Phalaenopsis (Blume 1825) is a genus of approximately 60 species of orchids (family Orchidaceae). The abbreviation in the horticultural trade is Phal.
They are native throughout southeast Asia from the Himalayan mountains to the islands of Polillo and Palawan of the Philippines and northern Australia. Orchid Island off Taiwan is named after this orchid.
Most are epiphytic shade plants; a few are lithophytes. In the wild they are typically found below the canopies of moist and humid lowland forests, protected against direct sunlight, but equally in seasonally dry or cool environments. The species have adapted individually to these three habitats.
Phalaenopsis shows a monopodial growth habit. An erect growing rhizome produces from the top one or two alternate, thick and fleshy, elliptical leaves a year. The older, basal leaves drop off at the same rate. The plant retains in this way four to five leaves. If very healthy, they can have up to ten or more leaves. They have no pseudobulbs. The raceme appears from the stem between the leaves. They bloom in their full glory for several weeks. If kept in the home, they usually last two to three months, which is considered quite a long time. Some Phalaenopsis species in Malaysia are known to use subtle weather cues to coordinate mass flowering.
Phalaenopsis are unique in their photosynthetic mechanism. As in many other plants, the petals of the orchid flowers serve to attract pollinating insects and protect essential organs. Following pollination, petals will usually undergo senescence (i.e. wilt and disintegrate) because it is metabolically expensive to maintain them. In many Phalaenopsis species such as P.violacea, the petals and sepals found new uses following pollination. They turn green, become fleshy and apparently photosynthesize.
Phalaenopsis are among the most popular orchids sold as potted plants owing to the ease of propagation and flowering under artificial conditions. They were among the first tropical orchids in Victorian collections. Since the advent of the tetrapoloid hybrid Phalaenopsis Doris, they have become extremely easy to grow and flower in the home, as long as some care is taken to provide them with conditions that approximate their native habitats. Their production has become a commercial industry.
In nature, they are typically fond of warm temperatures (20 to 35 °C), but are adaptable to conditions more comfortable for human habitation in temperate zones (15 to 30 °C); at temperatures below 18 °C watering should be reduced to avoid the risk of root rot. Phalaenopsis requires high humidity (60-70%) and low light of 12,000 to 20,000 lux. Flowering is triggered by a night-time drop in temperature of around 5 to 6 degrees over 2 to 4 consecutive weeks, usually in the fall.
Phalaenopsis prefer to be potted in medium fir bark. They can also be potted in sphagnum moss or mounted. Keep them in pots with a lot of drainage. Keep the potting media fairly moist but not wet. Water when the potting media is just approaching dryness, but still a bit moist and never allow the potting media to become bone dry. Do not let water flow into the center of the plant or it can potentially die from crown rot. One of the most numerous blunders that new growers make is to rot the roots. Overwatering and poor drainage cause the roots to deteriorate, therefore killing the plant. Being careful to water when you feel the soil is dry through and through is the safest thing to do.
Light is quite vital to the well-being of the phalaenopsis orchid. Keep it in indirect light near a southern window. Be sure the sun does not directly reach the leaves, which will cause burning and brown marks. If the leaf feels hot to the touch, move it away immediately. On the other hand, phalaenopsis grown in poor dark areas tend to grow floppy dark green leaves and rarely flower.
Phalaenopsis roots are quite thick, and the green point at the ends signifies that the root is actively growing. It is okay for them to climb out of the pots. Plant may be fertilized with a 1/4 diluted strength balanced fertilizer three times out of four waterings.
The flower spikes appear from the pockets near the base of each leaf. The first sign is a light green "mitten-like" object that protrudes from the leaf tissue. In about three months, the spike enlongates until it begins to swell fat buds. The buds will thus bloom. Usually you can tell what color the phalaenopsis is by looking at the bud color. After the flowers fade, some people prefer to cut the spike above the highest node (section). This may produce another flower spike or more rarely a keiki (a baby orchid plant that can be planted).
The generic name means "Phalaen[a]-like" and is probably a reference to the genus Phalaena, the name given by Carolus Linnaeus to a group of large moths; the flowers of some species supposedly resemble moths in flight. For this reason, the species are sometimes called Moth orchids.
- Biermannia King & Pantling 1897
- Grafia Rchb. 1837; Kingidium P.F.Hunt 1970
- Kingiella Rolfe 1917; Polychilos Breda 1828
- Polystylus A. Hasselt ex Hassk. 1855
- Stauritis Rchb.f 1862
- Stauroglottis Schau. 1843
- Stauropsis Rchb.f 1860
- Synadena Raf. 1836
- Section Phalaenopsis : Monotypic: P. amabilis
- Section Proboscidiodes: Monotypic: P. lowii
- Section Aphyllae: eg. P. stobartiana
- Section Parishianae: eg. P. parishii
- Section Polychilos: eg. P. cornu-cervi
- Section Stauroglottis: P. equestris
- Section Fuscatae: eg. P. fuscata
- Section Amboinenses: eg. P. amboinensis
- Section Zebrinae
- Subsection Zebrinae: eg. P. sumatra
- Subsection Lueddemannianae: eg. P. lueddemanniana
- Subsection Hirsutae: eg. P. pallens
- Subsection Glabrae: eg. P. modesta
- Section Esmeralda: eg. P. buyssoniana
- Section Conspicuum: eg. P. minus
- Phalaenopsis × amphitrita (P. sanderiana × P. stuartiana; Philippines).
- Phalaenopsis × gersenii (P. sumatrana × P. violacea; Borneo, Sumatra).
- Phalaenopsis × intermedia (P. aphrodite × P. equestris; Star of Leyte; Philippines) (First recognized Phalaenopsis hybrid)
- Phalaenopsis × leucorrhoda (P. aphrodite × P. schilleriana; Philippines).
- Phalaenopsis × singuliflora (P. bellina × P. sumatrana; Borneo).
- Phalaenopsis × veitchiana (P. equestris × P. schilleriana; Philippines).
- Phalaenopsis × valentinii (P. cornu-cervi × P. violacea; Malaysia).
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- Original publication by Carl Blume in "Bijdragen tot de Flora van Nederlandsch Indië"
- Olaf Gruss & Manfred Wolf - Phalaenopsis ; Edition Ulmer, ISBN 3-8001-6551-1 (in German)
- Eric A. Christenson - Phalaenopsis: a Monograph ; ISBN 0-88192-494-6
- Harper, Tom (February 2004). Phalaenopsis Culture: Advice for Growing 20 Species. Orchids Magazine 73 (2). Delray Beach, FL: American Orchid Society, 2004.
- Leroy-Terquem, Gerald and Jean Parisot. 1991. Orchids: Care and Cultivation. London: Cassel Publishers Ltd.
- Schoser, Gustav. 1993. Orchid Growing Basics. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
- White, Judy. 1996. Taylor’s Guide to Orchids. Frances Tenenbaum, Series Editor. New York: Houghton-Mifflin.
- Sweet, Herman R.. The Genus Phalaenopsis. The Orchid Digest, 1980.