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Phalaenopsis ungu (photo courtesy of Joshua McCullough/PhytoPhoto)
Phalaenopsis ungu (photo courtesy of Joshua McCullough/PhytoPhoto)

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Moth Orchid
Orchids and bromeliads

These tropical orchids have thick, broad, leathery leaves and no pseudobulbs. Leaves are flat, to 1 ft. long. From fall to spring, the plants bear long (to 3 ft.) sprays of 3–6-in.-wide flowers in white, cream, pale yellow, or light lavender-pink; some are spotted or barred or have lips in a contrasting color. Many lovely hybrids are sold. A very popular orchid commercially. Considered beginner orchids, these are among the easiest to grow outdoors on a warm, wind-protected lanai in Hawaii, and indoors anywhere. Some smaller-flowered hybrids are promising to be even easier to grow, and to tolerate somewhat lower night temperatures.

They can be grown in a greenhouse with fairly high humidity and temperatures that average 60°–65°F/16°–8°C at night, 70°–85°F/21°–29°C during the day. Or grow them indoors near a bathroom or kitchen window with light coming through a gauze or other sheer curtain (foliage burns easily in direct sun). Give moth orchids the same potting medium as cattleya. During the growing and flowering season, feed weekly with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half-strength. When cutting flowers, cut back to just above one of the tiny bracts on the stem; secondary sprays may form. To promote stronger new growth, many growers prefer to cut out the entire stem after blossoms fade.

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