The Phalaenopsis (moth orchids) from east Asia and the western Pacific get their name from “phalaina; moth” and “opsis; appearance.” Most are slow growing, monopodial, epiphytic orchids with dark, glossy-green or bluish mottled leathery leaves. There are about thirty-five species and hundreds of hybrids. Phalaenopsis have been hybridized since 1887, not only within the genus, but also with other closely related genera such as Doritis, Renanthera, Rhynchostylis, and Vanda.
The long lasting flowers of Phalaenopsis orchids come in shades of white, cream, pink, and lavender. The hybrids usually have larger flowers than the species. After blooming, if the stem is cut off just under the first flower, the stem may branch and produce more flower buds. Individual plants can have fifty to seventy-five individual flowers in a year. Plants started from seed often are ready to flower in two years.
Phalaenopsis have long roots and do not like to be disturbed. When growing them in clay pots, it is sometimes possible to transfer the plant in its pot into a larger pot Phalaenopsis are ideal for growing indoors. They prefer warm temperatures (65°F nights and 75°F to 80°F days) and shaded light. Watch out for sunburn. To avoid rot, hang or tip the plants so water does not collect between the leaves.
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