Phalaenopsis is one of the most profitable flowering potted plants grown in the U.S., according to botanists at Purdue University. This orchid has flowers that grow on stalks, bloom in the late winter and spring, and can last for up to three months. Orchids have a reputation for being a difficult plant to care for, but, as long as they are grown in the proper medium and in the right light, an orchid plant can be very easy to grow.
Plant your phalaenopsis in a light, organic material. Ideal choices are fir bark or sphagnum peat. Phalaenopsis plants can't tolerate full sun, so place the plant in an area that is well-lit but out of direct sun. Ideal growing temperature is between 70 and 80 degrees F in the daytime, and it will not do well under 60 degrees. To initiate blooming, place the plant in an area with temperatures below 76 degrees for three weeks.
Water the plant to keep the soil wet, and never allow it to dry out. Depending upon the planting medium, you may need to water every day in summer. Winter watering can sometimes be put off for a week to 10 days. As a general rule, soak the planting medium well and then don't water it again until you can stick your finger into the soil and it comes out dry. Phalaenopsis also requires humidity. To raise the humidity, fill a pan to the top with pebbles or gravel and and then add water until just the tops of the pebbles are exposed. Place the orchid's planter on top of the pebbles. Make sure that the pot sits on top of the pebbles and not in the water.
How much and how often you fertilize your orchid depends a great deal on the type of material in which it is planted. If it is in bark, it will need more frequent fertilization and a flush of the soil once a month. For plants in peat, fertilize every other week. Michigan State University researchers created an excellent formula for orchid food, called MSU, which you can buy online. Follow the package directions that apply to your growing medium.
Protect the phalaenopsis plant from mealybugs, scale, mites, thrips and aphids by providing the proper light, temperature, water and fertilizer. Remove all dead or dying leaves and keep the planting medium free of any organic matter. An infestation of pests may require the use of pesticides or miticides. Phalaenopsis is susceptible to a bacterial disease known as crown rot. Pysan, a fungicide, is generally used to treat this disease.