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The Best Phalaenopsis Care Book for Beginners (Phalaenopsis Orchids Plant Care Guide)
Table of contents:
Why I wrote the Phalaenopsis Orchids Plant Care Guide?
I know this is a little bit unorthodox for me and a bit out of this blog’s topic, but I have been asked multiple times to share my experience in growing orchids.
As it turns out, even though there is plenty of info going around, there is still a lot of confusion and myths around how to successfully maintain a Phalaenopsis orchid and how to make it bloom continuously.
So, I decided to document my own findings in a practical step-by-step manual to guide you through the whole process and to answer all of your burning questions!
And I want to emphasize – this is not a theoretical book – this is an absolutely practical guide for beginners to start with the right foot and to help you avoid (or correct) all the mistakes I have made in the past with my first orchid plant.
How it all started?
My orchid journey started about 10 years ago when I was given an old barely surviving Phalaenopsis orchid which had been mistreated for quite some time. It hadn’t produced any flowers in a long long time.
I made pretty much all the mistakes in the book – watered it too often or too rarely, re-potted it with the wrong type of soil (Psst! All the recommended tools you need for growing your house plant the right way are right here. These can also be wonderful gift ideas for your friends and family who love orchids as well!), fertilized it with the wrong type of food, etc. This plant should be given a medal of honor for surviving my incompetence! 😀
Throughout all these years I had been reading all sorts of information and followed various pieces of advice, but to no avail – my orchid was just not growing well at all! It was barely producing new leaves every few months and that was that! (sigh)
So, in all my frustration and confusion, I started experimenting and checking how my plant reacts. That’s how I actually sifted through the myths and misinformation and developed my own strategies and guidelines for the correct Phalaenopsis care and maintenance.
By the way, I have distilled these in a very nifty way with my printables you can use as convenient reminders! You can find them at the end of the book.
And the results showed up!
And I am going to teach you everything I have found in a very structured step-by-step manner so I can hopefully remove any confusion out of the way!
Here’s what you are going to learn in this guide!
What you are going to learn in this Phalaenopsis Care Book for Beginners
The volume contains all my simple Phalaenopsis care tips on these important topics:
-> The correct placement of your Phals
This is one of the first and most important things we need to take care of when bringing home such an orchid. And the simple reason for this is that it will determine some of the most essential and vital conditions your plant needs to grow well and thrive – the amount of light, the temperature, the ventilation, and the air humidity (also called relative humidity of the space). There are quite a few things to think about and take into account when deciding where to put your precious plant, and I tried to do my best in explaining the different options available depending on the specifics of your environment. This includes the exposure of the living space (is it facing North, South, East, West, or anything in the middle?), on which floor you are residing, are there any nearby apartment buildings, are there any strong air drafts, etc. All these can impact how much light comes through your windows and you will have to decide how to accommodate your Phalaenopsis to suit its needs. You will learn what these plants prefer and what hazards to look for when placing them in certain spots. Some of these can make or break your plant rather quickly! But more importantly, you will get to know your orchid and recognize if it’s “happy” or distressed, what the most probable cause for the issue may be, and how to handle the situation. Also, you will find out how to tweak your environment and correct some shortcomings with easy and affordable tools.
-> The proper Phalaenopsis watering care
Watering is the next big topic for any plant culture for that matter. The amount of moisture we provide and its frequency is of paramount importance, especially for orchids. These beautiful flowers come from the Asian rainforests, and they do require adequate hydration. However, Phals are no “normal” plants. They are epiphytes, which means that they do not grow in soil. Their preferred growing spot is the bark of trees and moss. So, their roots are extremely well ventilated and perfectly adapted to absorbing moisture in a quite unconventional way. This means that watering your Phalaenopsis orchid has to be performed in a very different manner, as opposed to regular flowers growing in soil. That is why watering is such a controversial and essential topic for all passionate orchid growers. We need to maintain that balance between hydration and ventilation to avoid the two most common problems with the Phals – dehydration and root rot. In the book you will learn how to tell when your plant needs watering, as opposed to the common one-size-fits-all types of advice we all hear. You will learn the signs of dehydration or over-hydration and establish your own unique watering schedule depending on the micro climate of your living space – the temperature, the humidity, the ventilation, the type of medium, the size of the pot, the size of the root system, etc. I think this is the better approach which would remove all the guess work out of the way!
-> Adequate Phalaenopsis fertilizing
This is the next big topic for growing Phalaenopsis orchids (and any other type of plant actually) since this is basically its food. The fertilizing process supplies essential nutrients, macro and microelements, as well as vitamins that the flower needs to grow well and produce magnificent blooms. But simply picking a regular flower fertilizer may not do the trick! Orchids are quite different from regular plants for their epiphytic nature (not growing in soil). And that’s not all! The Phalaenopsis plant has two main seasons and the amount and the type of nutrients it needs in these periods of time will be different. Moreover, the way that we fertilize the orchid must also follow some rules so that it would be able to absorb these substances more easily. As you can see, something simple as feeding a plant may not be that straightforward as it may seem. Not to mention that there are some hybrid types of Phals that may have different feeding preferences. So, we need to know what signs to look for – both signs of malnourishment or fertilizing too frequently. These will give us the necessary information how to tweak the feeding schedule according to the season, the environment, and the needs of the plant! In the book you will find my preferred way and frequency of fertilizing my Phalaenopsis orchids which give me excellent results.
-> Re-potting your Phals
Re-potting is often a necessary procedure for every house plant at some point. But for orchids this is even more important and essential. The main reason for this is of course their epiphytic nature. Most orchids (including the Phalaenopsis type) usually grow on trees and their root system is very different than regular flowers that grow and thrive in soil. This means that there are certain rules we need to follow and certain conditions to meet, such as the type of potting medium, the gentle balance between pot aeration, moisture, and drainage, etc. All of these components need to be taken into account when we transfer the plant into its new pot with fresh potting medium. So, in the chapter on re-potting you will learn all about this process:
- how often you should change the soil;
- what type of soil to use;
- what type of pots and planters to choose;
- how to take care of the root system and how to spot and treat issues (like root rot or pests);
- when to perform emergency re-potting, etc.
-> How to induce the blooming process?
Now that’s the juicy part! Because I believe that this is the main reason why we buy Phalaenopsis orchids – for their beautiful and long-lasting blooms. Unfortunately, lots of people have some serious difficulties with the blooming process. Moreover, there are some weird pieces of advice that may cause even more confusion. So, in the chapter of producing flowers you will learn exactly what you need to do to help the plant bloom over and over again year after year. I know that there are some tricks and gimmicks out there and some may be useful, but others may even be quite detrimental to the plant in the long run. (For example, we will take a quick look at the one of the most common pieces of advice on placing ice cubes in the pot to induce the blooming process. Is it applicable or is it harmful?) And I hope that after reading the book you will feel much more confident as to how to grow your Phals in the best possible way so that the flowering process happens naturally and in a beneficial way to the plant in general. You will have more knowledge about the necessary conditions you need to provide for the orchid to develop its blooms while minimizing the risks of it perishing. Because blooming takes lots of energy on the plant’s part and if we don’t do it correctly, it may very well harm the Phalaenopsis long term or even kill it rather quickly. You will also learn how to distinguish an airy root which grows outside the pot and a future flower spike, and why this information matters.
-> Bud blast
If you are not familiar with the term, here’s what it means. A bud blast is the phenomenon where the orchid’s blooms would dry out and fall prematurely – before they open or before they open completely. Well, the orchid blooms do dry out and fall off eventually, but this usually happens way after the buds had opened fully and we had been enjoying the blooms for quite some time (in some cases this could last for up to four months!). However, if the buds did not manage to open up fully, this means that they blasted. This situation can be quite disheartening and disappointing. Well, I think most of us do love the Phalaenopsis orchids exactly because of their beautiful and long-lasting flowers. And if bud blast happens, this could be extremely frustrating. So, in this section of the book you will learn the most common reasons why orchid buds tend to blast and how to prevent it from happening. If we understand the reasons, we can make sure we minimize the risks as much as possible. Also, in case your Phal’s buds are currently falling off, you will find whether this process can be stopped or reversed, and whether you should be concerned about the plant’s wellbeing or not.
-> Why isn’t your Phalaenopsis orchid blooming?
There is lots of information in this book about the blooming process because I think it is one of the most important topics when it comes to orchid culture. We tend to gauge how well we care for a plant by its ability to produce blooms over and over again. And if that doesn’t happen, this can be extremely disappointing and demotivating. So, I dedicated a whole subchapter on this topic and I share all the common reasons why the Phalaenopsis does not bloom. I hope it will give you a better understanding whether this is something normal and the plant just skipped the current blooming season or whether it is something far more serious, an issue that should be addressed. I did my best to describe some of the telltale signs to look for in order to determine the main cause of the problem and whether you should make some changes to the culture – the watering, fertilization, the amount of light and temperature, etc. I think that this is one of the most important skills we can all adopt in caring for any living creature – getting to know it as best as we can – observing it, gathering data, and checking how it reacts to certain changes to its environment and culture. And since there are loads of orchid hybrids on the market, and the micro climates of our homes can vary greatly, I think there are no one-size-fits-all types of solutions and only one way to go about a certain issue. It takes time and observation to learn more about that particular plant and its needs depending on its genetic makeup and background.
-> Sequential blooming
Sequential blooming is the process of the orchid blooming from the same flower spike. In the first edition of the book I mentioned that it is best to cut off the old flower spike and let the plant switch to growth mode. And I still believe that this is the best course of action. But I was asked by a reader to elaborate on this subject and give more information on sequential blooming. And if you are interested in this process, this chapter is for you, too! The Phalaenopsis orchids do have this ability to re-bloom from the same stalk but some conditions need to be met, and I will share with you what to look for, and what you can do to help the plant bloom again. But be aware that this doesn’t always happen. There are other possible outcomes of the process you need to keep in mind and make a judgment call whether you are happy with them as well. One of these possible scenarios is the orchid producing a flower spike keiki rather than a secondary blooming spike. (More about this in the section on propagation.) So, for the sake of the wellbeing of the plant long term, I would suggest some signs you can keep an eye on in case you wish to try your hands at sequential blooming. I think one should be aware of the pros and cons in order to make the correct decision about their Phals.
-> Phalaenopsis care after blooming
Let’s say that everything went smoothly and you managed to help your orchid with the blooming process. Or maybe you have a brand new plant which is currently in bloom. Now what? Have you been wondering what to do after the flowers dry out and fall off the stalk? In this guide you will learn what the best course of action is after the blooming season ends (in my opinion, of course). Because when it comes to growing orchids some things may be quite logical and reasonable, while others may not necessarily be that obvious. There are a few options to choose from, and there are certainly more than one ways to go about the after-bloom care. For instance, should you cut the flower spike off or not? Should you change the watering and feeding schedules? Should you re-pot your Phal and change the medium? Should you make any environmental changes to your micro climate at home? So, if you are eager to find out my take on this subject, flip through the pages and you will have more information in order to make the right call for the sake of the overall wellbeing of your plant long term.
-> Phalaenopsis care in winter
Most Phalaenopsis orchids we buy come from large-scale farms equipped with sophisticated systems for creating the best possible conditions for the plants in terms of temperature, humidity, light, watering, fertilizing, and ventilation. Well, growing and blooming the plants as fast as possible is in the best interest of the professional growers. Unfortunately, this means that once we get our Phalaenopsis orchid and bring it home, it has to adjust to its new environment (which often times is not optimal for its growth). And that’s OK. Phals are resilient plants and they will do their best to manage the change. But often times this will take some extra effort on our part to help them adjust to our climate and the home environment we can offer. So, the important thing to remember here is to learn about the natural habitat of the Phalaenopsis orchid and their distinct growing seasons. This information will be crucial in order to determine how to tweak your micro climate during the year and the different seasons to suit the needs of this exotic plant. This is especially vital during winter when in most places the temperatures start to drop. So, in the book you will learn which the best temperatures for growing Phals are, and which the crucial numbers you need to stay away from are – both below and above the recommended values. That is why in most cases the winter care for these elegant flowers is very important for their overall wellbeing in the long run, and their ability to produce blooms year after year!
-> How to propagate your orchid?
There are several main ways to propagate your Phalaenopsis orchid depending on your goals and available tools. Here are a few of the most popular ones:
- The flasking method;
- Flower spike keikis;
- Basal keikis;
The flasking method is suitable for creating hybrids (including intergeneric ones) and it requires lots of special tools and skills to perform. One of the biggest difficulties is the need for absolute cleanliness, and that is why it is often performed in laboratories. The other downside is that you basically have to grow your plant from a seed and it may take years for your orchid to mature and produce flowers.
The production of flower spike keikis is much easier than the flasking method. The term keiki comes from Hawaii and it means “a baby” or a “baby plant”. What you need to know is that the new orchid will be an exact clone of the mother plant. Also, it may take lots of time and energy for the mother Phal to nurture its baby orchid. This could mean that your flower may skip blooming for one or more seasons. Moreover, the Phalaenopsis orchid keiki care is a bit more difficult (compared to basal keikis), and it will require lots of attention from your part.
However, since this is a Phalaenopsis care book for complete beginners, in it you will learn about the easiest and safest method for orchid propagation – the division of basal keikis. As I mentioned previously, basal keikis (small baby orchids which naturally grow from the base of the mother plant) are more adapted for growing in potting medium and the chances of success and the survival of the Phal are extremely high. Also, the risks of hurting or setting back your main orchid are very low. (a setback means shocking the orchid in one way or another which stalls or slows down its growth and blooming ability).
The flasking and the flower spike keikis propagation methods will probably the subject of a different book or future editions of this guide. So, stay tuned!
-> Caring for your plant while you are on a vacation
Growing orchids at home should not come at the expense of having a personal life. And sometimes life gets into the way and we need to focus on other matters, like going on a vacation. But what should we do with the orchids? Can they survive with our absence for a bit? How long can they get without our attention? If you are wondering what I do while I am away, keep reading! In the book I share my main concerns with leaving the plants unattended and what steps I take to minimize the risks of the orchids dying. These will of course depend on the season and the climate that you live in. And since I am not comfortable leaving any electric appliances running (the refrigerator and the freezer are the only exceptions), I do my best to keep my orchids alive without the help of any cooling, heating, humidifying or ventilating tools. Unfortunately, there are always the risks of failures, especially if you live in an area with extremely low or high temperatures. But I still got you covered! At the end of the book you will find some nifty printables with the most basic Phalaenopsis care instructions. Print them out or make snapshots and leave them to a close friend or a relative to help them take care of your plants while you are away on your well-deserved vacation!
-> How to prevent and treat the most common issues?
Taking care of a living thing always comes with its risks. And while the Phals are very resilient and tough orchids, there still may be times when something might get wrong. So, throughout this guide you will find some of the most common issues you might come across on your plant care journey – from pests to some plant ailments. Keep in mind that I focus heavily on prevention. I think that the best course of action is always to do our best to avoid any unfortunate situations. But life happens, and we might come across something undesirable. So, I did my best to share some simple steps you can take to minimize the damage and to try to save your plant as much as possible. And if the situation is not in my realm of knowledge and experience, I will direct you to other sources you can look into for solutions. Well, nobody knows everything, and I like giving pieces of advice coming from my personal experience and empirical knowledge. If I haven’t come across with a particular issue, I would prefer to refer to other more experienced orchid growers and experts.
-> Necessary tools for growing orchids
The most common and necessary tools for growing Phalaenopsis orchids (and other types of orchids in general) are listed at the end of the book. You can also check them out in this article here, if you wish to get exact product suggestions. In the second edition of the book I have listed the items directly into the guide so that the readers would create their own unique shopping lists. Also, this last chapter would work as a reference guide to the most common parts of the orchid growing journey – the correct placement, the watering and the fertilizing schedules, the blooming, re-blooming, and the propagation processes, etc. So, in a way this item suggestion list is a nifty reminder of what you should do to make your plants happy and what tools you would need to achieve your green thumb goals (such as pots and planters, the types of fertilizer you would need, water filtering devices, special gardening scissors, potting medium, disinfecting items, etc.). Keep in mind that I like updating the information as I come across useful tools and ideas. So, if you wish to get the latest version of my most favorite orchid growing supplies and accessories, it is best to refer to the article I mentioned earlier. The updates of the book will probably happen less frequently for the technical side of this process.
-> Phalaenopsis care instructions printables
As I mentioned previously, at the very end of this Phalaenopsis orchids plant care guide you will find some cool practical printables you can use at your disposal whenever you need them. I did my best to summarize the most important parts of the orchid care basics so that you can use them as reminders. Sometimes having too much information can feel a bit overwhelming and it is always nice to have the essentials at hand. The first printable shows you the step-by-step process of taking care of your Phal – what your first actions should be to set yourself up for success right from the start, in my opinion of course. I shared the two main situations you might be in – in case you have a brand new orchid which is currently in bloom (that is how they are usually sold), or in case you have had your plant for quite some time and it is not growing well. This guide will give you the necessary steps to take so that you can go to the chapter you need and see exactly what you need to do. The second printable deals with the absolute essentials for the wellbeing of your plant – the best environmental conditions you need to offer so that your Phalaenopsis grows strong and blooms year after year. These include when to water and fertilize your plant, and how to induce the blooming process. This guide is super useful to give to close friends or family members who are going to take care of your orchids while you are away on a vacation or a business trip. The third printable is an example label you can use to put down important information about your plants. This is especially practical in case you have multiple orchids and you need to tell them apart. In the book I share my take on the importance of labeling your plants so that you can keep track of their growth and needs. You will learn what information to write down and what to observe along the way.
Reviews and feedback from readers
Here’s what people say about the book!
“Best how to book I’ve ever read
I feel like I can grow orchids now and not just hope I can. I’m excited to get started. Thank you Milky Green.”
“Helpful pointers for my first orchids
I like the very simple instructions given. The accessories were very helpful. Not enough pictures. I would like see pictures of different orchids and the colors.”
Note from the author:
The second edition of the book contains more pictures to illustrate some of the interesting and important parts of the process of growing Phalaenopsis orchids.
“Easy to understand
Thank you for writing an easy to understand guide to Orchid care! 5 stars! Love it!”
“Practical advice on growing moth orchids
This book deals with the specifics of caring for your moth orchids. Moth orchids are the ones I usually see for sale at the grocery store. I have had successes in the past with them re-blooming but it was through trial and error.
This short concise book helped me remember what I did to keep them going. It is difficult in the Southwest but not impossible. They provide such an elegant flower and bring joy into our home.
I like having a book I can refer to when I attempt to grow them again. I believe some of the tips can be used on other type of orchids.”
“Everything is right
I enjoyed reading all about how moth orchids grow and thrive. Before seeing the photos, I thought I had new spikes….but they are ROOTS. Now that I have info on how and when to water, fertilize, and repot, I am ready to order supplies from some of the merchants Ms. Green mentioned.”
“An orchid book dealing with the most important information
I thought this was a good book for a couple of reasons. One it is short and to the point. No Fluff and not a bunch of repetitive content that I have seen in other books. Second it covers what needs to be covered in a systematic approach. I have had orchids for years, not too successful, but I think I learned some new things and am looking forward to maybe having more success.
What I did not like so much was the numerous attempts to get readers to subscribe to a newsletter, it happens several times throughout the book. That kind of thing should be at the end and only once. There also were several typos, it would have been a little more professional looking with a good proofread. Overall a book worth reading.”
Note from the author:
The majority of the links to the tools article are removed. The second edition of the book went through numerous proof readings, and the free printables are available at the end of the guide – no email sign up needed anymore! J
“Very helpful information! 🙂
Finally I know what I am doing wrong with my orchids, which I have already a few years, but they still looked not good. Now I am trying to make some steps from the book, so I should see in few weeks positive results. I am looking forward to it! 🙂 Thank you! ”
“There’s no evidence that the author has grown phalaenopis longer that 2 annual trips to the store.
I have a difficult time seeing the other reviews posted here –for a discourse on orchids that might earn a C+ for the content of undergraduate term project in an advanced Horticulture class. For example, there is no discussion of even the chemical analysis of “orchid fertilizer,” (5-5-10?) There is obviously tremendous knowledge by commercial growers that could be shared, much less any research related to the greenhouse production of this species. I would say that the coverage of lighting might be correct; anything short of “full sun” looks is OK(?). The publisher could not even include photographs of actual, mature, orchid plants–if you enjoy being “ripped off,” and don’t demand too much, fine, I guess.”
Note from the author:
OK, this may be a little counterintuitive, but I am not going to shy away from negative feedback and criticism. I believe that there is something to be learned and improved from such feedback and I am willing to continue gathering more knowledge and experience to better help people who are just starting their Phalaenopsis growing journey.
So, in this review there a few interesting and constructive points to be taken.
First, the part about fertilizers is actually on point and I have actually added the most common ratios of orchid food (the ratio between Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium). Well, in the first edition of the book I omitted this part for two main reasons. First, believe it or not where I live we don’t have the ratios of the fertilizers written down. Actually, we don’t even have the full list of ingredients anywhere on the label (main nutrients and vitamins). So, in case you live in a county with a similar problem, the only way to distinguish the two main types of fertilizers is to look for the names “orchid fertilizer for growth” or “orchid fertilizer for blooming”. Sometimes it is even written in an even more convoluted and complex way like “fertilizer for growth for epiphytes”. Secondly, the ratios can sometimes be a bit confusing. For example, some manufacturers will write down the percentage of nutrients as 10-10-30 while others will put it down as 5-5-15. The ratios are the same but the amount of fertilizer to dissolve will be different. So, for the sake of simplicity I skipped this part in the first edition.
Second, about drawing knowledge from commercial growers. That’s also an excellent point. Large-scale commercial Phalaenopsis growers perfected the art of nurturing and blooming Phals and there is a lot to be learned from them indeed. However, for absolute beginners this information might be a bit overwhelming, in my opinion of course. Actually, in my Facebook page “I love orchids” I shared an awesome video of the production process of one of the largest European Phalaenopsis farms form the Netherlands called Ter Laak. There you can see the amount of skill, knowledge, and technology involved in this endeavor – the laboratory personnel, the professional air conditioners, ventilating, watering, and humidifying equipment, the computer software, etc. However, I think this can cause absolute beginners to get the wrong idea that growing Phals in a home environment is extremely hard and they would need a significant amount of complex tools and measuring devices (like hygrometers, lux meters, professional humidifiers, etc.) Again, I wanted to keep things simple so that the readers would feel less intimidated by the process and to have faith that in most cases the Phals would adjust to the home environment of their owners. For instance, for the major part of my orchid care journey I didn’t have a humidifier and my plants slowly adjusted their airy roots to the relatively dry environment I have to offer. I wish this orchid care hobby to be as pleasant, accessible and hassle-free as possible – the more we enjoy the process and the more it fits with our lifestyle, the more we will have the energy and the desire to take better care of our flowers. If a complete beginner becomes too overwhelmed with lots of details to monitor, the faster they will give up the hobby. Well, that’s how I see things in that regard.
Third, on the photographs of young Phals. My research shows that a plant becomes mature when it starts to produce flowers. Here’s a quote from an article by the Science Learning Hub: “When the plant matures and is ready to reproduce, it develops flowers.” All the orchids in the pictures are plants which bloomed at least two consecutive years. This means that they are all mature adult moon orchids. Also, some orchid specialists argue that the lifespan of the Phalaenopsis as a houseplant is between 10 and 15 years. Others say that the number can vary between 20 and 25 years. I have had my first moth orchid for more than 10 years which means that it can be regarded as a mature plant, in my opinion. However, as I have stated in the book, I have made lots of mistakes in the beginning and the plant was definitely not growing well and as fast as it can for several years back. This could explain why the orchid may seem like it is not mature enough. Finally, many of the photographs actually show the first keiki of my first mother plant. So, in that sense the reviewer is partially correct – some of the pictures do show a young plant in bloom. But since it is already blooming, it can be classified as a mature plant. What I wanted to showcase is that my strategy for growing Phalaenopsis orchids has been very successful so far, and the keikis my plants produce are healthy, viable, and they are able to bloom continuously.
I hope this information has been helpful and I was able to clarify some key points that I think deserve to be addressed. J
So, are you ready to start your Phalaenopsis growing journey?
“Phalaenopsis Care for Beginners” is your simple hassle-free guide for growing, blooming, and propagating your magnificent Phalaenopsis orchids!
Are you constantly struggling to make your orchid grow and bloom properly? Or maybe you have a brand new Phalaenopsis plant and you have no clue what to do with it?
Worry not! This is exactly what you need!
No more confusion! Everything you need to know to grow your orchids in one place!
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