History of Epiphytes: Phalaenopsis Orchids
Though we’re all used to seeing our orchids neatly potted on the shelf, that’s not the picture you’d get if you were to visit the tropical rainforests native to many orchid species.
There, you’d see orchids growing out of other plants, such as tree bark. That’s because orchids are epiphytes – a term indicating a plant that lives off other plants, but in a non-parasitic way.
Also called “air plants,” epiphytes have some advantages over other plants.
- Most notably, by not being anchored to the ground, epiphytes are less prone to being eaten by animals, crushed or swept away in floods.
- Epiphytes have less competition for nutrients than soil-bound plants.
- And because they grow in higher elevations, epiphytes have more access to sun and air, both health-giving elements for the flowers.
So when you’re talking about orchids, you’re talking about a plant that’s bred to self-regulate in the wild. Once in your home, however, the orchids need a little help from you.
Watch the water
Overwatering is never a good idea for your orchids. As Just Add Ice recommends, just three ice cubes a week will provide adequate hydration for your Phalaenopsis orchid.
Epiphytes are also sensitive to their growing "media." To work correctly as the orchids’ home away from home, the pot should be regulated with just the right amount of foundation (crumbled bark, moss, charcoal or pebbles) to avoid overwhelming the plant’s thick, spongy roots.
Let them breathe
Air is another story. Your orchids crave plenty of air, and they prefer the humid conditions typical of their native tropics. You can help by keeping your orchids in consistent temperatures of 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also install a small humidifier near the pots if your home or office is particularly dry.
If you’re interested in learning more about the care and feeding of epiphyte orchids, check out our Orchid Care videos.