Guest Author - Susan Taylor
You’ve probably already gotten hooked on orchids by picking up a plant and enjoying the long-lasting sprays of flowers on your first Phalaenopsis. Now it’s time to get another one, perhaps a different colored one. Either to replace the first one or to grace another location…or to keep the first one company in a beginning orchid environment with humidity trays. What should you look for now that you’re past the “first plant” stage?
First of all, look at your current plant. Was it too big, too small, top heavy? Were the leaves unsightly? Whatever it was that you did not like about the first one, keep in mind when you are looking for a second.
Look for a plant that has a healthy root system, not something sitting in water. The leaves should be firm and green with no spots, no pitting, and no wilting. You should try to pick out a plant that has at least one flower open so you can actually see what the flower will be like. You will get the longest bloom from this kind of plant since the flowering period is generally around 3 months when all the flowers have opened.
You will find as you look around that Phals do come in different sizes. There is a large standard size (not usually available in stores, but sometimes at nurseries) with leaves up to a foot long and inflorescences around 3 feet. The flowers on these are spectacular — sometimes reaching 4” across. A major problem with this size is that the plants tend to be extremely top heavy and are hard to keep standing up. It is helpful to put the plant, pot and all, into a clay second pot and put rocks in between the pots. This adds weight to the bottom and provides a larger base. I have a Phal this size that bloomed for six months and then put out side shoots from the original inflorescence and is now blooming again nearly a year later.
There is a compact sized plant which generally is a total of about 2 feet tall when flowering. This is the most common retail size available. They come in all colors from white to dark magentas to dark purples. Most are excellent plants for general home use.
Then there are the miniatures. These have small leaves, approximately 4 inches in length and will generally be only about one foot high while blooming. Most are in the white and pink color ranges, but there are occasionally some darker purples. These are nice size plants for a desk, or a bedroom.
Whatever size you choose, the same conditions apply. Mist the roots daily. Keep the plant lightly damp and be careful to getting any water in the middle of the plant—crown rot is always a problem no matter what the size.