Phalaenopsis lowii Orchid Care & Culture

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Species Name: Phalaenopsis lowii

Care Group: See Phalaenopsis Orchid Care

More About Phalaenopsis lowii

Distribution

Southern Myanmar (Tenasserim Range), Western Thailand (Chiang Mai), & Borneo (according to OrchidSpecies.com?)
*The first two regions experience a high degree of seasonal variation while Borneo is more seasonally stable.

Natural Habitat / “In Situ”

Found growing on/among limestone rocks as lithophytes at elevations around sea level to 800 meters. Seasonally these areas go through distinct wet and dry seasons and during the dry season, phal lowii is known to become fully deciduous. Evening dews keep the roots plump and healthy even though all leaves are dropped.

This plant loses all its leaves in its native habitat directly after flowering. It grows on limestone rocks, and on the branches of small bushes, growing in the crevices of the rocks. The ranges of limestone hills on which it grows, rise suddenly out of the delta of the rivers Gyne, Ataran, and Salween, Tennasserim [province], Burma.

Some observers have noted that the plant grows on the rocks exposed to the hot sun without receiving any injury [however, the plants don’t grow on the Southwest side of the hills, and are only found on the Northeast side, meaning it’s] protected from the effects of the afternoon heat of a tropical sun.

— Wesley Higgins, Phalaenopsis lowii Species Caresheet Publication

Phalaenopsis lowii Care

Most growers have reported difficulties growing this plant and it’s considered to be finicky. This is especially true if the plant is allowed to go deciduous. It’s recommended not to dry out the plant even during the winter. My phal lowii do not produce leaves once the flower spike starts (around July/August) through till the end of February. Roots may grow throughout the winter, with leaves beginning to grow again around March. I have a suspicion, given it’s regional distribution and lythophitic habitat, that this plant does not like very hot conditions, though some sites claim otherwise.

Here are my notes on culture from my own experience:

Flowering Habit

Plants spike after the growth period. Leaves are no longer produced and root growth slows or stops. For me, spikes emerge end of Summer (August 2nd) and take 8-12 weeks to mature and produce flowers—the only other phalaenopsis I own that takes this long to bloom from spike is Phal schilleriana (which also takes 12 weeks). The spikes on lowii are long, and I suspect the effort of creating flowers are taxing on such a small plant (hence most people have difficulties keeping this species); more than 50% of the flowering biomass goes into spike creation.

I’ve heard reports that phal lowii is fragrant – despite smelling it at various times of day, I have not experienced any such fragrance.

Light

It’s recommended to grow Phal lowii at low light (500 – 1,500fc); I grow this phal with my others, at an East-facing window (quite bright; peaking at 3,000fc).

Water & pH

Not wet but not dry. According to the care sheet, I’ve read people grow this plant quite wet, watering 3-5 times per week. I water once a week, with a heavy drench/soak and then let the roots dry before the next watering. I also give it tap water (7.5-7.9pH) and adjust the pH once every 3rd or 4th watering to 5.8.

Given the lythophytic nature of it’s natural growth, it leads me to believe that Phal lowii is intolerant to excessively acidic media and/or may also require an abundant amount of Calcium and Magnesium to grow best. My first plant died when I pH adjusted too often, though that plant may also have just been very inbred as it had multiple issues that my current plant doesn’t have.

Temperature

Phal lowii is supposed to be an intermediate grower (14.5C – 31C max); however, given the inclusion of Borneo in OrchidSpecies.com, it may also tolerate hot temps.

I grow my orchids quite cool (intermediate temps) – not by design, just a function of living in Canada. In the summer, I keep the A/C on to try and target around 22-25C; it goes up to 28C if it’s an exceptionally sunny day. In winter (which this hasn’t been here for yet), temps go down to about 16C in the evenings while I cycle temps for the rest of my winter-blooming phals.

Potting Media

I grow this in a coarse mix (orchiata) with a top-dressing of sphagnum moss. When the moss is crispy and the roots are silvering, I water liberally.

 

Phalaenopsis lowii Photos

Phal lowii – October 2023

My first Phal lowii that had some weird traits (like wonky flowers and excessively long flower spikes. I suspect this plant was a product of multiple “selfings” and suffered from inbreeding depression. Here are photos of that plant:

Phal lowii – Newly Repotted, April 2019
Phal lowii – in cup / pot
Phal lowii – bloom during fall after summer’s leaf growths have completed (Oct 22 2018)


Phal lowii - March 29, 2018 w 2 new leaves

Phal lowii – newly acquired April 7, 2018