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  #1  
Old 06-21-2021, 12:53 PM
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Default Are Phals good beginner orchids?

I didn't want to hijack another thread full of beautiful photos, so I started this one. Are Phalaenopsis good beginner orchids?

Phals are very inexpensive at mass markets. They don't need much light. They live for years when chronically underwatered, though they may not flower. Most hybrids will survive even if the medium goes dry for many weeks. It takes a long time for chronic underwaterers to kill them. I think those are some reasons they're often people's first orchids.

But typical home temperatures are lower than ideal for Phals. Many people I know keep their homes in the 70-72 F / 21-22C range (or lower) in summer and 60-64 F / 15.5-18C range in winter. That is not ideal for Phals. Watering a Phal properly in those conditions is tricky.

Many people here have learned to grow and flower Phals in their homes, but you have forgotten you are experts, very attuned to your plants, and beginners are not. Overwaterers kill Phals quickly in cool temperatures. I have seen multiple threads here from people who struggled with Phals until they got a heat mat to use under their plants, at least in winter. A lot of beginners aren't going to be willing to get that involved.

Somebody (like me) who goes from growing on a windowsill, to a greenhouse or other warm, humid enclosure, notices immediately how much better Phals grow when warm. They grow luxuriantly, often producing a leaf per month. In homes many produce one leaf per year. Phals really prefer being 85 F / 30C with relative humidity 60% during daytime for most of the year.

We get far more beginner posts about Phal trouble than any other kind of orchid. They is partly because there are more sold than other kinds of orchids, but I think it's also because they're not as easy to keep alive at lower home temperatures as other leafy house plants.

When people ask me about first orchids, I ask whether they overwater or underwater their other house plants. If they say neither, or they overwater, I recommend Oncidium intergenerics. If they underwater, I tell them to try a Phal.
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  #2  
Old 06-21-2021, 03:23 PM
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I think the best beginner orchid is an orchid that one really likes and that is perfect for the individual's growing conditions. The success and enjoyment of that first orchid is what hooks someone to collecting more orchids. If one isn't thrilled with that first orchid, that will be the end of it.
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Old 06-21-2021, 04:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by estación seca View Post
Are Phalaenopsis good beginner orchids?
Interesting question, ES!

As a beginning grower, I definitely appreciated phals unkillability. :-P (And by that, I mean that if I ignored them for a month, I could more or less get them to recover).

Also, I windowsill-grow in the northeast, lots of light isn't really a possibility here since I don't have south facing windows, and I wasn't ready to invest in lights and more fancy setups.

Phals grow and bloom in these conditions reasonably. Of course now I'm up to my ears in phals and have branched out to having a nice little LED light setup for mini-catts, so I guess I've moved on? But if I couldn't get something to flower in my environment to start with, I wouldn't have kept going in this hobby. Phals were a reasonable entry point for me (even if they have relatively few leaves and are just plodding along, as opposed to really thriving in my conditions!). Also things went much better once I realized I'm an overwaterer and repotted everything in Orchiata instead of sphagnum. :-P
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Old 06-21-2021, 04:27 PM
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A few problems with the mass-produced supermarket Phals that lead to a lot of the questions and problems we see here... They are often in a medium that is OK for a large, automated operation but very difficult to maintain in the home. That medium is often old and broken down, so that the plant is in poor condition when it is purchased - even though it may have beautiful blooms... sometimes the plant's "last gasp to reproduce". Some are just plain unhealthy - again putting out a "last chance to reproduce" bloom.

Then people feel that they are doing something wrong, and get discouraged - nursing a sick plant to health certainly is not what a beginner should need to do, or feel badly if they don't succeed. The seller of such plants isn't particularly concerned... if the plant dies, they hope that people will just buy another. (Thinking of the "just add ice" folks) They think of them as decoration... I recall a documentary on the industry, where a big wholesale Phal grower (I think in Florida) saw them as a commodity, describing them as "beautiful broccoli". So, there are growers who sell high quality plants, want to encourage the hobby, and there are broccoli growers who are just selling decor. The challenge, in our desire to encourage new orchid-owners, is to help people to discern the difference.
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Old 06-21-2021, 08:36 PM
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I'm just going to say that I cannot grow phals. I have killed every. single. one. And yes, I am an overwaterer (just can't help my self). Oncidiums and dendrobiums were much easier to start. I would have benefited from the type of advice that you gave estacion seca.

To be honest, 'finicky' cattleya species are much easier to grow than any phal I've encountered !
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Old 06-21-2021, 08:50 PM
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It also depends on where you live. In my neighborhood, Cymbidiums are a gateway drug. Coastal California, from the Mexican border to San Francisco at least, they are easy - because the climate over the course of the year is exactly what they need to grow and bloom. About the only other place where they are that easy is coastal southern Australia. Nearly everybody else has to work to get the conditions right, or pick the hybrids or species carefully.

The difference between an "easy orchid" and a "difficult orchid" is how closely the needs of the plant match what can be provided without a lot of trouble and expense - and that's different for different people in different environments.
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Old 06-21-2021, 09:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Jeff214 View Post
I'm just going to say that I cannot grow phals. I have killed every. single. one. And yes, I am an overwaterer (just can't help my self)....
If your home is always above about 68 F / 20C, try growing a Phal in semihydroponics. You can water 50 times a day if you like. Start with a healthy one that fits into a 1-quart/liter container.
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Old 06-21-2021, 10:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leafmite View Post
I think the best beginner orchid is an orchid that one really likes and that is perfect for the individual's growing conditions
Nailed it!
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Old 06-22-2021, 06:30 AM
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Nailed it!
But, if it's your first orchid, how do you know that? How do you know what conditions it takes? The directions on the label aren't exactly accurate. This brings us full circle.
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Old 06-22-2021, 07:06 AM
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The smart grower - new or experienced - will learn of the needs of the plant beforehand, analyze their ability to provide those conditions, and then acquire the appropriate plant.

Then there's the rest of us...
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