Moth Orchids 101

Moth orchid is the ideal flower—colorful, long-lasting, and simple to grow.
Article: Gene B. Bussell

Moth orchids are great year-round, but they're especially well-suited for cold days when you're spending a lot of time indoors. Their elegant flowers will brighten tables and windowsills in your home for months at a time. Don't be intimidated by their exotic appearance. They need very little to thrive inside.

Kate Santos loves moth orchids. "Dr. Kate," as her coworkers call her, is director of research and development for Costa Farms near Miami. It's the largest grower of indoor plants in the South. "Moth orchids are perfect for new gardeners because they are some of the easiest orchids to grow," Kate explains. "They also do not require a lot of attention, which makes them great for people who don't have a lot of extra time." Even experienced gardeners enjoy these easy flowers, she says, because new variations in flower color, size, and bloom become available each year, so gardeners can add to their existing collections.

Moth Orchid Growing Guide
Orchid expert Kate Santos offers her best tips for keeping moth orchids happy and blooming.

Water: You're actually more likely to kill a moth orchid (Phalaenopsis sp. and its hybrids) by overwatering than by underwatering. Orchids are often planted in bark or sphagnum moss, and either material must be allowed to dry out between waterings. (Bark holds less water than moss, so orchids planted in it should be watered more often.) When the bark or moss is dry to the touch and the pot is lighter, water your orchid thoroughly (until water comes through the drainage hole in the bottom of your pot). Never leave orchid roots in standing water. Note: Miniature moth orchids, relatively new on the market, are grown in smaller pots and can dry out faster.

Light: Orchids like bright, indirect light. An east-facing window is best; western or southern light is fine as long as it's indirect. North-facing windows generally won't provide enough light.

Temperature: Normal home temperatures are good—about 70 to 80 degrees in the daytime and above 60 degrees at night.

Fertilizer: Ask your local nursery for an orchid fertilizer, and apply it according to package instructions. For easy feeding, try Dynamite Orchids & Bromeliads (10-10-17) slow-release plant food.

Reblooming: Once an orchid has stopped flowering, you can cut off the bloom spike at the base of the plant. Keep fertilizing. Leave the pot in bright, indirect light. Your orchid should rebloom within a year.

Repotting: You may want to repot your orchid every few years. Do this when it's not blooming, because repotting can stress an orchid and cause it to drop its blooms.

Buying Orchids: You'll find them everywhere—at local nurseries, grocery stores, and big-box retailers. For a great online selection of orchids, including blooming ones you can have mailed as gifts to friends (or to yourself!), visit Norman's Orchids; orchids.com. Also try Carter and Holmes Orchids; carterandholmes.com. For more information, visit the American Orchid Society; aos.org.