Phalaenopsis orchids (Phalaenopsis spp.) produce blossoms that resemble flying moths, gaining them the common name of moth orchid. The wide-open petals offer easy access to the flower's nectar for pollination purposes. These perennials prefer warmer U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 11 when grown outdoors, although many enthusiasts prefer an indoor growing location. Although they may appear to have a dormant period, Phalaenopsis are simply resting between blooming periods rather than halting growth altogether.
Peak Flowering Period
Phalaenopsis blossoms are extremely detailed and intricate -- moth orchids use their resting phase before flowering to harness as much energy as possible for one or more flower buds. The peak flowering period is commonly between January and May. Amazingly, the same flowers may remain in bloom for up to 6 months with the proper environment. Maintaining a bright, indoor area for your orchid, without any direct sunlight, provides the photosynthesis activity necessary for bud formation. Daytime temperatures should not exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit or drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the evening. Creating a mild to warm habitat for the Phalaenopsis extends the blossoming period significantly.
After Spring Blooms
As your blossoms fade by June, Phalaenopsis is slowly moving toward its fall resting period. However, moth orchids use the bright, summer sunlight to boost their energy reserves. You should see leaf development, although it may be a slow-growing process. Orchids maintained in transparent containers, such as plastic, should show obvious root development as they grow longer and more root-bound. To encourage more energy concentration in the leaves and roots, cut the spent bloom spike at its base. Your moth orchid does not need to divide its energy between the old spike, roots and leaves.
Commonly referred to as the dormancy period, orchids actually rest between September and January. Although the leaves do not vigorously grow, your orchid's roots are busy at work -- they are slowly growing as they absorb nutrients and moisture. With healthy roots full of nutrients, Phalaenopsis can be ready for a January bud formation. Place your Phalaenopsis near a north-facing window for some indirect light. With less light comes reduced temperatures; your orchid uses the cooler temperatures as a signal that winter is near as the plant readies itself for spike and bud development.
During December, temperatures surrounding the moth orchid should dip slightly below the minimum 60 degree Fahrenheit mark for a few weeks to stimulate flower spikes. When January begins, place your orchid back in its original position with warmer temperatures. This swift temperature change pulls the orchid out of its resting period and encourages active growth. Without this cold-to-warm environmental change, your Phalaenopsis may not produce flowers until well into spring.
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