CHALLENGES IN GROWING BUTTERFLY ORCHIDS

by Norberto R. Bautista

A typical white flowered “standard” Phalaenopsis hybrid with blooms that can last for almost a month. Butterfly Orchids or Phalaenopsis, are one of the most graceful and elegant group of orchids. It is locally known as mariposa or moth orchid, as its flowers resemble butterflies in flight. It is one of the most common orchid plant in the country and also in Asia, Europe and America . In fact,the Philippines is the center of Phalaenopsis orchid diversity in the world, since half of the Phalaenopsis species and varieties worldwide are found in our country. It is actually easy to grow and it takes a relatively short time to flower. However, the Philippines , most hobbyists are having difficulty in growing this orchid due to the fact it has a different cultural requirement compared to Vanda and Dendrobium orchids, specially for its requirement for light and water. Phalaenopsis requires shade, and do not like too much water, as it excessive watering tends to cause the plant to rot. The genus name Phalaenopsis came from the Greek word ‘phalaena’ meaning moth,

Reprint: Challenges in Growing Butterfly Orchids – July 2012

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There is a very wide potential for Phalaenopsis for the foreign market. A “sea” of flowering Phalaenopsis orchids in the VS Orchid farm in Bulacan. with flower Reprint: Challenges in Growing Butterfly Orchids – July 2012 Page 2 . greenish. There are locations in the country where Phalaenopsis can be grown inexpensively. The advantages of growing this group of orchids are: that it is easy to mass produce from seeds. There are more than 40.and ‘opsis’ meaning appearance. This is due to the fact that Butterfly orchids offers a wide range of flower color.000 hybrids in this genus and there are more hybrids being registered in this single genus than any other orchid genus. or Baguio .Tagaytay. lavander-gray. Out of the 42 species and 36 varieties. Breeding and large scale production techniques or protocols for these orchids have already been developed and perfected. from white to pink. and plants from flasks can be flowered within 8 to 18 months. by exposing plants to night temperature 10 oC lower than that of daytime temperature and increasing humidity. Tanay. Many of our Phalaenopsis species have been ancestors of modern Phalaenopsis hybrids. 20 species and 18 varieties are found locally. Phalaenopsis can easily be programmed to flower. greenhouses can be modified to produce a cool humid environment by evaporative cooling. However. This is usually done by growing them in cool areas like Antipolo.

thus partial shade or diffused light is required through nets or slat-house. Taiwan . in arching flower stalk. short stems. Germany. Types. mostly large delicate flowers. The plant is regarded as a shade-loving plant. over 75% of all orchids (flowering potted plants) sold are Phalaenopsis. Phalaenopsis orchids are usually categorized either as species or hybrids. Commercial hybrids usually created to follow a ‘standard’ plant form which is typically characterized by large. and fleshy. General Characteristics. and they are all very sensitive to direct sun and rain. which was once symbolized by Cattleya and Cymbidium. Flower color ranges from white. soft leaves. They have round or oval thick leaves. In the US and Europe . In the United States alone. China . yellow. and with flower markings like stripes. Orchid sales worldwide have been increasing and large scale production of potted Phalaenopsis has been done in the Netherlands . Cultural Requirements. semi-alba (white petals and sepals with colored lip). Phalaenopsis have replaced the common people’s concept of ‘orchid’. Some Phalaenopsis with two colors. like this red lipped Phalaenopsis hybrids. United States and Japan . pink. Phalaenopsis are truly tropical and epiphytic in nature. red. Butterfly orchids has very thick. Inflorescence are either very short to long with drooping to rigidly erect raceme or panicle and bears from one to very numerous and some. spots and blotches. Phalaenopsis is now readily available.markings like stripes. in short stems. full and round flowers. Phalaenopsis with stripes on its flower. affordable and mass marketed in supermarkets. Reprint: Challenges in Growing Butterfly Orchids – July 2012 Page 3 . There are also warm and cool growing Phalaenopsis. spots and blotches. green and lavender. Light. The leaves are closely clustered in a two-ranked arrangement and oval-shaped. The leaves are easily sun-burned or scorched.

however. Plants need to be watered heavily once a Reprint: Challenges in Growing Butterfly Orchids – July 2012 Page 4 . and only 2-3 times per week during wet months (or none at all). Protect plants from too much rain. It is also best to place your potted plant over a dish of water with pebbles so that the pot is not directly sitting on water. Phalaenopsis require plenty of water but needs that their leaves and crown be kept dry between watering. they can now be artificially induced to flower.The plant can tolerate high light intensities as much as 2. It is necessary to provide enough space between plants and to allow air movement (slight breeze) to help dry the leaves. The crown needs to be kept dry. (Left) Phalaenopsis amabilis give round and full flower form for standard hybrids. Phalaenopsis need plastic roofing or protection from too much rain when grown outdoors during the rainy season. However. humidity levels might be less than ideal. while the Phalaenopsis leuddemaniana provides color and spots. They are seasonal bloomers. plants are usually watered by immersing the whole potted plant in a bucket of water and permitted to drip dry.000 foot-candles. but shaded or protected from direct light during noontime. Flowering. Air Movement. Water and Humidity. Fertilize plants twice or once a week. Normal humidity levels in the home is sufficient for Phalaenopsis. The plants are ideally placed indoors or in an area where they will receive morning light. Matured Phalaenopsis plants will flower when exposed to the right temperature and light photo-period. This can be accomplished by misting the plants instead of water sprinkling. in an air-conditioned office. For indoor growing. bromeliads. Two Philippine species used in Phalaenopsis hybridization. Water all matured plants twice per day during very hot and dry months. Companion plants like ferns. and other foliage plants can be placed near the orchid to help increase humidity. usually during months of February and September. Seedlings could be sprayed with very dilute fertilizer everyday after watering. Using an electric fan to induce air movement in indoor gardens is common. Younger plants require more watering than matured plants. Fertilization.

with charcoal and coconut husks. To control crown rot.week to flush excess salts. Another alternative medium is a 1:1 mixture of sand and coconut choir dust. acacia. or mounted in wooden slabs. For slugs and snails. Using lanolin paste with Benzyl adenine (BA) on buds in flower stalk to induce keikis has given successful results. narra and caimito using U-nail. Insecticides like Sevin or Lannate are applied when insect pests are presents. Propagation. soft rot of leaves and bacterial spot: fungicide Dithane or Captan is applied as a prophylactic during rainy season at 3 times a week. Follow fertilizer dilution for orchids based on the label. Phalaenopsis can be potted on clay or plastic pots. Wet plants first before applying fertilizers. Phalaenopsis can be propagated asexually by keikis forming on old flower stalks or on sides of main stem. Pre-soaked coconut husk is another good medium for Phalaenopsis. Pest and Disease Control. where water comes up from the bottom up. (Left) The very floriferous Phalaenopsis schilleriana or “Tigre” which is very common in Rizal Province. In this method. the use of tree fern roots is being discourage for the conservation of our endangered giant tree ferns. Pot keikis in clay or plastic pots with chopped charcoal and coconut husk. Crown and leaves of Phalaenopsis rots easily if excessively watered. Phalaenopsis is treated like a terrestrial orchid. The plant is also sensitive to spider mites infestation. a molluscide bait can be used. and irrigation is done by placing the potted plant in a basin of water. Currently. Top cutting could be done on long drooping Phalaenopsis plants and after which. Manila palms. Phalaenopsis can also be mounted in trunks of living trees like coconut palms. Reprint: Challenges in Growing Butterfly Orchids – July 2012 Page 5 . Mites can be controlled by applying miticides once a week for 4 weeks. Use balanced foliar fertilizer with trace elements for orchids. Growing Media. new plants will shoot from the remaining stem. usually at a rate of 1 tsp or less per gallon of water.

Viable seeds germinates in a month’s time and seedlings will be ready to be transferred to the nursery in a year’s time. sometimes flowering while still attached to the mother plant. usually used when referring to Dendrobium. Then. where the seeds can be sown in an artificial nutrient medium using seed culture technology. In horticulture.Phalaenopsis can also be propagated sexually through seeds. “anak” or "child". it refers to a plant produced asexually by an orchid plant. Epidendrum (sensu latu). literally meaning "the little one". Hundreds or thousands of seedlings can be produced in these way. This can be done by pollinating the selected orchid flower to form a capsule (fruit). and Phalaenopsis orchids. Orchid Laboratory in Rizal Technological University’s Orchid Conservation Project maintaining orchids seedlings in vitro. a keiki is a small plant growing from one node along the flower Reprint: Challenges in Growing Butterfly Orchids – July 2012 Page 6 . mature capsules can be harvested and brought to an orchid laboratory. one has to learn good plant breeding techniques in order to produce good quality plants. The orchid fruit or capsule will mature within 4 months. On a Phalaenopsis. Plantlet Induction in Phalaenopsis Keiki (pronounced as "kay-key") is the Hawaiian word for "baby". The baby plant is an exact clone of the mother plant. However.

N. 2001." Waling-Waling Review. Rev. Philippines: Research. Techno Courier. 1999. It should not be confused with paste or powder containing auxins. there is no way to change the result. 1999. & Management Information and Technology Dissemination Services. Rizal Technological University. Philippine Council for Agriculture. N. Singapore: Times Edition FESSEL. HANS H. (Mandaluyong City. If a new plant is desired. & BALZER. PETER. rev. At this point. Singapore: Times Edition & Philippines: VISCA-GTZ Applied Tropical Ecology Program KANG. Some species orchids like Phal pulchra keiki frequently and flower while still attached to the mother plant. Orchids: Their Cultivation & Hybridization. The trick is to get the paste onto the node before it is differentiated. ed. Forestry and Natural Resources and Development Department of Science and Technology Published in the Rizal Technological University Journal (Creative Writing) Reprint: Challenges in Growing Butterfly Orchids – July 2012 Page 7 . The Philippines Recommends for Orchids. The Orchids of the Philippines. or by the application of keiki paste. the keiki is typically found sprouting along the length of the cane or from the end of the cane. Laguna. COOTES. A separated keiki can be expected to flower in approximately the same amount of time it would take for the cross or species to flower from a seedling. However.stem. Keiki paste is a cytokinin hormone (usually Benyzl Adenine or Benzyl Amino Purine) in a Lanolin mixture which induces growth in the node of a Phalaenopsis inflorescence. there is no way to predict if an undifferentiated node will become a keiki or a floral branch. (Metro Manila: Philippine Orchid Society. 1983.R. If the node tissue is already differentiated so that it will become a floral branch.R. either naturally. On a Dendrobium. The Hormone paste. 1999. ed. L. PCARRD.. which are used to force the production of roots. "Embryo Culture of Orchids.Philippines) BAUTISTA. Extension. C. A Selection of Native Philippine Orchids. Removing Keikis. 2: 6-9). "Collecting Orchids for Conservation". Malaysia: Eastern Universities Press SDN. 1994. Keikis are cut below and above the stem. Nodes on Phalaenopsis spikes will form either vegetative growth (keiki) or floral growth (a branch with flower buds). BHD. Los Baños. VII. This is induced by the accumulation of growth hormones at that point. JIM. leaving a small piece of stem on the baby plant. References BAUTISTA. it can be carefully removed with a sharp knife and planted in its own pot. the keiki should be left on the mother plant until it develops a healthy root system and have two or three leaves(for a Phalaenopsis) or canes (Dendrobium).

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