Give it the minimal treatment that it deserves, and it will flower its head off for you for years to come.
Go into any supermarket or garden centre today and you’ll see huge numbers of the very colourful Phalaenopsis hybrids, also known as the moth orchid.
Although it’s a tropical plant, it will do very nicely in your house provided that you observe a few simple rules.
The worst thing that you can do to this magnificent plant is to over water it.
Your moth orchid is an epiphyte, which means that its roots will not be buried in soil or compost. Some roots are to hold on tight to the large bark chips contained within its pot; the rest act like leaves, collecting moisture and nutrients from the atmosphere around it.
It will normally be planted in a transparent plastic pot, placed into an outer decorative one. The best way to keep it well watered is simply this – remove the plastic pot and take to the kitchen sink.
If you happen to have a jug of rainwater, so much the better, but if not, then simply flush the pot through with not-too-cold tap water. Put the pot on the draining board and allow the excess water to percolate through the bark chips.
It’s very important to allow time for the bulk of the water to drain out completely so that when you pop the orchid back into its original decorative pot, it will not be sitting in any residual water. This will eliminate root rotting.
The orchid is not a hungry plant, and so feeding really isn’t necessary. If you think that a shot in the arm is required, then do try and buy some orchid fertilizer. This is not just fancy label for a ‘normal’ product, it’s an extremely weak version of what you might give other plants.
Over-feeding could damage the plant and burn the roots, so when in doubt, my advice is don’t!
Unless it’s old, it’s extremely unlikely that your orchid will need re-potting. The visible clue is that all of the bark chips in the inner pot have been reduced to a mush. If your plant is fairly new, then don’t bother.
Your orchid should have been given to you with a flower spike or two on it. When these fade, you simply find a point lower down on the stem looking for a growth point. Make a sloping cut above the bud. In time, your orchid will produce another stem of these amazing flowers.
After around two flushes of flowers, it’s best to allow the plant to rest in a draught free corner. Cut the flower stem down to just above the lowest bud, and water sparingly every now and again. The orchid will decide for itself when it’s time to flower again.
© 2015 Valerie McBride-Munro