From not enough light, to too much – these are the signs to finding the “Goldilocks Zone” of perfect light for your Phalaneopsis. That matters because providing your plant adequate light, ensures it has the energy to grow quickly and bloom with more flowers. Before we get into the tell tale signs of too much vs. too little light, here is a graphic that generally helps correlate leaf color with light intensity—just understand that it’s not A RULE…it’s graphic that’s intended to help you broadly understand leaf color based on light intensity (individual plants will have dark leaves or pale mint green leaves…some get red spots…some have white patterns, etc)
1. Signs a Phalaenopsis is Not Getting Enough Light
- Your phal grows slowly, only putting out a new root or two at a time.
- Your orchid either doesn’t bloom or if it does it only has a few flowers.
- The leaves are long and skinny compared to the previous leaves that grew before you got the plant.
- Finally (and this one’s harder to tell because it will depend on the species/hybrid you have), the leaves are very dark green.
2. Signs a Phalaenopsis is Getting Too Much Light
- You’re getting leaf burn—once a leaf is burnt, it’s irreversible.
*If you’re moving your orchid near a window, you should do so slowly over the period of a week or two. Putting an orchid that has been growing in dark conditions into a very bright window can sometimes burn the plant more easily than if you had moved it slowly.
- The leaves are pale-chartreuse or yellowish rather than green is a sign of too much light. Plants grown under too much light are generally stressed and won’t grow as quickly, their leaves will be shorter, thicker, and hard. The upper limit of phal leaf colour is about the same as a granny smith apple, but there are many species that have dark-green leaves that will never get this bright green color. Those darker plants under bright light can either burn or start to develop spots or banding when grown in ideal light.
- The leaves are turning red or purple. If you push the light past ideal on a plant that has red/purple flowers, it often means it has a lot of red pigment. That will sometimes show up in the leaf. If you see red or purple fringing on your leaves, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should to switch to lower light; however, darker leaves will absorb heat faster, so be sure to check the leaf temp with your hand–if it feels warm to the touch, get your plant to a lower-light area before you risk burning the leaf.
3. Just the Right Amount of Light
- How do you know if your phal is happy? To start, it should always be growing! This is especially true in the spring, summer and fall; sometimes during the winter as daylight periods are reduced, your plant will stall. If it’s the growing season outside, your phalaenopsis inside should be in the process of growing either new leaves, new roots, or a flower spike. The only time I’ve experienced a lag in growth is immediately following the buds opening into flowers–sometimes they’ll open and not grow for a couple of weeks as they replenish the energy from blooming process.
- Leaves are vibrant and full looking, not dull.
- Light freckling, speckling, silvering, or colour-flushing (red or purple). It will depend on the parent lineage of the orchid you have, but in most cases adequate light is right around the level where your plant starts to “blush” in the sun; generally phals that don’t blush, will turn a vibrant green-apple colour.
Find the Goldilocks Light Zone for your Orchids
Using these points, keep a close eye on your plant and use observation to determine if your growing area has enough light. Move single plants around and experiment with different areas of your home – you might be surprised to find that the brightest area isn’t too bright to grow a beautiful phalaenopsis.
Whatever you do, your best bet is to use filtered sunlight behind a sheer curtain (if you’re growing indoors). That will give you bright sun…but not so much it will burn the leaves. Also, when moving plants from low light to high light, acclimate them slowly because in some cases a plant that was grown in dark conditions will have dark green leaves. Then when you move them to higher light, the leaves absorb more heat and can cook. So baby steps when moving from low light to more light