Moth orchid is a houseplant favorite
Published: Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 1:51 p.m.
Q: I have a beautiful orchid that was a gift. The label says it is a Phalaenopsis orchid. The flowers are gone now, but the plant is really healthy. Is it OK to leave it inside, and how do I get it to bloom again?
A: Phalaenopsis, or the moth orchid, is a favorite orchid to grow as a houseplant. They bloom beautifully inside with a large flower spike of white, pink or purple flowers. The plant itself is small in nature with only a few 5 to 6-inch leaves growing in a rosette. Your home's growing conditions of bright light and moderate humidity are probably fine for growing this easy orchid. They are best grown in a bright window with a little or no direct sun. Usually an east window or a shaded south or west window will provide perfect growing light. Regular watering keeps the plant healthy, but don't overdo it. Let the growing medium nearly dry out between waterings. Overwatering will cause root rot and maybe death. Fertilize your orchid twice a month with a soluble orchid fertilizer such as 30-10-10 or 20-14-13; this is a solid fertilizer that you dilute in water. Repotting should be done about every two years in the spring. Select an orchid pot that is slightly larger, and use new orchid potting medium. There is no real soil in orchid medium, it is made up of mostly bark and plant fibers. Temperatures between 75 to 85 degrees are great for Phalaenopis. In the fall, if you put your moth orchid out to get exposed to cool nights in the mid-50's, a flower spike or two will be initiated. After you see the spike emerging, bring the orchid back in and enjoy the flowers starting in the late winter or spring. If you find yourself getting more interested in orchids, consider joining the Gainesville Orchid Society. They meet every fourth Monday of the month at 7 p.m. at Kanapaha Botanical Garden.
Q: The Golden Rain trees are such a nuisance because they drop their flowers and seed pods, not to mention all those weedy seedlings. I wish my neighbors would get rid of these trees.
A: Golden Rain trees are a common site in Gainesville in the fall. We first see their clusters of yellow flowers in September. Then their yellow petals fall like rain on sidewalks and streets. The coral-colored seed pods follow, and they fade to beige later in October. The seeds are easily spread and a single tree can drop thousands of seeds. They are certainly weedy and are considered to be an invasive exotic by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council. The IFAS assessment for non-native plants lists the Golden Rain tree or Koelreuteria elegans as an invasive plant as well. This means that Golden Rain trees are spreading into natural areas and pushing out native plants. Gently encourage your neighbors to consider alternative trees such as dogwoods, redbuds and fringe trees. They also could try a non-native that has clusters of yellow blooms called the Golden Medallion tree. This small tree does best in zone 9 and further south. It would be great for the warmer areas of Gainesville and Ocala. For more information about invasive plants and their alternatives, visit the UF/IFAS website at www.solutionsforyourlife.com, or call the Alachua Master Gardener Monday through Friday at 955-2402.
Wendy Wilber is an extension agent with UF/IFAS. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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