Phalaenopis Orchid Care: How To Grow Moth Orchids 

Orchid flowers are captivating; each one is truly a work of art. This guide provides essential tips for phalaenopsis orchid care, helping you keep yours healthy, prolong the blooms, and encourage reblooming.

Caring for these beautiful plants is not as hard as you may think. They’re the easiest orchids to grow as houseplants. I used to live in Santa Barbara, CA, where many orchid-growing greenhouses are located. Some of these phalaenopsis orchid care tips came straight from the growers themselves.

Botanic Name: Phalaenopsis Orchid.   Common Name: Moth Orchid

Note: This post was published on 9/1/2015. It was updated on 5/24/2024.

Phalaenopsis Orchid Care & Growing Guide

Close up of beautiful raspberry & white speckled phalaenopsis orchids.
Are these not gorgeous?!!


When I worked for a florist in San Francisco many moons ago, phalaenopsis orchids (we called them “phals”) were available in white, pink, and lavender-colors. My, how times have changed!

They’re now grown in many more colors, variegations, and color combos. As mentioned in the video, Westerlay Orchids has the popular Gemstone Series, so you can even pick out your favorite jewel-tone color.

Gone are the days when you could only find these beauties in a flower shop. Now, they’re sold in grocery stores (Trader Joe’s and Sprouts always have a good selection), big box stores, and, of course, some garden centers and florists. 

How long do Phalaenopsis flowers last?

If you want a plant with a long-lasting bloom time, buy one with more buds than open flowers. The buds will open gradually over time. The individual flowers last about a month, depending on the conditions. A flower stem with many buds can bloom for months if the conditions are right.

At the beginning of January, I brought my friend a mini-phalaenopsis (you can see one further down the page) as a gift. I was over at her house at the end of April, and it was still blooming.

The warmer your house is, the shorter the bloom period will be. Keep your orchid flowers out of the direct sun; it’s not good for the plant and will shorten the bloom.

Close up of large white phalaenopsis orchid moth orchid flowers with deep rose centers.
My goodness, more stunning orchid flowers!

Light Requirements

Make sure your phalaenopsis is exposed to as bright light as possible without being in the hot, direct sun. They will burn in no time flat if exposed to direct sunlight in a south or west window, especially in the summer.  

Think of a greenhouse or conservatory with lots of natural light coming from all directions, but the glass is whitewashed to diffuse the direct rays of the sun—that’s the exposure they love.

However, you may have to move it in the darker winter months to get more light. 

Phalaenopsis Orchid Watering

Orchids are epiphytes, which means they grow on other plants, pieces of bark, rock, etc. They don’t grow in soil, and their roots are an anchoring mechanism.

In short, you want to water them and let the water drain out completely. If yours has gone bone dry, you may want to soak it in a pail or bowl for a few minutes, making sure all water drains out. 

If growing in pots, they must have drainage holes so the excess water can flow out. Too much water building up will cause root rot. In terms of temperature, I’ve always used room temperature water. I’m not a proponent of using ice cubes to water orchids, but some people are. That’s your choice!

Benches full of blue phalaenopsis orchids moth orchids in a grower's greenhouse.
Here are some of the color-infused Gemstone Collection at Westerlay Orchids. This color isn’t natural – they’re white orchids dyed in jewel tones. By the way, the color will revert back to white with subsequent blooms.
Orchids Growing In Moss vs. Bark

Orchids grown in bark will dry out faster than those in sphagnum moss, which holds the water.  If yours is growing in bark, then you want to water it every 7-14 days. If it grows in moss, water it every 14-21 days.  

The frequency depends on your home’s environment, the time of year, pot size/type, and growing medium. I prefer to grow my orchids in bark because I have a much easier time getting the watering right. Moss stays wet, but when it dries out, it really dries out!

Like my other houseplants, I back down on the watering frequency in the winter.

Note: My friend in Oakland, CA, has been growing these orchids for over ten years. She soaks hers in a bowl of warm water with a diluted amount of orchid fertilizer every other week for 90 seconds. That’s it; no top watering. It must be working because the majority of them are still alive, and they repeat flower every year!


There’s a great concentration of phalaenopsis orchid growers along the central coast of California (where I used to live) because the temperatures are relatively even.  And, it cools down in the evening, which is something else they love.  

The ideal temperature for Phals is 60 to 75 degrees F. Be sure to keep them away from air conditioners, heaters, and hot or cold drafts.  

 Because they’re epiphytes, they also appreciate good air circulation. I lived about eight blocks from the ocean and had my windows open for 7-8 months out of the year.  That meant my phals got the humidity and the air they love.

I now live in the Arizona desert, where the humidity is 14% today. These orchids like high humidity levels (60 to 70%), so growing them here for the long haul is a challenge. 

Obviously, a climate-controlled greenhouse is ideal. If the air in your home is too dry, you may have to put your orchid on a tray of pebbles filled with water to increase the humidity. Make sure the bottom of the pot or any thick, fleshy roots don’t sit directly in water. Running a small humidifier nearby or misting your plant every couple of days may also help. 

Many beautiful yellow & lavender phalaenopsis orchids moth orchids in a grower's greenhouse.
More orchids are in the greenhouses at Westerlay, and you can see how closely they’re grown.


Orchids don’t grow in soil, so they need to be fed.  Bark, moss, or orchid mix doesn’t provide any of the nutrients they need.

The growers I’ve talked to recommend a water-soluble balanced fertilizer like 20-20-20 ( you can also use 20-10-20, 15-15-15, or 12-12-12) for the homeowner because the timing of bloom-time/non-bloom-time orchid fertilizers can be very tricky. Whatever you choose, be sure to use it at 1/2 strength and feed your phals every 14 to 30 days.  

I mentioned this above, but in case you missed it, my friend in Oakland, CA, has been growing phals for over ten years. She soaks hers in a bowl of warm water with a diluted amount of orchid fertilizer (the same as I use) every other week for 90 seconds. That’s it; no top watering. It must be working because they repeat flower every year. 

Not to be a broken record, but be sure the fertilizer thoroughly drains out because the build-up of salts can cause the roots to burn. I use this orchid fertilizer, which the grower also uses.


Phalaenopsis orchid plants don’t have a lot of foliage, so there’s not much pruning to do. You can prune off the occasional dead or yellow leaves as needed.

A magenta colored mini phalaenopsis orchid moth orchid in a grower's tray.
This is a mini Phalaenopsis. There are a lot of flowers coming from that tiny pot!

Pruning for Re-Bloom

There are varying opinions on how to prune the flower stem for re-bloom, so I’ll just share what I’ve learned and done. 

Most growers get re-bloom from their Phalaenopsis Orchids in 6-9 months.  Mine typically re-bloomed closer to the 9-month mark. The higher up you prune the stem, the sooner it will flower again.  

The best time to prune is after blooming when new growth is appearing. Some people prune the flower stalk down to 1 node above the foliage, which is fine, but it takes longer for the stem to re-grow.  I prune just above the node below where the very 1st flower appeared.

My friend, whom I mentioned above, doesn’t prune her stems at all (unless they turn brown, then she cuts them off) and routinely gets them rebloom, sometimes twice a year. As I said, there are different ways to do this!

By the way, if your phal doesn’t re-bloom, the most common reason is that it doesn’t have enough light. Feeding them is important, too, so be sure to work that into your care routine.

Potting Medium

Phals are epihytes, meaning they don’t grow in the ground; they mostly grow attached to other plants. Their potting mix must be chunky, have good drainage, and prevent root rot. They’re also grown in moss, but the watering can be trickier to get right.

When repotting, I generally use orchid bark with pumice added in.   I have used this orchid potting mix; this mix and this one are highly rated, and all are ready to use.

Close up of beautiful lavender/white phalaenopsis orchid moth orchid flowers.


The time to repot your moth orchid is soon after flowering. Don’t repot it while in bloom. 

Whatever new pot you use, make sure it has plenty of drainage holes so the water can freely flow out. Special pots designed for orchids include this clay one, this plastic one, this wooden one, and this ceramic one.

When I was growing these orchids, I repotted them every two to three years. 


Moth orchids are susceptible to mealybugs and scale. Keep your eyes open for aphids and spider mites

Pests often travel from one houseplant to another, so identifying plant pests and taking action is important to get them under control.

Pet Safety

Are Phalaenopsis Orchids toxic to cats and dogs? Ring the bells! According to the ASPCA website, they’re deemed non-toxic.

Many phalaenopsis orchids moth orchids in a grower's greenhouse.
A sea of orchids; one of each, please!

Orchid Roots

Your phalaenopsis orchid will probably have some of its roots growing out of the pot.  It’s not because the orchid is pot-bound – those are the air (or aerial) roots reaching for something to grab onto.  They’re epiphytes and, in nature, grow on other plants. Those wandering, spider-like roots are what anchor them and help them absorb moisture from the air.

If your orchid has plenty of roots, you can cut a couple of them off if they’re bothering you. Do the same with the dead and dried ones. 

How To Display Your Phalaenopsis Orchid Plant

Some display ideas include a decorative orchid pot, kokedama, a plastic orchid pot inside a decorative pot (this is how most of the stores sell them), in a wood orchid basket, on a piece of wood or bark, or as part of a tablescape display.

A white phalaenopsis orchid decorated for christmas to be used as a table display.
I made this for a Christmas display one year. Orchid plants last much longer than cut flowers.

Moth Orchid FAQs

How do you keep Phalaenopsis Orchids blooming? 

The blooming cycle runs about every nine months. It’s possible your orchid will flower twice a year. A happy and healthy orchid will repeat bloom for many years. The right amount of light, regular fertilizing, proper watering, and repotting when necessary will ensure this.

How long do Phalaenopsis Orchids last?

Many people buy their phalaenopsis orchid in bloom and then toss it once it’s bloomed. However, an orchid plant kept healthy and properly cared for can live many years (20 or more). 

How do you care for Phalaenopsis Orchids after flowering?

For what to do with the flower stem, read “Pruning For Rebloom.” I care for my plant the same way after flowering as I do when it’s flowering, following all the tips listed above. 

Phalaenopsis Orchid Care Video Guide:

This was shot in the greenhouses at Westerlay Orchids in Carpenteria, CA. It’s right off Highway 101 and definitely worth a visit.

Conclusion: Despite the fact that these beautiful orchids seem quite exotic to some, they are easy houseplants.   They can be in bloom for over three months with proper care, making them quite a bargain compared to cut flowers.  The Phalaenopsis has become America’s favorite orchid.  I love the many different types of orchids, so it’s a tough choice for me.  I say, the more orchids, the better!

Happy Gardening,

Signed by Nell Foster

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  1. Hi Ranae – If only a few roots are growing out, that’s fine. Phals prefer to grow a bit tight in their pots. If more roots are growing out & getting long, then it’s time. Go up 1 pot size & use a mix formulated specifically for this type of orchid. Nell

  2. Hi Kiesha – I don’t water mine with ice cubes. I have them in bright, natural light. I take them to the sink & water them thoroughly as needed, usually every 7-10 days. Nell

  3. I was handed a Phal three hours ago and I have no idea what to do with it. Help!!!

  4. My orchids are in a ceramic pot with no drainage. Should I put it in a pot with drainage and what type of bark do I need to use?

  5. Hi Lisa – Because orchids are epiphytes, they need to drain well & aerate. I’d put them in a pot with at least 1 drain hole. They do make orchid pots. If you have phals, small to medium orchid bark is best. All are available on amazon. Nell

  6. I have a flower pot on the balcony with ten white and purple phalaenopsis orchids.

    They are beautiful, they flourish every year

  7. My phaleo is sprouting green leaves at the tip of stems as the blossoms drop off after blooming. What do I do with these green leaves?
    Are they new plants? This orchid plant is a couple of years old and has bloomed both years. There has never been new leave growth at the tip of the stem before. This same plant has sprouted new stems with buds. The plant seems to be healthy. I just need to understand what to do with the green leaves. I couldn’t find a reference for this so I hope that you can help me. Thank you. Nancy Anderson

  8. Hi Nancy – 1 of my Phals is doing that now too – it’s a new plant forming. I’m leaving it on the stem for now, but once the roots gets developed enough, you can cut it off the stem & plants it. Nell

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