A Classic Plant for the Holidays and Beyond


The Phalaenopsis orchid is not a plant that one necessarily associates with the holidays. But ever since I got a classic with “phal” as they are often known, staked with a red and green candy cane stake, I have always thought that they are a great holiday plant (in fact, the poinsettia is the number 1 bestselling plant and the Phalaenopsis orchid is the second best-selling plant).

Many people shy away from orchids because they think they are difficult plants. They are very easy plants–after all, how hard can they be if every big box store and supermarket can stock them?

There are just a few simple things to remember: first, you can follow the instructions and “just add ice.” I don’t do that. I wouldn’t like anyone putting ice on me and my house is already cold enough–I don’t need to be chilling my plants down any further.

All of these plants are sold in a “2 pot” system: a decorative outer pot and then the inner pot holding the orchid. The way I water them is to remove the inner pot, take it to the sink, run water over the bark or the moss holding the plant in the pot until water comes out the bottom, letting all the water drain completely through, and then I return the inner pot to the decorative outer pot.

orchid with dry roots

How often do I do this? It depends. Phalaenopsis are great at telling you when they need to be watered. You can see their roots through that inner pot in most cases. If their roots are still green, or mostly green, they are still wet enough. If they are white, they need. water. Simple enough. The photo above shows the very white roots needing water.

watered roots

Here is the same plant, after watering (it is the same plant in the topmost photo, so you can see what the “inner pot” looks like as well). While the green, newly watered roots aren’t as visible as I would like, they show up nicely at the bottom of the pot.

The only other trick is that I don’t water the leaves. That can lead to rot, especially in my cold house.

orchid spike

Once it’s warm (say Memorial Day in my part of the country) I put them outside in the shade.  I bring them back in around Labor Day before it gets too cool. They will then begin setting flower spikes for new blooms. The flower spikes look like this. They are distinguishable from the white, above-the-pot roots by being green all the time and by their smooth texture.

Phalaenopsis only bloom once a year but the blooms can last for 4-6 months or longer. What more could you ask?

2 thoughts on “A Classic Plant for the Holidays and Beyond

  1. Jeanne Corey December 21, 2015 / 12:48 pm

    What about fertilizing the orchids?

    • gardendaze December 21, 2015 / 2:10 pm

      Honestly, I have over 150 house plants so I don’t have time to mess with fertilizing. That’s why you are rarely going to see anything bout that in my posts.

      When I do feel the need to resort to something like that (after my upcoming trip to Colorado, I will often come home to some abomination that the time away has caused) I will use a nice gentle organic fertilizer like BioSafe. I use it just as the instructions provide, which is 1 oz to 2 gallons of water (in other words, I do not subscribe to what a lot of orchid growers say, which is “weakly weekly” meaning feed the orchids every week with a weak fertilizer.)

      Clearly, as you see, the orchids are doing just fine and they do re-flower for me. If you’d like a little secret, it’s in initial orchid selection. When you are buying them–where ever you buy them–choose the one with the broadest leaves you can find. That one that’s about the re-bloom came from a discount grocer. It has been the best orchid I have ever had, hands down. I attribute that to the very broad leaves putting strength back into the plant. No other magic needed.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting!


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