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Connecticut Garden Journal: Growing moth orchids

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Moth orchids or Phalenopsis, are one the easiest orchids to grow indoors.

The holidays are still upon us and you might be thinking of a nice garden gift to give someone when you get together. Instead of the traditional cut flowers, consider a moth orchid.

Moth orchids or Phalenopsis, are one the easiest orchids to grow indoors. There are hundreds of varieties that grace garden centers, home centers, florists and grocery stores. Once in flower, as long as you do some basic care, the flower stalks can be in bloom for months, far surpassing the life of a cut flower.

You can help your flower gift recipient with a few tips on growing moth orchids. They like a bright room, out of direct sun with temperatures around 70 degrees F. They already are potted in an orchid mix, but if you repot them make sure you use a bark based mix. It's similar to how they grow in the wilds of Asia, where they're native, clinging to the bark on trees.

Keep the mix slightly moist in winter. Overwatering leads to flowers prematurely dropping. Add water only when the exposed roots turn silvery white. Use a pot with good water drainage holes. Moth orchids don't do well in standing water. Fertilize with a weak solution of liquid fertilizer once a month in winter and once a week in spring and summer.

After flowering, some gardeners give up on their moth orchids and compost it. But they're easy to keep blooming. Let the orchid rest until fall, then move it into a cool room that has a 15 degree difference in night and day temperatures. That will stimulate more flower stalks to grow.

Charlie Nardozzi is a regional Emmy® Award winning garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert information to home gardeners.