I have always been a fan of Phalaenopsis, but until quite recently I grew only hybrids. I think I had read somewhere that the species were difficult to grow, so I avoided them. These days, although I grow a few species of Phalaenopsis, I find them no more difficult than the hybrids. Of course, many of them are also not as showy as hybrids, but I tend to prefer plants of ‘botanical interest’ to those with big, blousy flowers anyway. This month’s orchid, Phalaenopsis tetraspis, has quite a pretty flower, but is definitely a collector’s plant. It is quite a variable species. The flowers are basically white, but with varying degrees of red on its petals. Flowers on my plant appear to be entirely white with just pink markings on the lip, but various plants might produce red marks on the petals, an entirely red petal or even an entirely red flower. All the flowers on one plant are subtly different, and just because the first bloom on my plant is entirely white doesn’t mean that subsequent blooms won’t have red markings. The flowers are fragrant too, although I find the scent rather soapy. The fragrance seems strongest during the morning, much less so during the afternoon and hardly at all at night.
This species is nice and compact, and appears to be an easy grower and a willing bloomer. Multiple spikes are produced, and these remain green and capable of producing further buds sequentially for several years. Consequently, mature plants can carry quite a lot of flowers on multiple stems. Flowers are only produced a couple at a time from the tips, but they are long- lasting, giving an extended flowering period. I very much like the detail on the lip. Unfortunately it doesn’t come across very well in photographs, but the apex carries bristles, much like a miniature toothbrush.
I grow all my Phalaenopsis plants very warm, so I find this species no trouble at all. Nevertheless, it is one of those species that are less tolerant of cool temperatures, and this can delay blooming and cause bud drop. Like most Phalaenopsis, it enjoys high humidity, but seems tolerant of much lower levels than it would experience in its natural environment. Overall, a species well worth growing for its compact growth and interesting flowering habits.