Their delicate and unusual beauty has captivated us for centuries, and now they're cheaper to buy than ever before. But don't throw away your orchid after it has flowered, with a little care they can bloom for years to come
Moth orchids (Phalaenopsis), are probably the easiest orchids to grow at home. They used to be extremely expensive but today, thanks to modern propagation techniques, they're now cheaper than ever before – not to mention available in a galaxy of colours and patterns.
Now available for as little as £5 from DIY stores and markets, many people consider them to be throwaway plants, but with a little care they can make long-lived and extremely rewarding houseplants.
So before you bin your moth orchid, follow our advice, give it some attention and you may be rewarded with more blooms
Five tops tips for for growing moth orchids (Phalaenopsis)
- Flower buds drop if exposed to extreme temperatures - they're especially sensitive to cold draughts, so don't buy plants from outdoor market stalls or supermarket foyers during cold weather
- Grey, shrivelled roots mean they're too dry - give them a mist to increase humidity
- Use rainwater or boiled water for misting and watering - they don't appreciate the chlorine in fresh tapwater. Also, make sure water is at room temperature
- Don't mist the flowers: this can lead to unsightly spots on the petals
- When they've finished flowering, cut the flower spike back to the highest node, and they may well re-flower.
Not the usual suspects
Remember that moth orchids are not the only orchids worth growing – see our list of orchids with the Award of Garden Merit to find varieties that are good performers, are readily available, and reasonably resistant to pests and diseases, among other attributes. Two in particular are useful and easy to grow in normal household conditions.
Slipper orchids - Paphiopedilum
These delightful orchids are much less frequently seen in shops and garden centres than moth orchids, but they're well worth seeking out. They grow relatively quickly, becoming handsome plants within just a few years. Many, such as the Maudiae group (see photo), have attractive speckled foliage.
If you enjoy growing moth orchids, but wish they had some scent, then zygopetalums are a must. Their wonderfully speckled flowers are borne all year round and come in shades of olive green, brown, white and purple. Their scent is delicious, like a more refined hyacinth with a slight peppery edge. Great for a cool bathroom, out of direct sunlight.