The most common Orchid that I notice being sold around these parts is called the Phalaenopsis. It is the Orchid with hound dog ears or thick floppy leaves that send up growth spikes. These growth spikes arch and form fantastic colorful blooms at the ends.
Being that there are literally thousands of hybrids of the Phalaenopsis Species the color patterns are endless.
As with any new plant the idea is to watch it, make observations, and try to figure out what to do to keep it happy.
Here are some of my observations on how to keep the Phalaenopsis happy.
I am no expert by any stretch of my imagination but here is what has worked for me .
The Phal is an Orchid that likes filtered light. It doesn't like being put in direct sun or it will burn. It is kinda like people wanting to stay in the shade on a hot day. All my Orchids stay outside and are only brought inside to protect them from freezing temperatures.
In nature the Phalaenopsis is epiphytic. That is just a fancy two dollar word means in nature they like to attach themselves to trees. Most of them locally are sold in plastic containers with many drain holes in the bottom. To keep them happy best I can figure you water them same as they would get in nature by the rainfall sitting on a tree. This means not too much but every now and again. Make sure that the water that you do give them can freely drain out the bottom of the container you keep them in.
I use collected rainwater on the ones I have. Just makes sense to me as the city water is chocked full of chemicals used to purify it.
These Phals get water once or twice a week depending on how windy and hot it has been. Don't allow water to set in the v formed by the leaves so it doesn't get crotch rot.
Here's a Phal trick that I learned. When the blooms eventually die don't cut off the stalk back to the leaves. If you look on the stalk you will see raised areas every few inches. As in the above picture these are growth centers on the stalk. If you clip the stem an inch or so above one of these growth centers the stalk will sent out a new brack of blooms from that growth center.
Here is a picture of one of the Phal stalks that I clipped above the growth center last year.
You can see that the plant has regenerated a new growth stem from the growth center below the point the stem was clipped.
So what is the best way to tell if your Phal is healthy. Look at the two top leaves. The top leaves are the new growth on your plant. The leaves under them are old and will sometimes turn yellow. So if the top two look healthy you are doing fine. Remember the plant you got probably came from a greenhouse and was grown under ideal conditions.
Here is a picture of that same new stem a month later. The first new flower is beginning to open .
The Phalaenopsis flowers open successively or one at a time in order along the stem.
One of the best kept secrets of the Phalaenopsis is that is really not that hard to grow and keep happy. And the blooms last quite a long time and are spectacular. Two of my Phalaenopsis Orchids are still blooming from last Thanksgiving . What's that about five months now.
Here is a picture of the new bloom fully opened on the new growth stem.
It's hard not to become addicted to Orchid collecting because of their exotic beauty.
Hope the above observations help you with your Phalaenopsis Orchid. All I can claim is that is what works for me here in South Florida.