Caring for and enjoying Phalaenopsis — tips and interesting facts about butterfly orchids

Butterfly orchids are among the most popular houseplants. With a long flowering period, a large variety of flowers and low demands on care, Phalaenopsis are decorative for months. It is important that there is never waterlogging. Orchids are one of the most species-rich families. With more than 25,000 species, the Orchidaceae family is diverse in terms of flowering and growth behavior. The best-known genus is the Phalaenopsis, also known as butterfly orchids, moth orchids or swan orchidsbe designated. The name Phalaenopsis goes back to the Greek ‘phálaina’ for ‘moth’, which is easy to recognize in the shape of the flower. From the more than 70 wild forms, a large number of crosses have emerged through horticultural culture. These hybrids are characterized above all by large flowers in a seemingly endless variety of colors. You can also read helpful tips in our orchid advisor for download.

Useful information Location Care Watering Fertilizing Pruning RepottingPests & Diseases FAQ

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Worth knowing about the butterfly orchids

Botanical name: Phalaenopsis hybrids
Other names: butterfly orchid, moth orchid, swan orchid, sun flower
Use: flowering indoor plant, table decoration, cut flower, room climate plant
Origin: Philippines and Indonesian islands
Flowering period: possible all year round
Flower: white, salmon pink, pink, lilac, violet, lemon yellow; with dots/blotches, two-tone
Special features: Delighted with elegant blooms for many months. With a matching planter, a decorative indoor greenery. The formation of new flower panicles easily takes place and thus an almost continuous flowering. Waterlogging will not be tolerated.

In which location does the Phalaenopsis feel most comfortable?

Phalaenopsis prefer a bright location in the room with morning and evening sun all year round. Direct midday sun in a south facing spot will not be tolerated. A seat by the window facing east or west is ideal. Make sure that the location is as free from drafts or strong heating air as possible. Daytime temperatures of 20 to 22 °C are ideal for moth orchids. At night, the room temperature should not be below 18°C. Yellow flowers or bud drop can be a result of too low temperatures.

How do I properly care for my butterfly orchid?

Butterfly orchids require little maintenance other than regular watering, fertilizing and repotting. The popular flowers are wrongly described as complicated and demanding. A resting phase, as with some other orchids, is not absolutely necessary for the butterfly orchid. If your plants do not form new shoots, you can stimulate flowering with a 4 to 6-week phase with temperatures of around 16 °C. When the Phalaenopsis has faded, leave it as it is Stalk first on the plant. Only cut back once the stem is dry and brown.

leaf care

Occasionally wipe the leaves with a damp cloth. This will remove dust and care for the leaf. You can also spray the butterfly orchids regularly with orchid foliar care. The care product contains medicinal plant extracts and thus promotes the vitality of the leaves.

How do I water the butterfly orchid correctly?

At their home location, butterfly orchids are epiphytes that get by with little soil and water. The relative humidity in the tropical forests is high. Regular spraying of the leaves is therefore recommended. Water sparingly, no more than once a week, there should never be water in the saucer or planter. Dipping the plants once a week is well suited. To do this, place the plant and its pot in a bucket filled with water and hold the plant in such a way that thecoarse orchid soil remains in the pot. After 1 to 2 minutes, no more air bubbles rise and the Phalaenopsis is taken care of for at least a week. A simple trick to knowing whether you should water or not is to elevate the plants. If the pot is still heavy, watering the orchid is usually not necessary. It is important that there is never excess water in the saucer or planter. Yellow leaves can be a natural aging process or a result of too much waterbe.

Trivia: When a butterfly orchid needs water, the roots are silvery. If the Phalaenopsis has enough moisture, the roots are green. This is clearly visible in transparent orchid pots.

How do I fertilize the Phalaenopsis correctly?

Fertilize your butterfly orchids every 2 weeks during the main growth phase and during flowering. Only use orchid fertilizer for fertilizing. This mostly liquid special fertilizer provides the Phalaenopsis with the most important nutrients as well as trace elements and vitalizing humic substances. Dose the fertilizer exactly as indicated on the label. If dosed too high, the fertilizer will damage and the roots will suffer. Make sure that the plant never dries out after fertilizing. are easy to handle fertilizer sticks. These release the nutrients over a period of 3 months. During the dormant phase, fertilization is increased to an interval of 4 to 6 weeks.

How do I properly prune my butterfly orchid?

Phalaenopsis bloom for a very long time and require little maintenance. After withering, cut off the faded panicle above the second eye from the bottom. But leave the stalk on the plant, because a new flower panicle (sometimes even 2) will sprout from the eyes. After just a few weeks, new shoots will develop above the interface. Avoid cutting the roots or aerial roots. The latter are used to supply the plant and may only be removed when they are completely dead and dry are.

Trivia fact: Aerial roots on orchids serve to absorb nutrients and moisture from the air. The cells of the aerial roots are like a sponge and can therefore store water. Therefore, cutting back the aerial roots is not beneficial for the Phalaenopsis.

How do I repot my Phalaenopsis?

The ideal time to repot orchids is after they have bloomed. The orchids are usually transplanted in spring. With increasing light supply, orchids quickly get over the care measure and form new roots, leaves and flower panicles. It is ideal if you repot Phalaenopsis every 2 to 3 years. After this time, the substrate from the pieces of bark has decomposed and the conditions for the roots have deteriorated. A special soil that is well permeable to air but can also store water is ideal.Repotting butterfly orchids requires a bit of finesse and is different than transplanting house plants.

Repot Phalaenopsis in 5 steps:

  1. Water the orchids thoroughly before repotting. You can also dip the plant in a bucket of water. It is important that the roots are completely soaked with water before repotting.
  2. Gently tip the orchid and remove the existing pot.
  3. Shake the orchid’s root ball so that the old soil falls off. Gently loosen the roots and shake again. Completely remove the old substrate and mushy and hollow aerial roots.
  4. Put a layer of orchid soil in the new orchid pot and set the plant upright. Hold the Phalaenopsis between the tuft of leaves and the root ball and add more special soil to the cavity. It is important that the orchid stands firmly and does not wobble. Keep tapping the pot on the edge of the table. This closes the cavities and optimally fills in the orchid soil.
  5. Finally, you can carefully water or dip the repotted soil . This connects roots and special soil more closely.

Gardener tip: Never repot budding orchids. Transplanting is stressful for the flowering houseplant and can cause the buds to fall off. Occasionally, orchids react to repotting by stopping growth.

What pests and diseases can the Phalaenopsis get?

Butterfly orchids are popular houseplants that rarely have any problems with proper care and optimal site conditions. Too much sun can cause leaf burns. The following problems can occur with butterfly orchids:

Scale and Mealybugs

Remove the pests with tweezers or a cloth. Infestation usually occurs when the humidity is too low. In addition, oil-based agents help to decimate the annoying pests.

FAQ — Frequently asked questions about butterfly orchids

Do orchids need to be repotted?

Without repotting, most indoor plants will suffer. With orchids in particular, the substrate becomes too firm and the roots get too little air. Therefore, repotting at regular intervals is beneficial for the flowering plant.

Do Phalaenopsis need special orchid pots?

Orchid pots are mostly transparent. Since the orchid roots need light, transparent pots are more suitable than black pots.

How are orchids propagated?

Butterfly orchids are propagated in special farms by so-called meristem culture. This has the advantage that the flowering indoor plants grow evenly and flower. Propagation by Kindel is well suited for the hobby gardener. Older plants in particular form young plants (the so-called Kindel) over time.

Are orchids poisonous?

Orchids are non-toxic to the touch. Ie, there is no skin irritation or similar.

Why does bud drop occur in Phalaenopsis?

Drafts, lack of light or low temperatures can cause the butterfly orchid to drop its buds.

What can be the reason for sagging leaves on butterfly orchids?

Sagging leaves are usually the result of waterlogging or a lack of water.

How do I get my Phalaenopsis to flower again?

Moth orchids are usually very willing to flower. However, if the houseplant does not form new flowers for a long time, a resting phase for 4 to 6 weeks in a bright room at 16 to 18 °C can help. These cooler conditions will stimulate the plant and produce new buds.

Are there fragrant butterfly orchids?

The wild and natural forms in particular exude a fine, pleasant scent. The large-flowered hybrids are rarely fragrant, but bloom longer and more frequently.

Can Phalaenopsis be hung?

Due to the low demands on the substrate, butterfly orchids are suitable for the Japanese trend ‘Kokedama’. The roots of the orchids are wrapped into a ball with moss and can thus have a decorative effect as a hanging houseplant. You can easily make these floating plants yourself and caring for the Kokedama is also easy. It is important that you moisten the moss ball regularly.

Care tips for other orchid species

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