A friend gave me a moth orchid, Phalaenopsis taisuco "Bright," for my birthday a few years ago. Its flowering stem was covered with 12 creamy white flowers. The leaves were thick and dark green. It was beautiful. It was my first experience with these orchids, and I wasn't sure how to grow one. It has rebloomed twice since I received it. The plant label said, "The Phalaenopsis is a great beginner orchid." I agree.
Phalaenopsis are epiphytic orchids. In their native habitats, they grow high in the branches of trees in tropical or subtropical jungles, clinging to bark. They obtain their nourishment from the air, rain and decaying vegetation that gets trapped in their roots (Sunset Western Garden Book).
The directions that came with my gift plant suggested a location with moderate indirect sunlight. I have it near an east window, where it receives bright morning sun with very little direct sun. The directions also said to avoid dry drafts. Well, this is Nevada, so dry is the norm! Temperatures should range from 56 to 95 degrees. According to the directions, the moth orchid should be watered once or twice per week in the winter and two to three times per week in the summer, unless the plant is in moss - then it is watered every seven to 10 days. Mine is in moss. I keep it in a bowl and I put about 1-2 inches of water in the bottom of the bowl when the moss feels dry to the touch, which does work out to about every week or 10 days. I think the secret to my success is watering from the bottom. I think that provides a little extra humidity and doesn't rot the crown of the plant. The plant should be fed every second watering during the growing season. I'm not good about that. I fertilize in the water every three to four weeks or so.
A moth orchid usually blooms indoors once per year, in the spring, and may produce from four to more than 10 blooms. These gorgeous flowers last from four to eight weeks. If you cut the flower stalk back 1 inch above the second node (joint) from the base of the plant after it blooms, it will rebloom in a few months. Supposedly, I should have transplanted it into a fine orchid mix every year after flowering. Well, I didn't transplant it, and the plant is thriving.
Add a bit of exotic beauty to your home and try a moth orchid.
• JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at skellyj@ unce.unr.edu or 775-887-2252.