Moth orchid, Phalaenopsis, is one of the most widely available species of orchids. They make excellent house plants with long-lasting, arching flower spikes. Moth orchids can flower up to three times a year in the right conditions. There are many different types of moth orchid, growing to different sizes with flower colours ranging from white through to pink with striped, spotted, and mottled patterning.
How to grow moth orchids
Grow moth orchids in orchid compost in a clear plastic pot. Keep them at a minimum temperature of 15ºC. Water once a week with rainwater.
More on growing orchids:
Where to plant moth orchids
Bright-pink flowers of a moth orchid growing in a bathroom
Moth orchids do best with a minimum temperature of 15-20°C. Orchids generally don’t like direct sunlight, so choose a good spot near an east or north-facing window, in the more humid atmosphere of a kitchen or bathroom. Avoid dry, warm places such as on top of a radiator where they’ll dry out.
How to plant moth orchids
Moth orchid grown in a clear plastic pot
Use small containers, so the plants remain quite tight – clear plastic pots work well and allow the green roots to photosynthesise. Use a light, free-draining, open compost containing pumice or charcoal (specialist orchid composts are available). It’s quite natural for the roots to come out of their pot, but be careful not to snap them off when repotting.
How to care for moth orchids
Repotting a moth orchid
Moth orchids are epiphytic plants meaning that in the wild they grow on the surface of other plants, rather than in the soil. So while they need humidity, they don’t do well when overwatered.
Water once every week or two, with rainwater if possible, or boiled and cooled tap water. Use either specialist orchid fertiliser or a dilution of other house plant food every couple of weeks.
After flowering, cut back the flower spike to just above the first node. Your moth orchid should produce a new flower spike from this point.
You can repot your moth orchid after flowering, but this isn’t essential. However, always wait until flowering has finished, as disturbing the roots will cause the plants to drop flowers.
Watch Alan’s tips on how to care for moth orchids:
How to propagate moth orchids
Occasionally plants may produce plantlets called keikis. Look out for flower buds that start to develop roots – they can be cut off the mother plant and potted up. It may take a few years for the new plant to flower.
Growing moth orchids: problem solving
Mealy bugs on a house plant leaf
Orchids will generally remain pest-free when grown as house plants, though they can be attacked by mealybugs. Moth orchids are shade-loving plants and will suffer in direct sunlight, which will cause leaves to turn yellowish.
Moth orchid varieties to grow
White and golden moth orchid flowers
Phalaenopsis ‘White Wild Orchid’ – produces a profusion of white flowers over a long period of time
Phalaenopsis grandiflorum ‘Ravello’ – sends up two stems of palest pink flowers with strong carmine veining
Phalaenopsis ‘Rio Grande’ – produces delicate arching stems with beautiful purple pink flowers
Phalaenopsis grandiflorum ‘Alassio’ – the flowers are a delicate lime-white shade, tinged with pale green
Phalaenopsis ‘Little Star Wild’ – small flowers in palest pink, produced prolifically over a long period of time