Phalaenopsis, abbreviated Phal in the horticultural trade, 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 tetraploid 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 commercial production has become an industry.
If very healthy, a Phalaenopsis plant may have up to ten or more leaves. They bloom in their full glory for several weeks. If kept in the home, the flowers may last two to three months after which a phalaenopsis orchid will need to conserve energy for further leaf, bud, and root development.
In nature, Phalaenopsis species are typically fond of warm temperatures, thriving in temperatures around 20 to 35 °C (68–95 °F), but are adaptable to conditions more comfortable for human habitation in temperate zones (15 to 30 °C or 59–86 °F); at temperatures below 18 °C (64.4 °F) overwatering causes root rot. Phalaenopsis requires high humidity (60–70%) and low light of 12,000 to 20,000 lux. However, Phalaenopsis orchids can adapt to the lower humidity found in most homes. They are also typically hardier than other species of orchids, and this makes them particularly popular among first-time orchid growers.
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 basal leaf tissue. Over approximately three months the spike elongates until it begins to swell fat buds that will bloom.