The generic name of this orchid originated from the genus “Phalaena” Moths because they were believed to bear a resemblance to them. They are still sometimes called butterfly or moth orchids and are native to southeast Asia through the Taiwan, the Philippines and Australia.
The reason why Phalaenopsis Orchids are so popular in this region of New Jersey is simply because with over 60 different hybrids and long lasting blooms, they are the most available and easy to care orchid for the home. They grow best on a east windowsill, but I have had mine in both south and west exposures for years with a sheer curtain to protect them from burn.
My blooms will last four to five months if the plant was purchased at a local nursery or orchid show. I “throw” all my plants outside in the summer shade and they re-bloom each winter, often for three or more years! I water them, checking and cleaning the leaves, once a week, using rainwater when I can. I fertilize them in growth season once every two weeks and re-pot most of them in the fall when I bring them in or when they look root-bound. I now use a new orchid soil only available at this time through Silva's Orchid Nursery in Neptune called “Orchiata” for many reasons but especially because mold, scale and other insects do not thrive in this New Zealand pine bark. I use the glazed cut orchid pots available at Sickles Market to allow the air flow to the roots. When the stem finishes flowering, I cut it just above the first flower “node”, and very often it will put out another shoot and continue for another few months. If it continues to turn brown and die, cut it off at the base and fertilize the plant to encourage new leaf growth.
I will, on occasion, rescue the nasty blue injected or small orchids found dying in home building or grocery stores. Most of the time, these inexpensive plants are forced into early bloom and come from “other countries." They will die if you don't re-pot these plants immediately in new clean orchid bark and discard the original medium in the garbage. Do not allow them into contact with other orchids for at least a few months. Most of the time, after the shock wears off, they will begin to thrive and re-bloom.
For more information on the purchase and care of all orchids, don't miss the Silva Orchids Open House this week Jan. 19-22 for free lectures and a visit to their fabulous greenhouse here in Neptune. Sickles Market will also have a $15 lecture on the growing and care of orchids, Feb. 4 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., presented by guest lecturers from the Deep Cut Orchid Society.