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Closeup of a Phalaenopsis flower

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Kingdom Plantae
Order Asparagales
Family Orchidaceae
Species in this genus
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Aden Earth Zone

14 - 17


  • Cultivation: Easy-To-Grow
  • Light:
  • Soil:
  • pH: 7
  • Moisture: Medium


  • Form:
  • Habit: Deciduous
  • Flower: Large
  • Fruit/Seed:
  • Foliage:
  • Uses: Ornamental


Phalaenopsis Blume (1825), abbreviated Phal in the horticultural trade, is an orchid Genus of approximately 60 species. Phalaenopsis is one of the most popular orchids in the trade, through the development of many artificial hybrids.


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.
They are native throughout southeast Asia from the Himalayan mountains to the islands of Polillo, Palawan and Zamboanga del Norte in the island of Mindanao in the Philippines and northern Australia. Orchid Island of Taiwan is named after this genus. Little recent information about their habitat and their ecology in nature is available since little field research has been done in the last decades.

Most are epiphytic shade plants; a few are Lithophytes. In the wild, some species grow below the canopies of moist and humid lowland forests, protected against direct sunlight; others grow in seasonally dry or cool environments. The species have adapted individually to these three habitats.
Possessing neither Pseudobulbs nor Rhizome, Phalaenopsis shows a Monopodial growth habit: a single growing stem produces one or two alternate, thick, fleshy, elliptical leaves a year from the top while the older, basal leaves drop off at the same rate. If very healthy, a Phalaenopsis plant can have up to ten or more leaves. The Inflorescence, either a Raceme or Panicle, appears from the stem between the leaves. They bloom in their full glory for several weeks. If kept in the home, the flowers may last two to three months.
Some Phalaenopsis species in Malaysia are known to use subtle weather cues to coordinate mass flowering.


The species can be classified into two groups :
  • A group with a long, branched Inflorescence (up to 1 m long) and large, almost round flowers with rose or white tints.
  • A group with short stems and less rounded, waxy flowers with more pronounced colors.

In terms of Raunkiær plant lifeform terminology, these plants  are Epiphytes.

Based on DNA-evidence, the genera Doritis Lindl. and Kingidium P.F.Hunt are now included in Phalaenopsis, according to the World Checklist of Monocotyledons, Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew) (See also ref 1). However not every specialist in this field accepts these taxonomic changes.

Intensive cross-fertilization has produced a great number of hybrids in all colors and variations. These are usually more adaptable to artificial conditions than their botanical ancestors. Many are hybrids of Phalaenopsis amabilis, Phalaenopsis schilleriana or Phalaenopsis stuartiana.

Post-pollination changes in Phalaenopsis orchids

Phalaenopsis are not only outstanding in their beauty, but also unique in that in some species, the flowers turn into green leaves after pollination. 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 find new uses following pollination and thus escaping programmed cell death. By producing Chloroplasts, they turn green, become fleshy and apparently start to photosynthesize, just like leaves.

Growing Phalaenopsis

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 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 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 overwatering causes root rot. Phalaenopsis requires high humidity (60-70%) and low light of 12,000 to 20,000 Lux. It was previously believed that 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, and a day-time drop in temperature to below .
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 elongates until it begins to swell fat buds which will bloom.
Using two Phalaenopsis clones, Matthew G. Blanchard and Erik S. Runkle (2006) established that, other culture conditions being optimal, flower initiation is controlled by daytime temperatures declining below , with a definite inhibition of flowering at temperatures exceeding . The long-held belief that reduced evening temperatures control flower initiation in Phalaenopsis is shown to be false. Rather, daytime temperatures influence flowering while night time temperatures do not appear to have any effect.

External links


  • Original publication by Carl Blume in "Bijdragen tot de Flora van Nederlandsch Indië"
  • Seon Kim, Clifford W. Morden, Yoneo Sagawa, and Jae -Young Kim (2003). "The Phylogeny of Phalaenopsis Species". Proceedings of NIOC2003, Nagoya, Japan. 
  • 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.