irrigate from above.
This method, however, rarely allows you to homogeneously hydrate the entire substrate, and you run the risk of wetting the area of the collar, where the molds take root easily.
Orchids, in addition to this, always want a high level of ambient humidity, at least 70%. This allows the leaves to remain turgid. This can be achieved by vaporising the leaves several times a day (avoiding the collar), using electric humidifiers or placing trays full of expanded clay and water in the vicinity.
However, it is very important to use only demineralised water for all operations. Too much limestone or other salts can, in the long run, obstruct the roots and stomata of the leaves. The water for the iron is excellent; we can also collect the rainwater (avoiding the first after long periods of drought: it would be full of pollutants).
every two to three years in March. We recommend repotting the orchids every spring. However, we can proceed at any time of year, especially if we notice the appearance of rottenness at the root level. It may also be a good idea to do this immediately after purchase as retailers (especially supermarkets) very often place them in containers too small and with a poor quality substrate (then irrigating without criteria).
In this way we can immediately monitor the condition of the hypogeum apparatus and eventually remedy.
The first step is to wet the substrate well: in this way the roots will become softer and it will be possible to extract them without causing damage (they are very fragile when dry). The whole substrate to which they are anchored comes off. Then, with scissors disinfected by flame or bleach, all portions that are dead or compromised are removed. Put everything back in the pot (also disinfected).
Let’s irrigate by adding a product to the water to prevent and treat rottenness (propamocarb or Phosethyl-aluminium). If desired, we can mix half a teaspoon of cinnamon with the substrate, which is also excellent for preventing radical diseases.
The best containers are transparent plastic jars, with large drainage holes at the bottom. They prevent excessive perspiration and allow the state of the root system to be monitored. Very interesting, however, is also the creation of so-called “rafts”.
In May, the heads of the Phalaenopsis orchids are divided and planted in the compost described above. The plants are kept in well shaded positions and watered moderately until the new roots have formed; after this period, the plants are transferred to less shaded areas and watered regularly.
IL CALENDARIO DELLE PHALAENOPSIS
March (all year round in case of emergency rottenness)
Rest period, flowering induction
From November to December
Fertilization + phosphorus-potassium
January-February (but also in other periods, depending on the hybrid and temperatures)
From April to June
Originally from the Philippines.
Drums 15 cm high.
The flowers, 5 cm broad, united in spikes long up to 60 cm, bloom in May-June; they have yellowish tepals with red-brown transversal stripes and white labellum, with narrow lateral lobes and a bright purple-amethyst central lobe, with paler margins.
left Phalaenopsis equestris: native to the Philippines.
The leaves are bright green, 20 cm long,
branched flowering stem, up to 60 cm long.
The flowers, 4 cm broad, bloom in various periods of the year, usually between February and October; they have white tepals, suffused of pink, labellum with lateral lobes, pale pink-purple, with darker stripes, and central lobe, pink-purple, brown at the base.
The phalaenopsis need a lot of light to grow well, and especially to bloom. However, this must never be direct. They grow very well in rooms with large windows possibly facing south, where the light is intense and arrives for many hours a day. To avoid leaf burns, however, it is recommended, especially from mid-spring to mid-autumn, to screen them with light-coloured curtains.
These orchids come from tropical rainforests. As a result, they always need high temperatures. They start to suffer when they are below 14°C and the first damage occurs when the temperature drops below 10°C. The ideal climate is when you are between 20 and 27°C. Heat is generally not a problem, provided that the ambient humidity and air circulation are abundant.
Orchids live in a substrate that is virtually free of any kind of nutrients. Fertilisation is therefore essential to achieve vigorous vegetative growth and flower stem production. It is necessary to buy specific products because they do not contain elements (such as calcium and chlorine) that are very harmful to these plants.
In general, a high nitrogen content is preferred in spring. During the rest of the year, a more balanced formulation is used, except for the arrival of autumn, when the intake of phosphorus and potassium will be increased to induce (in conjunction with the useful temperature change) the flower production.
Almost all of them are water-soluble formulations, to be administered after having wetted the roots so that they do not cause “burns”.
After flowering and propagation
Once the inflorescences are withered, you can decide to hold the stem by cleaning it from the corollas or to cut it at the base. In the first case the plant could produce new buds (generally smaller than the previous ones) and possibly keiki (new plants that can be detached and treated just like the mother), or leave it to dry.
In the second case there will be the production of a new stem from the lower part.
Orchids Phalaenopsis: Parasites and diseases
The most frequent parasites are aphids: they are treated with specific insecticides.
Plants kept outdoors are easy prey to snails. Let’s protect them by placing them high at night or using traps or specific products.