Orchid Care: 7 Surprising Things You Didn’t Know About Growing Phalaenopsis orchids

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If you’ve always wanted to grow orchids (or have tried and failed), then you’re in the right place! These tips on caring for Phalaenopsis orchids (the kind you can find everywhere) will show you how to get them to thrive and rebloom. They’re much easier to grow than you think.

7 surprising things you didn't know about caring for orchids

If you are a fan of mystery writer Rex Stout, you know that he had his protagonist (Nero Wolfe) spend at least one uninterrupted hour daily sequestered in his orchid atrium.

The trials of orchid propagation and disease protection were described in such detail that I formed an impression this plant was difficult and temperamental to grow.

Phalaenopsis orchids growing in a pot on a living room table

Then I started using the moth or Phalaenopsis orchid as an accent plant in decorating and learned how easy they are to care for.

The addition of one of these blooming plants brings a room alive with a cheerful focal point.

The flowers last for 3 months or longer.

Because they are now readily available commercially and priced so well, it is possible to have at least one brightening up a room.

Orchid garden in Kauai, Hawaii

Do not be daunted by how exotic they look. It belies how tough and resilient they are.

You only need to see the outdoor orchid garden at a resort on Kauai, or the orchids growing wild on the trees lining ‘Alligator Alley’ in Florida to be convinced.

Keep reading to find 7 surprising things you didn’t know about caring for  Phalaenopsis orchids.

1 | Orchids Thrive On Neglect

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Orchids growing wild on a tree in Kauai, Hawaii

Orchids thrive on neglect. In the wild they often grow in tree crevices!

I water no more often than once every 2 weeks.

I do not mist but will run the leaves under lukewarm running water if they look dusty.

Phalaenopsis orchid being watered in a bowl of water

Water the plant by immersing the pot in lukewarm tap water for about 30 seconds.

Then tip the pot a little to drain all the water from the bottom before putting it back into its decorative container.

Orchids do not like to have their roots soaking.

2 | Phalaenopsis Orchids Do Not Need A Lot Of Light

Moth orchid blooming in a pot in front of a window

While the plant is blooming, I do not worry about light conditions. I place it wherever it looks best in my room.

When the orchid has finished blooming, position it in indirect light­­.

An east-facing window works well for me. Any window that will grow African violets will work for your orchids.

3 | Do Not Prune Old Blooms

Moth or Phalaenopsis orchid with a second stem about to bloom

Do not cut off the orchid bloom stem unless it is completely brown.

Quite often new flowers will appear on the old stem.

4 | Orchids Do Not Like A Lot of Fertilizer

Pink Phalaenopsis orchid growing in a pot on a glass table

Add a very small amount of orchid fertilizer to the water of a non blooming plant every 3 months or so.

Do not fertilize a plant that is in bud or bloom.

5 | They Make Great Outdoor Potted Plants

Phalaenopsis orchid growing in a pot on a patio table outside

Orchid plants do well in a shady spot on the deck during the summer months.

Just be sure to drain the pots after a rainfall.

Unless you live in a tropical location, you do need to bring orchids in for the winter.

Want to get the tropical look with plants that do not have to be brought in? Click here to find out more.

6 | Phalaenopsis Orchids Do Not Like To Be Re-potted

Phalaenopsis orchid with a lot of roots in a pot

Orchid roots do not like to be disturbed.

I do not re-pot, just add a little bark or moss to the top of pots where the plant seems unstable.

Always handle the plant by the pot as opposed to the stem so that the roots are not loosened.

7 | Orchids Will Bloom Again Next Year

Close up of a large pink Phalaenopsis orchid bloom

When one re-blooms for you, enjoy the smile and feeling of pride you get each time you look at it.

Close up of white Phalaenopsis orchid blooms

Now that you know how easy they are to take care of, you have no excuse for not having at least one in your home!

Have comments or questions on caring for Phalaenopsis orchids? Tell us in the section below.

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7 secrets for growing gorgeous Phalaenopsis orchids

This post was originally published on August 10, 2016 but was updated with new content on January 2, 2023.

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  1. I do water my (12) orchids the same way except, I completely immerse them every 2+ weeks in summer and about once a month in winter. I soak them for 10-12 minutes and drain completely. I rarely fertilize and they bloom all year. Thank you for your insight.

  2. I have had an orchid plant for probably 5 years and it has never bloomed again after the first blooms when I first got it. Is there anything I can do to help it along?

    Thank you!

    1. Ledene, I would try giving it a little orchid fertilizer when you water the plant. I dissolve a small amount of fertilizer in tepid water and soak for 30 minutes. Then drain well. I don’t know if this will make a difference but it is worth a try. Good luck!

      1. Flora,

        Thank you for your response. I will give that a try!


  3. Barbara Gorczyca says:

    Hi, I did have my orchid bloom again but the blooms fell off before they actually bloomed. Any guesses on why that may have happened. It happened with another plant I had as well.

    1. Hello Barbara, this is a common problem with Phalaenopsis orchids. It happened to one of my reblooming orchids this winter. It can be caused by too much or too little water, changes in environment, a draft, not enough light.

  4. One of the biggest keys to keeping orchids alive is to remove them from the peat/sphagnum mix they are in when you buy them from the grocery store. The mixture holds too much moisture, causing root rot. This is why most people feel like they can’t grow them. Once they are done blooming they should be repotted in orchid bark in a pot that allows full drainage and airflow. I’ve had some of my orchids for 25 years!

    1. Thanks Allison for sharing your knowledge. I think you make a good point.

  5. Stephanie Krueger says:

    Hi…my orchid is budding…may I use warm rice water to water it?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Stephanie, I would use tepid tap water. Soak the pot for 30 seconds and drain well. Enjoy your success.

  6. Justina Freeman says:

    My orchid lost all its leaves,right after it bloomed. I have read it will not grow back. Not sure what happened?

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Hi Justina…it depends on the type of orchid you have. Some of them (such as some Dendrobium orchids) are deciduous so they naturally lose their leaves to conserve energy for the next growing cycle. But if it’s an evergreen plant (such as Phalaenopsis orchids), then yes, it’s best to just throw it away. There are a lot of reasons they can drop leaves (over watering, under watering, temperatures too low or too high, too much fertilizer, too much or too little light, pests or disease) so it’s hard to tell exactly what happened.

  7. Hi, I much enjoyed this article.
    Will follow with my new orchid, with fingers crossed.
    I had lost faith in my ability to grow orchids after a very disastrous
    Couple of years. I have just thrown out six orchids that I have been
    trying to regrow for many months. They just became a lost cause.
    Today I purchased a new plant.
    Is it here anything else I need to know that was not in the article.
    Thank you.

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Hi Vanessa…sorry for the late response, I somehow missed your question. This is all we do with our orchids and they usually grow quite well. Good luck with your new plant!

  8. Toni Calabrese says:

    What should I do with all the roots looking things that grow out of it?

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Hi Toni…since orchids are air plants, those are actually its roots. So you don’t want to disturb them too much. If a lot of them are starting to push out from the pot, it may be time to repot it. Otherwise, you can cover them with sphagnum moss if you want to make them look better.

  9. Joan baker says:

    HELP!! Leaves are folding down the middle??? Another one lvs are shriveled looking??

    1. Hello Joan, I am baffled by your orchid that has leaves that are folding in the middle. I have not experienced this problem and can only hazard a guess that it is trying to reach the light. Shriveled leaves on the other hand, usually indicate a watering problem — either too little or too much. In the summer the plant should be immersed in water every 7 to 10 days. Do not water more often, but leave it immersed for longer than usual to try to rehydrate the leaves. Be sure to drain well after watering.

  10. Lisa R Jackson says:

    Most of my Phalaenopsis orchids will not bloom………..what to do?

    1. Lisa, it can take two years or more for an orchid to rebloom. Try a drop of fertilizer in the soaking water every 4 months or so.

  11. what product is safe to treat yellowing leaves

    1. Erika, I remove yellow leaves at the base. Prevent further leaf loss by watering either less often, or more depending on your habits.

  12. Susan Irving says:

    I have 2 orchids that I have had for awhile one for years the other about a year. We loved from Tucson, AZ 2 months ago (my orchids loved the master bath window facing west and were constantly in bloom). Well the trip to pur new home in GA about killed them and now I cannot get my older orchid to look healthy. The leaves look so bad. I have tried every window that doesn’t have the east sun directly hitting them and just cannot find a happy spot for them. Help how can I save my beloved orchids?

    1. Susan, put them in a window where African violets will grow–in my house it is an east facing window and leave them be undisturbed for a while. They will either survive or not. No drafts from heat or air vents, water no more than once every 2 weeks, drain well after. Maybe add a drop of orchid fertilizer to the water one time.

  13. Hi..I have several orchid plants from my parents funeral. Big and very small… During that time I wasn’t exactly concerned for the flowers and plants and the orchids were not watered perhaps as much as they needed. The sirens turned brown and I cut them off. Will they regrow a flower stem? Does it take a long time? Any help is greatly appreciated!

    1. Hello Kim, They will grow another stem but it can take from 1 to 2 years before they rebloom. Don’t water too often, drain well and keep them out of drafts.

  14. My orchid I was told to put three ice cubes on it once a week. One stem is almost in bloom. Not sure what type of orchid it is. Should I change and water it.

    1. I have purchased orchids from the grocery store that come with the instructions to water with 3 ice cubes once a week. I have never followed these instructions, so you will need to use your own judgement. The outside pot fits the clear plastic pot in which the orchid is planted very tightly and allows for no drainage. I think the roots may rot from sitting in water. However, this is a surmise on my part as I have no proof.

  15. Kathy Hudson says:

    My orchid stems look really dark almost black, is that a bad sign? I’m hoping they are not dead. My first one and I’ve been reading up on them so hope it survives .
    Thank you Kathy Hudson

    1. I assume, Kathy, that the stems you refer to are the flower stems. They can be dark brown after the blooms fall off. If the leaves look healthy, your plant is doing well. You can cut the stem back to a node below the brown. Alternatively, if the stems are really black, it could indicate a serious fungus condition that needs to be treated with an antifungal preparation. I personally trash any plant that I think is diseased, but good luck if you decide to try to revive it.

  16. Helpful information. Didn’t know some of these things. Love orchids !
    Thank you.