I have a lot of time for Phalaenopsis, both species and hybrids. They are easy to grow (at least, most of them are) and very rewarding. I’m aware that a lot of growers are rather sniffy about Phalaenopsis, presumably because they have become so common and are so often sold without names. I will say that I prefer them to have names, but it’s not the ‘be all and end all’ if I like the flower. Many of the species seem as easy to grow as the hybrids, and this month’s feature, Phalaenopsis mannii, is no exception.
I originally got this plant, along with a few others, from a nursery in Germany a couple of years ago. It was at one time really badly attacked by red spider mite, probably as a result of me keeping it too dry, I can’t be sure. At any rate, the plant did have a relatively small root system when I got it, so I changed the potting medium and the root system seems to have grown back very nicely (at least, it is showing out of the bottom of the pot, which I take to be a good sign). Once it shows root growth and leaf growth, I know that it has settled in properly and now there is a nice new leaf, too. I particularly like the purple speckles on the foliage, but I have to say I find the plant as a whole rather untidy, as the leaves are quite long and strappy without the stiffness found in other Phalaenopsis species and hybrids. It is a pendant species that is found in the eastern Himalayas in seasonally dry forest, and is apparently adaptable to cool conditions, though I haven’t experimented with this. A dry winter rest helps this species to bloom in spring. Under my growing conditions, the vast majority of Phalaenopsis species and hybrids spike at the same time as a result of cooler temperatures during autumn nights, and this species seems no different, so I wonder whether a month of cooler nights is the important factor in initiating flowering here.
The flowers are not large for the size of the plant, but they are produced in little bursts from a seemingly ever extending flower spike, and are fairly long-lasting. I very much like the colour combination and patterning. I have never been a big fan of large, rounded flowers, as I don’t find them very interesting. This species seems to be quite variable both in terms of flower form and the overall size of the plant. I also grow a variety called ‘Zarbitter’ which is tiny compared to the regular form, but yet appears to be an adult plant.
The flowers are fragrant. At least to my nose, I’d describe the fragrance as ‘Frazzles’, which is a bit odd, but it really does remind me of fake bacon-flavoured crisps. It’s not unpleasant, just unexpected!