Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis spp.)

Moth orchids are some of the most widely grown and widely admired orchid plants in the world.

Tropical Asian plants have become increasingly popular due to their effortless growth in terrariums.

With their elegant appearance and minimal upkeep, they make an excellent starting point for those new to plant care.

If you are looking for a lowmaintenance and beautiful vivarium plant, Moth orchids are an excellent choice.

In this article, we will discuss the basics of growing Phalaenopsis spp. in a terrarium, including the factors to consider when selecting these plants, their basic cultural requirements, and tips on caring for them.

So, if you are ready to delve into the world of terrarium orchids, let‘s get started!

Quick Stats:
Scientific Name Phalaenopsis spp.
Common Name Moth Orchid, Painted Ladies, Phalaenopsis Orchid
Family Name Orchidaceae
Habitat Low-Light Tropics
Temperature 60°F to 80°F
Height 6-20 inches
pH 6.1 to 6.5
Lighting Moderate

What Are Moth Orchids?

A Phalaenopsis orchid is a genus of terrestrial orchids that is native to tropical areas in Southeast Asia.

These plants are popular for their large and unique flowers that come in a variety of colors.

The flowers can last for up to 10 weeks and are often found in bouquets and indoor gardens.

Moth Orchids "Phalaenopsis Spp." Plant Care Guide

Moth Orchids Facts

Moth orchids are often found growing on trees in the wild, attached to the bark as an epiphyte.

These plants do not require soil to grow, instead, will use the bark for water and nutrients.

It is prevalent to see dozens of moth orchids growing together in one area in the wild due to its natural pollinators, which are usually small flies and bees.


Phalaenopsis orchids have long, fleshy leaves that can grow between the heights of 6 to 20 inches.

The leaves are pale green with darker green veins running down them. At the end of each stalk, the flowers grow in an umbel-like shape.

These flowers come in colors ranging from pink, white, yellow, purple, and even lavender. They also have a sweet and fragrant aroma, making them perfect for indoor growing. 


Moth orchids are native to the low-light tropical areas of Southeast Asia.

These plants are found growing naturally on trees and other shrubs.

They need to be in an environment that provides plenty of shade, humidity, and moisture for them to flourish.

The temperatures for these habitats should be within the range of 60°F to 80°F.

pH Preference

These orchids prefer slightly acidic soils. The ideal pH range should be between 6.1 and 6.5.

If the pH is off balance and overly alkaline, it can lead to nutrient deficiencies and wilting.

Vivarium Type

Moth orchids are very versatile and can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, making them excellent for terrariums.

They will thrive in both open and closed terrariums, but it is best to avoid terrariums with particularly humid environments as this can cause fungal problems.

Vivarium Placement

For optimal growth, it is recommended that the Phalaenopsis orchid is placed in the background areas.

These orchids can be placed on the walls of the vivarium with other plants, or at the bottom with smaller hardscape pieces.

When placing the latter, ensure the area is of the type that provides plenty of shade, moderate lighting, and appropriate humidity. 


These orchids need a light bark substrate that can retain moisture and provide drainage.

Since these plants can naturally climb and attach to trees, it is best to give them something similar and robust.

Peat moss, as well as fir bark, can provide this and should be planted in with the group of orchids. 


When it comes to lighting, this plant is a low-light species and therefore, should not be receiving much light, direct or indirect.

Place the orchids in a shaded area or on the side of the tank that receives just a few hours of light a day.

Phalaenopsis orchids do not require full spectrum terrarium lighting.

However, due to the low light conditions in the vivarium, some cool blue spectra will be beneficial in maintaining good health.

Buy Moth Orchids

When shopping for orchids, expect a few key indicators you are buying the best quality plant.

The plant should be pest free. The source of the orchid will more than likely not be in bloom so don’t worry if it arrives without flowers.

Click the image below to find out more about the current price and other relative info:

Moth Orchids Care and Propagation

One of the reasons why these orchids are so popular is due to their low care requirements.

These plants prefer evenly moist environments and should be watered once or twice a week. During the winter, once a fortnight is plenty.

The Moth orchids do not require much fertilizer, however; use a diluted, low-strength balanced fertilizer twice a month to give them an extra boost of nutrients.

To propagate these plants, divide the clumps and replant the smaller pieces in a different substrate.

How to grow

Growth with moth orchids is relatively slow but with proper care can make an awesome addition to a vivarium.

As mentioned above, water them once every week for two weeks with filtered or distilled water.

The bark should not be overly wet and needs to be able to have good drainage. When watering, take the time to inspect the plants for any pests.


When it comes to watering, these plants prefer to have evenly moist substrate.

Watering once a week should be enough to keep them happy, however; make sure the substrate is not overly wet.

If using a mister, do so in the early morning and make sure there is plenty of airflow. One of the signs of over-watering is a yellowing of the leaves, so be careful not to overwater.

Plants Similar To Moth Orchids

Adding diversity to an enclosure is key to an aesthetically pleasing enclosure.

Try mixing up the look of your terrarium with different flora that can easily co-exist in the same types of environment.

Furthermore, if for some reason you find this orchid hard to acquire or would like to consider something similar to this terrarium plant

Here are some other plants you might find may do well with or in the place of Phalaenopsis spp.:

Dendrobium Spp. "Dendrobium Orchids" Plant Care Guide
Laelia Spp. "Laelia Orchids" Plant Care Guide
Masdevallia Spp. "Masdevallia Orchids" Plant Care Guide


Moth orchids are a great addition to have in a vivarium. These plants are fairly low maintenance and with the right amount of light and moisture can create a beautiful display of vibrant colors.

They may need a bit more attention than moss and some other ground cover terrarium plants, but with proper care, these could be a great choice that could add a lot of character to any enclosure.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Water a moth orchid weekly, allowing the potting mixture to dry between waterings.

2. Place the orchid plant in a warm and humid area, such as a kitchen or bathroom.

3. Use a well-draining potting mixture and a clay orchid pot.

4. Repot the orchid in fresh potting mixture every two to three years.

5. Fertilize moth orchids every two weeks with an orchid fertilizer. (BONUS)

6. Prune an orchid’s long flower stems to maintain its shape.

7. Ensure indirect light and regular misting to maintain a high humidity level.

To get a moth orchid to bloom again, provide adequate light and water, along with regular fertilizer. Consider placing the orchid in a southfacing window or under artificial or supplemented lighting. Repot the orchid yearly in welldraining, barkbased potting mix and supplement humidity with regular misting.

Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis) get their common name from the distinctive shape of their flowers, which resemble moths in flight. The petals of the flower resemble the curved shape of a moth‘s wings while the lips of the flowers look similar to a moth‘s body.

A moth orchid can live anywhere from 5 to 10 years with proper care.

After the blooms fall off an orchid, you should cut back the flower stalk and reduce watering until the plant begins to rebloom. Fertilize monthly with an orchid specific fertilizer to promote healthy growth and reblooming (BONUS). Place the orchid in a bright, indirect light location with circulated air.

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