The phalaenopsis, the butterfly-shaped orchids
They are the most famous and widespread orchids, in Italy there are dozens of hybrids, large-flowered, tiny-flowered, of the most disparate colors, generally in shades of pink, but without completely forgetting yellow and orange; the phalaenopsis, whose name means butterfly-shaped flower, are among the most appreciated orchids, for their prolonged and abundant flowering, but also for their ease in adapting to the strange climate present in our homes. They are orchids without pseudobulbs, epiphytes, with a short rhizome from which long and thick aerial roots branch off, used to living in contact with the air and the light rather than in the ground, so much so that their bright green color demonstrates their aptitude for chlorophyll photosynthesis. From each rhizome small tufts of large leathery, rigid, oval leaves are produced, with showy central veining that marks them in the middle, of a beautiful dark green color, shiny and healthy, very beautiful even when they do not accompany the flowers; between the leaves in spring a thin dark stem rises, which bears 8-10 showy flowers, with bright colors, very decorative, which bloom in succession and last on the plant for a few weeks. If the floral stem is not cut when the flowers have wilted, the plant tends to produce branches of the same, from which new buds are produced in the fall. Generally after this second flowering it is advisable to remove the floral stem, which often tends to dry out on its own, to encourage the development of a new scape the following spring. The flowers are very durable, they are also used as cut flowers, because they remain fresh for a few weeks, even after being cut from the plant; the long stems that carry them are in nature well arched and sometimes pendulous, in the nursery they are stiffened with small sticks, to make them stand erect, if we want a more natural-looking plant we can raise wings sticks and let the inflorescence fall again.
This orchid comes from Asia, from tropical areas, such as the islands in the Indian and Pacific oceans, where it grows among the tree branches, it is therefore an epiphytic plant; this means that the roots are used to living in the humid air of tropical forests. In the apartment these plants find a place in a well-lit area of the house, without direct sunlight, which could ruin the leaves; if placed in an excessively bright place the leaves tend to become of a sad light yellowish green color. We therefore place the plants near a window, or in any case in an area with filtered light, in the greenhouse for example they are placed in an area with white painted windows, so as to shield most of the direct sunlight. They prefer pots of modest dimensions, generally in transparent plastic, in order to allow the roots to enjoy the light, and to us to check that the substrate does not dry out excessively or remain damp too long; plants can be repotted even every 2-3 years, and do not require excessively frequent repotting. An incoherent and porous substrate for orchids is used, consisting of pieces of sphagnum peat, chopped bark, sometimes also pieces of other materials such as wood or balsa; the substrate of these plants is very light and not very consistent, and it often happens that you have to fix the plant to the pot with a metal jumper.
Watering will be fairly regular, so as to avoid leaving the substrate and roots completely dry for a long time; the best way to water these plants is by immersion: the pot should be completely immersed for a few minutes in water, possibly non-calcareous, left to drain and repositioned in its place; we repeat this operation when we notice that the pieces of bark are dry. It is important to maintain good environmental humidity around the plant, often vaporizing the leaves and keeping the pot in a vase holder full of clay, with at least a couple of centimeters of water, so that it evaporates freely and constantly. During the winter months the plants may require less watering, but we try to always keep the humidity high, especially when the heating system is active. The orchids must be fertilized from March until September, using a special fertilizer, to add to the water in which we make the "bath" to the pot, in small doses, every 15-20 days.