Growing Moth Orchid Plants & Care

Moth orchid is the common name for the phalaenopsis orchid that's quickly become one of the most popular species from the orchidaceae family of flowering plants.

Glorious colored blooms all year round and the "ease of growing" is what makes these a popular house plant choice.



White Moth Orchid

If your looking for a flowering plant that produces flowers to match a rooms interior color and ambiance - the moth orchid has just about every option for all interior styles. There is over 50 species and hundreds of hybrids available today, which includes mini phals.

Foliage: The stalks stand tall, producing a number of flowers along the stalk and the large green oval shaped leaves sit close to the bottom of the stems and top roots. An interesting foliage feature is the curled medusa hair looking roots that sit near to the top of the medium. These roots are on the look out for moisture and nutrients to care for itself as they would in their natural habitat, being an epiphyte plant.

Flowering: The phalaenopsis blooms striking colors all year round, which last for up to 3 months or more. When a stem is done with blooming flowers it can bloom again the following year, but prune if it starts turning brown or prune as soon as the flowers begin to fade. These flowers have one upper and two lower sepals, two side petals and then the attractive lip, column, and stigmatic surface, which sits in the lower center.

There are two ways to cut a stalk after flowering that growers follow. One way is to cut the plant an inch or two above a node "below the flowers" and another is to cut the stalk off an inch above the soil. Neither way is wrong and has it's purpose. Cutting near the node allows new blooms to grow on that stem quickly and another branch may grow. Cutting at the base gives the plant the opportunity to use it's energy to produce finer blooms next time round.

Ease of growing: These orchids are plants that enjoy be provided with above average humidity levels, warm temperatures and bright light for long periods, which makes them moderately easy for people to grow, but difficult for others.

Once a stalk begins growing over 12 inches tall or so, you will find it might need to be supported (with a stake) to grow upright. Some can grow arched over too much and look unattractive. Most from the garden store come already staked.


Origin: Southeast Asia, Taiwan, Australia and elsewhere.
Names: Moth orchid, Phal (common). Phalaenopsis (botanical/scientific).
Max Growth (approx): Height 3ft.
Poisonous for pets: Non-toxic to cats and dogs.
Phalaenopsis in garden store
Pink flowers
Flower buds

Moth Orchid Care

Temperature: Phals like their warmth during the day and cool during the night. Room temperatures of around 65 - 85°F (16 - 24°C) during the day and 60 - 65°F ( 16 - 18°C) at night, are ideal growing conditions.
Light: Providing enough light can be a problem for some growers because the moth orchid prefers bright light conditions for more than 10 hours a day. An east or west facing window is best suited - away from direct sun, but bright. During the winter you may have to supplement the plant with artificial lighting. See the guide here about lighting.
Watering: Once the orchid soil becomes dry to the touch, water thoroughly. Avoid allowing water to keep the soil soaked; you want it to drain away easily. Avoid watering the middle of the plants foliage (crown) because the water sitting here for a period of time may cause rot. Do not over-water!
Soil: Using an orchid potting mix is a good idea. A mix is likely to contain peat moss, perlite and fir bark or another combination, if it drains well. This soil needs to replaced every two years.
Re-Potting: The potting mix used for phals needs to be changed at least once every 2 years, during spring. The potting mix will start to become a problem for the plant when it becomes old and deteriorates. I would re-pot in a pot similar to the size of the roots and pot it's already growing in, then remove unsavoury roots whilst re-potting. The roots that were sitting on the top of the soil need to be placed back in that position and not buried.
Fertilizer: Feed from spring until fall with a diluted orchid liquid fertilizer, once every 1 - 2 weeks.
Humidity: Avoid placing your plant in a room with dry air from artificial heating without supplementing humidity levels from a humidity tray (or other means). Orchids in their natural habitat thrive in high humidity conditions. Mist the leaves.
Propagation: The orchid can be propagated by division, which is a good idea when the plants roots have matured. Divide the mature plant during re-potting time. Another method is called keiki which is a baby plant produced by the mother plant growing from the node. Some growers will use a keiki hormone paste to encourage and force the mother plant to produce a baby plant.

Potential Problems

Similar to most plants; there are so many causes that create growing problems which have to be checked against care instructions, then eliminate what has been provided well, then diagnose. The worst thing that can happen to an orchid is over-watering (rots the roots then kills it) or allow pests or diseases to take over the plant.

  • Not flowering: The common cause here is usually lack of light if the foliage is looking fine. Sometimes an orchid needs some rest to flower during the night, so check to see if your keeping to the night and daytime averages as mentioned above (could be too warm during the night).

  • Drooping or limp leaves: If the plant is beginning to droop this could be due to lack of light or not enough water. If lighting is fine, then it's possibly lacking water. The other cause if the leaves have become limp could be too much water left in the soil which will eventually rot the roots.

  • Yellowing leaves: Sometimes this can be caused by the natural cycle of a plant shedding old leaves for new growth. Other causes can be insects - such as spider mite, over-watering or under-watering. If it's been over-watered it will need to be re-potted (well draining pot) and the roots checked for rot.

  • Gray or whitish colored upper roots: If they’re gray the cause is usually lack of watering, and white is lack of water or light.

  • Note: These are just some basic pointers above to use, however, to give a better diagnoses you'll need to send us a picture or request advice from a knowledgeable orchid grower.


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