Did You Know Phalaenopsis Flowers Don’t Naturally Grow Straight Up?

by | Mar 30, 2022 | 0 comments

When you purchase phalaenopsis orchids at the store (and now you can find them in almost any store at any time of the year) the flower inflorescences are always staked so they are straight up and down. It makes sense because they are easier to ship and they want to pack them in boxes as efficiently as possible. But, did you know they don’t naturally grow straight up? 

In Stores

In stores, the flowers are all staked upward so they can easily be packed and shipped. 

Not Straight but Curved

Or like this orchid below, they are staked and trained over a curved stake to create a more interesting form. They use decorative clips to keep them attached to the stake and at orchid shows and sales, you can purchase clips that are shaped like dragonflies because…… well, who doesn’t like dragonflies? Many people remove the stakes in their homes so they look more natural.

colored orchid

This dyed orchid is staked with a sharp curve

Let’s Do The Twist

This was a plant showcased at the Tropical Plant Show in Florida in 2016. It’s called the Twist orchid and is an orchid whose inflorescence has been trained around a twisted stake. 

phalaenopsis orchid

This orchid is called twister as it is trained on a curved stake

In Nature

So what do these plants and flowers look like in their natural habitat? They naturally grow as epiphytes on trees in South-East Asia, the Philippines, and Australia. They use the trees simply as a place to attach their roots and don’t withdraw any nourishment from the trees, as they aren’t parasites. Below, you can see how the orchids are growing on the trees in the Key West Garden Club at the West Martello Tower. Their roots cling to the trunk and they receive dappled light through the leaves of the tree. Though these orchids were originally attached to the trees by the garden club members, they only needed support for a bit until their roots attached themselves to the tree trunks. As you can see, they really attach themselves and take off! 

Natural Inflorescences

So we come to the flowers’ inflorescences. How do they grow in nature?  When the plant grows on the trees, they naturally are on a slant, not growing straight up and down like they are in containers. This is so the rain can run out of the area where the leaves meet. The flower stalks then hang down from the leaves, certainly not pointing straight upwards like they are staked in the flower industry. If you water your plant at home and the water sits in the center of the leaves, they may rot and fall off. Believe me, it has happened to me and is so discouraging. Either dump the water out if it gets in the leaves or use a paper towel to soak up the water from the leaves. Try instead to only water the potting medium. 

Orchids Naturally at Home

All the orchids below are mine and have been in my care for years. When allowed to grow naturally, the flower inflorescences grow out from among the leaves and droop down, not growing straight up. One would need a stake for that to happen and I choose not to stake them. 

phalaenopsis orchid

Orchid inflorescence

Below are two orchids, the yellow one growing naturally and the purple one has been staked. 

Phalaenopsis orchids

Two orchids, one staked and one growing naturally

Using Natural Stakes

If you like the staked look, instead of using metal stakes that are unnatural, use bamboo stakes or branches. A piece of driftwood was used on the orchid on the left below with a tan bamboo stake. The one on the right is supported by a manzanita branch. The natural materials are much more attractive and even a branch from your yard or one purchased at your local craft store would look great. 

I am certainly not saying there is anything wrong with staking your orchids but am simply showing you that isn’t how they grow in their natural habitats. There is nothing wrong with supporting the inflorescences, as they take up less room than allowing them to sprawl naturally. And it does allow them to stand up above the foliage and they look great on display. I just kind of like the natural look and so allow them to grow how they want to. Do you prefer them staked, unstaked, or staked with a natural element? Let me know in the comments. 

Have a great week, plant friends! 

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