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CULTIVATING ORCHIDS & CRAFTING TERRARIUMS

Q &A: Do Mini Phalaenopsis Stay Small?

One question that orchid buyers have is, “Do mini Phalaenopsis stay small?” Mini Phalaenopsis (or moth orchids) are one of the most sold orchids in big box stores among shoppers who’ve never grown an orchid before.

The tiny details of the “teacup” orchid fascinate and capture our attention, kind of like puppies do. But we all know that puppies turn into huge dogs over time and part of that initial cuteness is gone.

Dogs are one thing, but what about Phalaenopsis?
Mini Phalaenopsis Size
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Mini Phalaenopsis will not grow much more than their initial size on the market.

They are already adult size when you purchase them, not a baby version.

They might gain a few more leaves and add an inch or two, but not more than that.

Mini Phalaenopsis do not grow more than 6 to 10 inches (16 20 25 cm) tall.
A common misconception is that the mini Phalaenopsis is just a baby version of a bigger plant and will eventually grow into the huge plant. Another myth about the mini Phal is that they are sprayed will chemicals to remain small, but over time the chemicals wear off and they’ll burst into huge plants.

Both these ideas are myths.

Why do we love mini Phalaenopsis? A combination of three factors come into play when a mini Phal presses against our heart: the size (obviously), the price, and the vase.

1) Size: For some reason, a person who has never grown an orchid doesn't feel as intimidated with the smaller version, a mini. The care is the same and sometimes a bit harder. A larger orchid is more tolerant to mistakes.

2) Price: Since their price is usually under ten dollars, it turns out to be worth the risk. Even not knowing how to care for an orchid, many people will purchase the mini Phalaenopsis since this “teacup orchid” is delicate, elegant, and mesmerizing and won't break the bank if it does happen to die.

3) Vase: What captures our attention in this orchid is that it usually comes planted in a cute coffee mug or some other unique vase, so it’s a double winner.

Yet even though they will stay rather small, are cost-friendly, and come with a useful object (a mug), they won’t live long once you get them home if you keep them in the same potting medium they are in—in fact, they’ll die.

What Influences Mini Phalaenopsis Growth & Size?

Potting medium directly influences how long your orchid lives.

Mini Phalaenopsis are almost always planted purely in sphagnum moss. That is the ideal potting medium for growers in big nurseries, where they can be misted regularly with an overhead sprinkler system.
Mini Phalaenopsis Size
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Yet once you get home, you’ll start reading about how to care for your Phal, and you’ll learn that you need to water about once a week.

Here is where the “normal Phal” differentiates from the mini-Phal. In a normal Phal, the potting media is bark, perlite, charcoal, and a tiny bit of sphagnum to maintain hydration. These are bigger potting bits, way too large for a mini Phal to wrap its roots around.

The plant you just bought is purely sphagnum moss and needs to come out of that as soon as possible. This moss is highly absorbent and pulls moisture from the air. Then it traps the moisture, releasing it only through time.

If you water your orchid either by placing running water in the sink or letting it sit in a bucket of water, either way, with pure sphagnum, the media will absorb all this water, turning into mush.

The roots will slowly suffocate since the water won’t evaporate, damaging gas exchange. Once the gas accumulates in the roots, pH changes and they become toxic. The toxicity rises, leaving the orchid open to bacteria. Its own immune response kicks in and more chemicals are released.

Soon your potting medium turns into green and black jelly.

You can either replant your mini Phalaenopsis is a semi-hydroponic potting media or use the same media as the normal Phal (listed above), but in smaller sizes and proportions. Your potting media needs to be tiny pieces, broken down to about half the normal size.

You can also mount the mini Phalaenopsis on a slab, cork, bark, or driftwood. (If this is an option your considering, check out this tutorial on how to mount a Mini Phalaenopsis on Driftwood.)

Watering Mini Phalaenopsis Influences Their Growth & Size

Mini Phalaenopsis Growth
Image Credit © Orchideria 2020
This article isn’t a care guide for a mini-Phal, but just a quick answer to the question about size.

They won’t grow at all if the potting medium is wrong or the watering technique is wrong…and watering will be what most influences the growth of your orchid.
If you really want to keep the sphagnum moss in your orchid, then you’ll have to change the way you water. Misting once in the morning everyday (and if you live in a drier climate—once at night, too) is enough to keep the humidity up and the roots well drained.

Don’t point the mister at the crown or stem, since water droplets can accumulate around this area and cause black rot. Aim the mister at the potting media.

Another way to keep the sphagnum moss is to wrap it around the roots in a Japanese style of cultivating orchids, called kokedama. The new sphagnum now becomes the bases of the pot itself. This unique, modern style of potting is actually better for a new orchid grower, since you can visually see some of the roots and eliminates the necessity to buy a pot.

Check out the kokedama tutorial here. This potting method will maintain the orchid healthy while maintaining the correct spot size.

About Size... What size pot should a mini Phal be in?

Another question about Mini-Phals and their size is when it comes to repotting. Most orchid guides will teach you to pot in a pot 1 to 2 inches larger than the original pot. When it comes to mini-orchids, especially Phals, size matters a lot.

Keep the orchid in the same size pot that it is in when repotting, just changing the medium to a better more drain-free medium.

You can repot it in a slightly bigger pot, and the leaves will respond by expanding an inch or so. But the flowers will remain the same size: mini.
Happy Cultivating!
Signature Amanda Matthews
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2 comments on “Q&A: Do Mini Phalaenopsis Stay Small?”

  1. you have a beautiful site, thanks for loving orchids so much. however, why would you advise that mini (and full size) phals can't thrive in pure, long-fiber, sphag?

    i have been growing orchids since about 2004, and currently have 38 phals, 4 are minis. ALL are in plastic net pots (the type used for hydroponics) and pure sphag. BUT i do NOT use the "tight pack" method.

    now i DO live in SW FL, and about 12 of my plants are on my east facing lanai. the rest are indoors at a west facing window which is under a big tree. ALL (in and out) have supplemental LED lighting.

    why do you believe sphag inevitably becomes "green and black jello"? if you provide light, air flow, and a pot with holes, pure sphag is NOT more problematic than any other medium......

    1. Hi Laura,

      Thanks for commenting! It's great to have different opinions and learn form each other.

      This method of using pure sphagnum moss does have a lot to do with where you live and the climate conditions. For growing inside, I find that sphagnum moss is just not doing what I want it to. It tends to hold too much water and in time, does degrade to that green and black jello. The good thing about orchid care is that it is adaptable to everyone's conditions and climates and what works for one person, may not work for another. I have a good friend in Brazil (Rio) who has all his orchids in pure sphagnum moss (and his pots don't have holes in them). His orchids are doing extremely well. Mine don't in those conditions. Since my channel is aimed for new orchid growers, I suggest they stay away from that and use several other elements in the potting media.

      Another reason why I advise to stay away form this method is that usually the pots that pure sphagnum come it are packed so tightly that no air gets through whatsoever. Since this is what a new orchid grower will see as the media for the first time, that's probably what they'll want to recreate to imitate the nursery's method.

      So in all it's not that I'm 100% against it, but I certainly don't advise it for new orchid growers or in those tightly packed conditions.

      -Amanda

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Indoor Orchids
Hi, there! I'm Amanda Matthews.

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