Hello! Here’s a product guide for Phalaenopsis orchids, particularly geared towards people who are brand new to growing orchids.
This page contains affiliate links, meaning I earn a little bit of income if you purchase something I recommend, but know that this doesn’t cost you anything and I only recommend products that I believe in. I hope this guide is useful for you 🙂
Please remember to support local businesses before purchasing from online retailers like Amazon! By supporting small businesses, you make a meaningful impact on the material conditions of the people in your community. That said, I’ve listed options below that you may not be able to find locally.
I recommend Orchiata orchid bark (Monterey pine bark), Besgrow sphagnum moss, and large pumice or perlite (something like this) for phalaenopsis orchids. I use a mix of roughly 50% bark, 30% pumice/perlite, 20% moss. You can modify this mix for different watering habits or different species of orchids. Use a higher percentage of moss to keep the mix moist for longer.
RePotme sells plastic pots but they’re a bit pricey – you can use any plastic pot (it doesn’t have to be clear or have slits in the side) and many nurseries will give you one in the size you need for pennies. Please help keep plastic out of landfills and just re-use an old pot (but clean and sterilize it first with 10% bleach or rubbing alcohol). You can stick the ugly plastic pot into a cache pot (decorative pot with no holes) to catch water and for aesthetics. Just make sure water can drain from the main pot containing the roots and media, and that you don’t leave your Phalaenopsis sitting in water.
Barrina grow lights – pinkish white version. They have a bunch of other options, like warm white or cool white options. These are cheap, fairly reliable grow lights that will definitely give you some success with growing orchids and other indoor plants. You can even use them to start vegetable seeds.
I’m a big fan of ONF lighting, at least for aquariums. You can use the ONF Flat Nano with the stand to display individual or small groups of plants and keep them happy and growing, though. The newer ONF Mist O i’m sure works as well, but I’ve never tried it.
Remember – lighting is very important! Lack of light is the most common reason for a lack of blooms. Having enough light also helps prevent root rot (because it helps your plant grow vigorously, which uses more water, which dries out the mix) and other diseases and cultural issues.
Racks and Grow Spaces
Many people use metal “bakers racks” for their plants. They help make better use of vertical space so you can grow more plants, and they’re easy to mount grow lights to. Something like this, or here’s a cheaper option. You can also often find these on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or elsewhere used for a deep discount. For a more aesthetic option, there’s the Ikea Vittsjo shelf unit, or of course the Milsbo or other cabinets that people use for the ever popular “Ikea greenhouse cabinet” trend.
If you really want to get serious, you can invest in a grow tent. At the time of writing this, I have 3. My largest one has a bakers rack inside of it. I have had good results with Vivosun grow tents (they have quite a few different options), but I’ve heard good things about AC Infinity tents as well. You will need circulation fans if you go this route to prevent fungus issues; I use and recommend AC Infinity fans, primarily the “multifans” but it looks like they have fans intended for growing spaces now.
Basically any urea-free fertilizer will (probably) work fine, but I use MSU orchid fertilizer (which is a formulation rather than a specific brand), typically at 1/3 to 1/2 strength at every watering. My tap water in the Seattle area is very clean (it comes out of the tap at 20-30ppm TDS), but if you have hard water or well water, you will have to use the version formulated for well water. I buy the tap/rain/RO formulation in 3 pound bags, but if you only have a few plants, you can get it in much smaller amounts. There are some slightly different variations, like this version with less potassium (i.e. “k-lite”); I haven’t dug into the research but I’ve heard people say that the original formulation contains too much potassium.
If you prefer a time-release option (i.e. pellets you sprinkle into the mix that release nutrients over time), nutricote works well.
I use a TDS meter as well. This is less relevant if you only grow Phalaenopsis orchids, but for sensitive orchids like Masdevallias, Draculas, other Pleurothallids, Disas, and others, I simply adjust my tap water to about 200 ppm TDS with fertilizer. Fair warning: most TDS meters you’ll find online are junk, and the quality ones are often hundreds of dollars. That said, this one lasted me 4 years before it started giving truly wild readings; it was probably never that accurate but it seems “good enough” for my purposes.
I use a 3 gallon pump sprayer to water my extensive orchid collection. They come in many different sizes (I also have a 1 gallon sprayer, for example). Pump sprayers are fairly convenient but I’ve found they often have components break after several years (or sometimes months). I have used Chapin sprayers with mixed success (I’ve always been able to repair them when they break), but if you have a sprayer that you swear by, please let me know!
In my grow tents I use MistKing misting systems which are excellent and worth every penny. I’ve also created a DIY, much cheaper misting system, but that will have to come in a later post.
Pest Prevention and Treatment
Remember to quarantine all new plants before placing them near other plants in your home! That means isolating the plant for at least 6 months and observing for any pest or disease issues.
I’ve used these spray bottles for pesticides, cleaning products, water, and other things and they seem to work well enough. There might be some better options out there, though.
3% hydrogen peroxide is safe to spray on your plant and can kill many pests, notably orchid snails and slugs. You can find it at most drug stores or supermarkets. Just make sure you’re using a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution (so straight out of a bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide, or stronger hydrogen peroxide diluted to 3%).
Biological fungicides are bacterial (or other microbial) products that help protect your plant from fungal infections. In my collection, they have a noticeable positive impact and I highly recommend them if you have more than just a few plants. They can help reduce how often you have to resort to using chemical fungicides. Options include Actinovate, RootShield, Garden Friendly Fungicide (from Southern Ag), and others. You can often find at least one option at your local nursery.
Systemic fungicides are useful if your plant every comes down with a fungal infection (avoid splashing water from plant to plant, or re-use water that has runoff from another plant, and use fans to help your plants dry quickly and avoid infection). I use Thiomyl (Cleary’s), Daconil (can be a bit harsh, so be careful), Propicanizole, and others. I believe copper fungicides will work as well, though I’ve never tried (do not use copper fungicides on Dendrobiums). Mancozeb is a protectant fungicide that I mostly use on my tassel ferns, but works for other plants as well. As always, read the label on the product you’re using and follow any safety and application instructions.
Insecticidal soap (potassium salts of fatty acids) is a contact insecticide that kills an enormous variety of pests. I use the concentrate and dilute it with water. It works similarly to neem oil, however it is not phytotoxic like neem oil is (neem oil will burn your plants). It’s very safe for people, pets, and most plants and is considered “organic”. I still recommend applying it in a well ventilated area, and making sure the spray can’t carry in the wind and kill wild insects. Please read safety and application instructions on the label (that goes for all pesticides, fungicides, etc.).
Spinosad (Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew) is an organic insecticide that can control a variety of pests. Be sure to read application and safety instructions on the label before applying. Many nurseries carry Spinosad products.
Systemic chemical insecticides, such as Imidacloprid (in Bonide “systemic granules” and products like Bayer Complete Insect Killer or Bayer 2-in-1), are sometimes necessary, particularly to control scale or mealybugs. “Systemic” means they are taken up into the plant tissues/roots and may be transported throughout the plant, and will kill pests feeding on the plant. Please make sure to identify the pest that you have and get a pesticide that will actually kill it before applying just any pesticide. It’s important to rotate/alternate chemical pesticides or control methods in order to prevent the pest population from developing resistance to that chemical. Always read and follow application instructions on the label, and take care to ensure these products do not end up in the environment where they can harm wildlife, pets, or other critters. Chemical pesticides should be considered a last resort after exhausting other options. Many nurseries carry systemic insecticides, and most are safe for orchids. Again, just make sure the product will kill the target pest species.
Plant tags – these are okay but most markers rub off of them. That’s fine though, since writing in pencil lasts basically forever. An even better option is aluminum plant tags (or cut up aluminum cans); plastic tags inevitably get brittle (especially in UV light) and break.
The stuff that DOESN’T work that you shouldn’t waste your time on. The (potential) list is long, but because it comes up a lot, I’ll just mention SUPERthrive. There’s minimal if any evidence that this stuff does anything beneficial for your plants, even if your cousin swears by it.