5 Ways to Keep Your Orchid Alive
They’re not as challenging as you might think–a little care goes a long way.
With flowers that look like butterflies and last for months at a time, Phalaelnopsis, or moth orchids, are a gorgeous indoor plants. Keep them happy and you’ll have blooms year after year.
1. Let there be (bright, indirect) light!
An east-facing window that gets morning light is ideal. South- or west-facing windows work, too, but be sure your orchid is shielded from the brightest (and harshest) of afternoon sun with a sheer curtain. The leaves should be a bright shade of olive green. Darker leaves means the plant is not getting enough light; red-tinged leaves mean there’s too much exposure to light.
2. Not too hot, not too cold
Phalaelnopsis are happy in the same temps we are: above 60º at night and between 70º and 80º during the day. Remember: Temperatures on a windowsill are colder or hotter than the rest of your house, and fluctuating temperatures can cause buds to drop off right before they open (causing a huge bummer). Pay close attention that your Phalaelnopsis is out of the way of any drafts.
3. Cut spent blooms
When flowers fade, you have two choices: Cut the spike down to the leaves and the plant will grow a strong stem with even larger flowers within a year. Or you can cut stem just above the first node (it looks like a bump) below the lowest faded bloom. Often the remaining stem will produce another round of flowers within 8 to 12 weeks.
4. Remember food and water
A once-weekly lukewarm watering is usually enough for Phalaelnopsis. You might need to be a little more frequent in summer, and less so in winter. When in doubt, give it another day.
With a narrow-nose watering can, irrigate just inside the pot rim, under the plant leaves. It’s key that the crown (the center of the plant) remains dry. Use a paper towel to blot any excess water to avoid crown rot. Make sure the pot has drainage and excess water can run out, and that the container doesn’t sit in a saucer full of water.
Feed weekly with a light fertilizer (a teaspoon of 20-20-20 liquid fertilizer to a gallon of water—remember, I’m fine using fertilizers indoors). Once a month, skip the fertilizer and use clean water to flush any excess salts.
5. Repot on occasion
No potting soil allowed! When bark chips have decayed (usually between 1 and 3 years), water your Phalaenopsis, jiggle it out of the pot, and wash the old bark from the roots, snipping off any dried or mushy roots with clean clippers. Repot in moistened, medium-grade bark so the base of the bottom leaves sits above the bark and 1/2 an inch below the pot rim.
Our Favorite Gardening Tools from the Sunset Store
The Sunset Store is full of tools, puzzles, knickknacks, and more to remind you of all the reasons you love the west. The gardening tools below were handcrafted with the home gardener in mind; check them out and don’t forget to tag us in your garden pics @SunsetMag on all social platforms.
Sunset Gardening Apron
We’ve teamed up with the good people at White Bark Workwear in Los Angeles, California, to produce our first official Sunset garden apron—a sustainable and practical tool for gardeners everywhere. The spacious utility pockets are gusseted to expand and provide extra room for tools, twine, garden clippings, and anything else you might need to keep near.
Fisher Blacksmithing Hand Trowel
The subtle patina and refined hardwood handle give this trowel modern flair. The blade is made from high carbon steel and the handle from American Black Walnut. Simple and sturdy, this tool is reminiscent of what you might find in your grandparents garden or farm shed. The wide blade holds a lot of soil and the pointed shape allows you to get through more stubborn substances as well.
Fisher Blacksmithing Garden Cultivator
This elegant rake is great for breaking up dirt and attacking weeds! The tines of the rakes are ideal for working with grasses and other weeds that have shallow, rhizomes, or runner-type growth. The carefully bent side tines flare slightly below the ferrule creating a beautiful, fleur de lis image. The solid steel rivets are set horizontally to the direction of pressure providing additional stability for the rake.
Vintage Sunset Camellias Cover Personalized Garden Flag
Plant your flag! Our weather-resistant garden flags come custom-printed with your family’s name. Show off your pride in the West— and, ahem, your good taste— with your favorite vintage Sunset covers.