Finicky to Fashionable: Tracing the Popularity of Phalaenopsis Orchids
Considered finicky by the Victorian-era hobbyists who pioneered the early orchid-growing industry, modern Phalaenopsis orchid hybrids are prized as much for their easy care as their beauty and have become America’s most popular orchid. Phalaenopsis’ rise from finicky to fashionable appears to parallel changes in home construction and the home-heating industry.
A Little Background
During the Victorian Era from the late 1830s to 1900, home design underwent a major renovation. Instead of a single great room, Victorian homes featured several smaller rooms that could serve multiple functions. Front and back parlors became the vogue, with back parlors the scene of everyday family activities and front parlors reserved for entertaining guests.
Parlor plants became popular decorative items during the Victorian period, including several orchid species. Cattleyas and Dendrobiums were common house plants in Victorian homes, but Phalaenopsis orchids remained relegated to the personal greenhouses that also rose in popularity during the Victorian years. The primary issue was temperature. While Phalaenopsis orchids thrive within a relatively wide daytime temperature range of 65 and 80 degrees F. (60 to 70 degrees at night), they were no match for the mercurial temperature fluctuations of Victorian homes.
Seldom used front parlors were usually unheated and could reach frigid temperatures during the winter. Back parlors, on the other hand, were typically overheated during the day when families were in residence but became unbearably cold at night as they were left unheated when the family retired to bed. Phalaenopsis orchids were ill-suited to such rapidly see-sawing temperatures.
Check back next time to learn how Phalaenopsis orchids became the easy-to-care-for plants of today!
Watch our greenhouse video to see how Phalaenopsis orchids are grown today.