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Phalaenopsis Dying. My we hear this often.

It would be lovely to go just one week without an email or phone call asking: 'Why has my Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis) dropped its buds?' or more commonly  'Why has it just died!?'



In an era of fast food, fast reality TV and instant gratification Phallies seem to be the fast food of the orchid world.

They turn up in Florists, boutique nurseries, giant chain supermarkets and even the mega hardware chains. Unfortunately for many they are their first orchid and probably their last.

Please don’t misunderstand me, they are glorious to behold, large showy and extremely long lasting. They last far far longer than a bunch of cut blooms and look so elegant on coffee tables and new white bathrooms.

Many green thumbs regularly boast that it has been in bloom for 12 or more months and many even re bloom them regularly. But for the average Joe in an average home in an average suburb and more so down south they usually lead to disappointment.

Hence the phone calls that so punctuate our busy nursery days.

As a gift I can’t think of a better plant. Competively priced, and oh so sophisticated. But for plant lovers who feel confident with their horticultural skills it’s all so very simple. It’s a tropical, fleshy, humidity loving orchid that grows far far north from where the rest of us live.

Tears and tantrums are frequent when the advice to throw it out is given. But it was a gift for our anniversary. They are coming around next week and I’ve killed it!

Just after Christmas we were receiving a phone call a day about Phallies and enough was enough. We were starting to say “Did you buy it from us?” No, so why call us? As politely as we could.  Trying to get the right advice from a mega store is like arguing with a bank.

So here it is right on the chin. They are in my opinion a disposable orchid pot plant. When it starts to fade, drop buds or go limp and flaccid turf it out. The second option is to cut the flowering stem (Raceme) two to three nodes from the base with a very sharp quick cut. A node is the bamboo knuckle like ring on the flower stem. Around half the time these may re- sprout with another flower stem. This takes many months to mature but at least you will have a fresh flower. The right condition for a long lasting and happy Phally is a centrally heated home with bright large windows and a breezy environment. Modern apartments in the city are suited. They love humidity so a cheap atomiser or spray bottle and a simple mist whenever possible over the leaves but not the blooms. Keep the compost just moist and watch the leaves don’t go too floppy.

We sell out of our Phallies every week but advise each and every customer to understand that they are in most cases a replacement for a short lived bunch of flowers.

Further north, such as Brisbane and the Gold coast I’m sure they would thrive (as would we all) but Cairns tips the other way with just too much humidity and associated fungal and bacterial problems.

In summery, they ARE the world’s favourite orchid but with a catch!




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  • Darren on

    They are not disposable plants. They will reflower year after year. The spikes don’t last forever and they will regrow new ones, why throw them out? I have about 50 that I reflower every year as a hobby grower and as the plants get bigger they grow more flowers per spike and certainly more spikes. If people want to throw them out I will take them for free.

  • Richard on

    Just read your blog on phalaenopsis not being the ideal orchid for Melbourne. What orchids do you recommend for indoors ?

  • Marilyn on

    I have quite a few phalaenopsis and some need repotting. I bought an Osmocote orchid mix supposedly for phalaenopsis and others, but it seems to have too much soil and not enough aerating material. Is there a commercial potting mix that you would recommend for my phalaenopsis?

  • Candice on

    Now I know what happened to all the flower spikes on my cymbidium this year!

    What is the best potting medium for phalaenopsis orchids? I have one that seems to be surviving above all odds but I think it needs repotting. I had a look on your page and see that you have dyed sphagnum moss, would this be suitable or could I also use the blue moss? Thank you.

  • Jan on

    Had thought that slugs or snails were consuming my lovely budded spikes until…….I saw one of my chickens pecking at what remained. Even had a chook happily eating an orchid flower. My little collection of pots are going into the vegie garden out of the range of free range chickens. Thought you might like to know of another pest to add to the list. Am looking forward to next years spikes now.

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