Phalaenopsis – description and care

One of the most popular orchids, comprising about 60 species native throughout southeast Asia.

Phalaenopsis is a genus of epiphytic orchids in the family Orchidaceae, comprising about 60 species. The genus is native throughout southeast Asia, and is one of the most popular orchids. Phalaenopsis is sometimes known as Moth orchids. It is abbreviated as Phal in horticultural trade.

Phalaenopsis does not produce pseudobulbs or rhizomes. It shows a monopodial growth habit. It has an erect growing stem producing one or two alternate, thick, fleshy, elliptical leaves a year from the top, replacing the older, basal leaves. A healthy plant can have as many as ten or more leaves. The raceme or panicle inflorescence appears from the stem between the leaves, and can last for several weeks.

The species of Phalaenopsis can be classified into two groups. A group with up to a meter long, branched inflorescence, and large, almost round flowers of rose or white colors. The other group produces shorter stems and less rounded, waxy flowers with more striking colors. Hybrids in all colors and variations have been produced via intensive cross-fertilization method. They are more adaptable to artificial conditions.

Phalaenopsis requires warm temperatures (20 to 35 °C), high humidity (60-70%) and low light of 12,000 to 20,000 lux.


This plant has become very popular in the last 20 years and is often called the living-room queen. This has to do with the way we heat our houses and with new auctiona and breeding techniques.
The genus counts some 50 species, which have been described by Karl Blume.
The origin of Phalaenopsis lays in Asia, from India, Taiwan, Phillippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and northern Australia. The name is derived from Phalaina = nightbutterfly and opsis=looks like.
There have been developed over 100 hybrids in the past 30 years. Phalaenopsis offers therefor a wide range of colors, shapes and sizes. By interbreeding species that originate from different climates, one has obtained plants that can be grown under more moderate circumstances. The consumer benefits from this by better results in our living rooms.
Like in many other occasions, there are also hybrids outside the Phalaenopsis genus like Doritaenopsis with Doritis, Renanthopsis with Renanthera or Hawaiiara with Renanthera x Phalaenopsis x Vanda.
And there are more hybrids like Tanakara, Vandaenopsis and Limara.


Phalaenopsis is the ideal plant for at home.
It needs a lot of light, but no direct sun light.
Temperature not below 16 oC.
The plants need water weekly. The best time of day to give water is early in the morning. If the plant gets a bit dusty in the living room, one can sprinkle the plant a bit or hold it under the tap for a short while. It is good to wash the plant now and then with clean rainwater.
Fertilizer should be applied in a low concentration.
If you have a glass house in the garden, you can put the plant there during the summer, provided that you protect it from direct sun shine.
Make sure that the plant is not exposed to draught.

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