14 Oct2011

Phalaenopsis or butterfly/moth orchids were my mom’s favorite. In her day, they were raised and enjoyed outdoors in the garden, either attached to live tree trunks, dead tree trunks (remember those anchored in cement disk bases?), or hanging on partially shaded trellises. She had room for at least 150 pots of hanging orchids (half of them over carp ponds to encourage humidity), and hundreds more attached to tree trunks. She must have had a good 40-50 moth orchids and when the end of the rainy season was near, around September or so, many of them would send out spectacular spikes of flowers. Today, many hotels and retail outlets around the world use these orchids in masses of dozens or hundreds even, as they are now raised by the millions in efficient greenhouses in Taiwan and elsewhere. At wholesale, these spectacular orchids cost just $6-8 for a young blooming plant! There is NO WAY my mother would part with her moth orchids for that amazingly low price…

I, on the other hand, have a notoriously black thumb, and rationally argue that it’s cheaper to buy the orchids blooming rather than futz with them all year… So over the past few years, we have purchased dozens and dozens of these orchids, enjoying their blooms for a month or more indoors. But what to do with the plants once the flowers have wilted? We started to plant them outdoors and have a dozen or two thriving on various tree trunks in our garden. I don’t touch them, speak to them or go near them. A gardener comes once a week to look after the yard, spray the orchids with fertilizer and lo and behold, they have rewarded us with spike after spike of orchids over the year, a beautiful display in the yard, all of them visible from the living room. At one point, I counted a dozen large spikes of flowers, a real bounty of say a hundred individual large blooms. My mom would have had a smile on her face, even if I couldn’t claim any credit for raising them!

For the past two years, we have switched from the tree trunks, which are more susceptible to caterpillars, bugs, etc., to a shaded terrace on the side of the house. We had some two dozen pots of moth orchids hanging there and apparently thriving, sending out nice big green leaves, but never once blooming. These ones I visited at least weekly, urging them to bloom, but still not touching them. I read up on orchid care, Sister mentioned they needed darkness at night (we had an outdoor light on at night for security right over the plants), added fertilizer, etc. and OMG, today we have five hanging plants with enormous spikes, some with as many as a dozen blooms! The pots have been moved indoors, in cache pots with moss… Really stunning. And in a sense, this round of blooms is nearly totally free! It’s such a pleasure to have fresh or live blooms in the house, and it’s particularly special when they were all raised at home! We haven’t bought a moth orchid for months now, and we won’t need to for at least a another couple of months more… And then, only with the view to increasing our mini-orchid stockpile… :)



  1. PITS, MANILA says:


    Oct 14, 2011 | 7:51 am

  2. ami says:

    Beautiful big blooms. Hopefully I can spot that flower when we go to Dangwa for All Saint’s Day flowers.

    I tried my hands at taking care of succulents (echeveria to be exact) because I read somewhere that even people with black thumbs can cultivate it. Turns out it is harder to grow because our rainy weather drowns them.

    Oct 14, 2011 | 8:18 am

  3. Sleepless in Seattle says:

    Orchids.Vandas, Cattleya & Phalaenopsis orchids are the passion of my late mother..so much so,i took over the care of them,till Mt Pinatubo erupted wiped 90% of them..we moved here in Washington state .Our home in Pampanga has been rebuild ,Less Orchids,lots of birds of paradise,a lots of exotic plants ,my niece takes care of them with her gardener.But there is nothing more satisfying is to cut your own orchid blooms and mass display for your home.I miss home:(:(:( The picture of your beautiful white orchids makes me happy!!

    Oct 14, 2011 | 8:39 am

  4. Mart says:

    Orchids are also my mother’s and mother-in-law’s favorite. And magnificent bloom spreads in the lobbies of classy asian hotels still impress me.
    Speaking of plants indoors, I read an article in the past how some indoor plants are great at purifying indoor air. A Google search should easily turn up a list.

    Oct 14, 2011 | 4:07 pm

  5. sophie says:

    oh makes me wish to go home to my hometown where my mom used to grow lots of orchids especially this one and the dancing lady. i think we were able to have one or two of the Waling-waling… ah would head to weekend market to look for flowers to brighten my small abode :)… happy weekend MM and family.

    Oct 14, 2011 | 4:58 pm

  6. millet says:

    i love them. i too, have a black thumb, and just like you, used to buy blooming orchids in pots. when the flowers wilted, i would bring them over the my mother-in-law’s house for adoption. she was a whiz at raising orchids, had a huge garden filled with orchids, and so did not mind my extras. my father-in-law was her biggest fan and motivator, and everyday when he got home from work, as soon as he got out of the car, they would stroll together around the garden, Dad admiring the blooms and coaxing the lazy ones. when Dad died, MIL refused to go to the garden at all, refused to even look at the plants from her windows, and she left it like that until all the plants died. sad.

    Oct 14, 2011 | 8:36 pm

  7. Betchay says:

    Nice shots!beautiful flowers!Am now in Taipei and at the hotel lobby they have really great flower arrangements.Flowers really brighten up a room and lift up one’s spirit.Orchids are also my mom’s fave when she was alive.

    Oct 14, 2011 | 9:20 pm

  8. atbnorge says:

    I only have seven plants inside the house and they grace my living and dining rooms with their beauty. It was difficult at first especially when we only had heaters inside the house. Every orchid I bought died after a year or after the first blooming. We now have airconditioning so the temperature inside the house is stable at 20 deg celsius. I water them once a week in the warm days and twice a month during the winter. I move them around the house, they do not mind because I am taking them to the window where they could sunbathe. I also have a humidifier in the house so I think I got it right. The oldest plant I have is 4 years old and looks very robust. It gave me more than twenty blooms this autumn and has a shoot with six buds to last up to Christmas. Each of the seven has a name, of course, they are my falanggahs. I am thinking myself how did I manage to raise such plants indoors. I am baffled. I have that “butterfly”, too. It likes a lot of moisture, so I have it on the windowsill in the bathroom where it gets sunlight plus the warmth of the heater underneath the tiles. Now, I am waiting for three stems with 8 buds each. I am one happy “gardener” albeit indoors.

    Oct 14, 2011 | 9:22 pm

  9. alilay-los angeles says:

    one of the tenants in the apt. gave me a pot with flowers just like this , she said she got it from her office, the janitor just throw away the pots when the flowers wilt and they will put a new one so she told him to give it all to her. she put it in the conference room where there is morning sun cut the old shoots and they flowered again, so now even her non-filipino officemates were getting the old pots may ka-kompetensya na .

    Oct 15, 2011 | 1:10 am

  10. horti_guy says:

    Did you know that most of the Phalaenopsis orchid species that are used for developing these hybrids are endemic to the Philippines? We have several species imparting white blooms [P. philippinensis (endemic), P. amabilis (native), P. aphrodite(endemic)] The pink purple ones are imparted by P schilleriana (endemic) and P. equestris (native). My mom has a lot of P. schilleriana plants at home and in my grandma’s house. I used to take care of them as well as propagate the plants produced from spikes (keikis). Flowering is induced by the prolonged cool nights of January and February. If the spikes are kept free of orchid caterpillars, they produce a lovely spray of light pink/purple/lilac flowers that’s slightly sweet smelling.

    Oct 15, 2011 | 6:54 am

  11. Marketman says:

    horti-guy, yes, thanks for that. I have written a post or two many years prior re: the orchids… I would have voted for these as our national flower rather than sampaguita…

    Oct 15, 2011 | 7:39 am

  12. Lalaine says:

    I envy people with green thumbs. I, unfortunately don’t have one. Kahit anong halaman namamatay pag hinawakan ko.

    Oct 15, 2011 | 1:48 pm

  13. millet says:

    sanggumay are nice & endemic to the philippines, too!

    Oct 15, 2011 | 8:14 pm

  14. shalimar says:

    love love them… I even have a pot inside my cabin!

    Oct 16, 2011 | 12:32 am

  15. little mary says:

    my mother loved orchids, too. she had plenty of them, that’s why when they bloom during September till November, our garden was a sight to behold.

    Oct 16, 2011 | 6:11 pm

  16. Mac says:

    Hi there

    Do you also sell phalaenopsis plants?

    Oct 18, 2011 | 2:25 am

  17. Marketman says:

    Mac, no, I don’t.

    Oct 18, 2011 | 8:53 am

  18. sister says:

    Glad the orchids rebloomed, they look spectacular. Maybe you have Mom’s green thumb after all.

    Oct 18, 2011 | 7:17 pm

  19. tipat says:

    These were my dad’s favorite alongside the cattleyas. I wished they bloomed more often though, like the dendrobium.

    Oct 18, 2011 | 10:33 pm

  20. Anna Maria Elisa says:

    They are so expensive here in the east coast of the U.S. Wish I had a greenhouse.

    Oct 20, 2011 | 9:28 pm

  21. joyce says:

    i agree that orchids are beautiful even better that they bloomed in your house. i remember one friend though getting upset because a suitor she liked gave her orchids instead of roses (thinking she would like them better since she was from Davao haha)

    Oct 25, 2011 | 5:03 pm


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