Phalaenopsis or “moth” orchids are always in demand at our shows. The magnificent arch of a spray of pristine white flowers all facing in one direction catches everyone’s eye. Although not a genus for the new grower, they are not difficult to grow and flower as seen at many shows around Sydney. If given suitable conditions, these Asian beauties will flourish.
While predominantly whites to pinks/reds, the newer species have introduced yellows and oranges. The hybridists are working busily to extend the colour range and increase the numbers of flowers with these new shades.
In their natural habitat they grow in partial shade but in a continually buoyant and humid atmosphere with good air movement at temperatures not dropping below 12-15 degrees. Thus they require a heated glass house with ventilation to thrive in a Sydney winter. However our own homes do not drop below these temperatures and indoor culture of these orchids in Sydney has proven very successful. The humidity can be recreated by placing the pot on a tray of moist pebbles/gravel. The light can be filtered through a fine curtain or on a windowsill receiving dappled sunlight. Most houses have some degree of air movement which can be supplemented by a small fan if necessary. As are many orchids, phalaenopsis are epiphytes and need a rapidly draining bark based orchid mix to prevent root rot. Regular feeding with half strength fertiliser promotes strong growth and encourages flowering. A book about indoor culture of phalaenopsis in Sydney has been written and contains many useful tips.
Plants are available through societies or at some specialist orchid nurseries. When beginning with these plants, start with a larger established plant. It may cost a little more but the chance of success is much greater.
The Eastern Suburbs Orchid Society has an orchid show on the third Monday of every month at 8pm, St Luke’s Church Hall, Varna Street, Clovelly. Visitors are always welcome.