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  • Writer's pictureOrchid Muse

Phalaenopsis schilleriana 'Avi'

Growing species orchids can be tricky. After all, with thousands of easy, adaptable complex hybrid phals out there, why would you want to work harder for smaller blooms? I'll tell you why: this orchid is all about the leaves. And the roots. And actually, now that Phalaenopsis schilleriana has bloomed, the wide-open innocence of its flowers is also appealing. I'm not a fan of baby pink anything, but this lady's got so many other cool attributes, I can now allow something pink and sparkly slip into my orchid wardrobe.

Phalaenopsis schilleriana 'Avi' in its trembling glory.

I bought this orchid from a seller in Texas a few years ago; it was just exiting the seedling stage, but took another two years to bloom. It initially had a hard time adapting to my northern Wisconsin conditions--it just stalled out, pouting, doing nothing for months. Once I realized it dearly missed the heat, giving it a home on a heat mat during the day (set on a timer, it turns off at night) allowed it to hit its ideal temperature range. And this baby likes it hot: days of 84-91 F, with summer nights in the mid-70s, and winter nights in the mid-to-high 60s. Endemic to the Philippines, these temps make sense.

The leaves! Those gorgeous, mottled, green-gray-silver-purple leaves!

Watering can also be a bit different for Phal. schilleriana. It thrives with very frequent, heavy waterings June through September, and very infrequent watering January through April. In its native home, it blooms in spring. For me, its initial bloom was in December, later inflorescences bloomed in February/March. It had a cooler, drier rest in the cold white north for the months leading up to its bloom, so this makes sense.

Knobbly, silvery, fascinating roots.

I grow Phal. schilleriana in a chunky mix of leca, medium-size bark, coarse perlite, and charcoal. This allows good air movement through the mix, while keeping the humidity around the roots high. In the wild, it is epiphytic, so high humidity (60-80%) and good air movement is appreciated by this species.

More root shots. I watered it yesterday, so there's condensation on the inside of the pot. Notice how the roots are flat, not round like other phals?

Phal. schilleriana likes it on the high end of normal phalaenopsis light--1200 fc (13,200 lux) has been ideal.

The blooms aren't perfect. There's no assembly-line feel to this phalaenopsis, like there is with the huge complex phals from big-box stores.

One more interesting fact about Phalaenopsis schilleriana: all of its blooms open at once. You wait and wait and then one glorious day she opens her heart wide. With a slightly goofy, drooping habit and interesting quirks for days, she's like a favorite grandmother who has magically reappeared to offer another small lesson in appreciating life.


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