Intro to growing orchids: phalaenopsis 'moth' orchids

This is my first blog, so here goes nothin'...

I've been growing orchids for about 9 years now, but only became a serious addict in the last 6 years. I've grown all types of orchids, carefully mastering the care of one species before attempting a new one. No, none of my orchids are in my chameleons cage, I don't think I could do that to my orchids!

Over the years I've killed many orchids, especially phalaenopsis ('moth') orchids, because I have such a heavy watering hand. I've gone through all types of potting materials, with the exception of dirt. I've used sphagnum moss, bark (chunky and fine), and hydroton (clay like pebbles). I really have no preference of potting material over the other, as different species like different types.

Bugs? Fungus? Yep, you can get them. Mealies, aphids, fungus, are just some issues they can get. Got bugs? Use a weak solution of dawn dish soap, tepid water, and a couple drops of cinnamon oil and spray, soak, or wipe it on the plant. If that doesn't work, good ol rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab will do the trick too. Got a plant infested with root rot? Un-pot it and shake the dirt off it, trim off the dead mushy roots and spray that bad boy down with hydrogen peroxide. You CAN use store brought products to kill off these critters, but some products are systemic, meaning it remains in the plants system, thus making the plant toxic to anything that wants to munch on it (like chameleons). The soap, tepid water, and cinnamon oil has worked wonders for me. Neem oil is great too, just don't expose the plant to sun after use. It's like you putting cooking oil on yourself, and going out into the direct sun.

So my first species of orchid I'll talk about is the Phalaenopsis (aka, phallie)... These orchids are very common, you see them at Home Depot or Lowe's, and even at grocery stores. You might even see them with tags on them that say, 'just add ice' (which will kill an orchid, don't use that method!). In my experience, these are a bit finicky, I have to be careful with how much water I give them, and how long their potting material holds water. (I have a heavy watering hand) Mine get watered maybe one a week, to the soaking point, and any excess water is drained off. If you have a phallie, they like to be in a smaller-than-you-would-think-it-needs pot. Yes, they like to be a little cramped, but their potting material needs to be loose, not tightly packed like you find them at the stores. My phallies are in sphagnum moss, however I am experimenting with one that has sphagnum moss in the bottom part of the pot (to draw water up into the pot) and a fine mark mix from the middle of the top to the top. I buy from the bark mixture from Carter & Holmes orchid nursery here in South Carolina. I water most of the time by filling their trays and let them draw water up into their pots. I have a tiny, wire caged fan that blows air on them 24/7. Keeps gnats away, prevents the moss from staying wet too long (causing root rot), and it also will dry out the crown of the plant if I watered from the top of the plant. If you water from the top, and get the whole plant wet, this can cause crown rot. If water sits in the crown of the plant too long, it'll rot it away, and it's pretty much a goner. Hence, why I like to water from the 'bottom up'. If you get water in the crown, take a paper towel and fold it up and take a corner of it and stick it down in there to soak up the water, this will prevent rot if you don't use a fan.

Lighting for these guys are low. They do not need bright direct light, they can burn easily if set in the sun. Mine sit in a window where the sun does not shine directly into, but the brightness of outside does them well, and they bloom regularly there.

As far as a phallie going into a chameleons cage, I've never done it. But my advice would be to pot the phallie in hydroton pebbles for maximum drainage. If you don't want to pot the plant, then I would mount it to a piece of grapevine wood, or a flat piece of 'bark' with a hook on the back to hang somewhere. Do NOT use fishing line, wire, etc, as this will cut into tender growing roots. Use some cheap panty hose from the dollar store, cut it up and stretch it out and use that to gently tie the base of the orchid on. Once the roots take place after a few months, it'll hold itself up without the panty hose (you can cut it off or leave it). Placing the plant somewhere in your enclosure where a automatic mister will spray the roots lightly will do great. I do not advice placing a phallie right under a mister head, the constant mistings all day long wouldn't allow the crown of the plant to dry out... And you'll end up with a dead phallie eventually.

The biggest thing with orchids is learning to grow them, you can get all the advice you want online, but learning by trial and error is the best way. I really hope my first blog works out, or is understandable. If you have any questions, please let me know.

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Comments

Come on you chicken. Put one of those awesome Vandas in with your cham and let them chew away. :rolleyes: I'll give you an update this spring on what Luke thinks of mine.
 
Great blog. My one orchid I have is doing good, it seems to never stop blooming. I got in already in bloom last July, it dropped it first set around November and with in 2 weeks I had new buds and stems forming. We are now in full bloom again, looks like some of the flowers are starting to wilt, but I have a new stem full of buds coming out again.
Do orchids go into a rest period? or If I keep up my regime will it just keep flowering? I am amazed at the blooms it's producing.
 
You inspired me to buy my first orchid... I am giving my black thumb a month to kill it. The flowers even look like sad little faces. Wish me luck.
 
melble68;bt2089 said:
Come on you chicken. Put one of those awesome Vandas in with your cham and let them chew away. :rolleyes: I'll give you an update this spring on what Luke thinks of mine.
haha! I love Chief, but I got too much money in my vandas, lol!!! Please keep me posted!
 
StreetMoggy;bt2093 said:
Great blog. My one orchid I have is doing good, it seems to never stop blooming. I got in already in bloom last July, it dropped it first set around November and with in 2 weeks I had new buds and stems forming. We are now in full bloom again, looks like some of the flowers are starting to wilt, but I have a new stem full of buds coming out again.
Do orchids go into a rest period? or If I keep up my regime will it just keep flowering? I am amazed at the blooms it's producing.
Some species go into a rest period in the winter, some flourish. Dendrobiums rest through the winter, where phalaenopsis's keep going. Most orchids do well with cooler temperatures, temperature drops and nitrogen drops often trigger spikes to grow! Some people will put their orchids in a cool dark place for a few days and that'll trigger them to spike too.
When your orchids flowers start to wilt away, snip the spike off about 1" near the base, this allows the plant to focus its energy on its leaves and roots. Phallies are bad about blooming and when the flowers start to die, to continue growth at the end of the spike. Once they have showcased for me, I'll snip them off to give them a break. When you do this, and it rests up, the next spike will be full of lush buds for you!
 
FlChamMom;bt2096 said:
You inspired me to buy my first orchid... I am giving my black thumb a month to kill it. The flowers even look like sad little faces. Wish me luck.
Keep me posted on which one you get! If you send me pictures I'll help you along the way!
 

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