Species Name: Phalaenopsis lowii
Care Group: See Phalaenopsis Orchid Care
More About Phalaenopsis lowii
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 did not produce any leaves from the beginning of flower spike creation (around September) through till the end of February. Roots did continue to grow throughout the winter and leaves began growing in March. I have a suspicion, given it’s regional distribution and lythophitic habitat, that this plant does not like very hot conditions that some sites claim it requires.
Here are my notes on culture from my own experience:
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 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 exceptionally 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…which is a lot compared to the rest of the phalaenopsis species.
I’ve heard reports that phal lowii is fragrant – despite smelling it at various times of day, I have not experienced any such fragrance.
It’s recommended to grow Phal lowii at low light (500 – 1,500fc); I grow this phal with my others, at a South-facing window (quite bright; I’d guess close to 2,500fc?) behind a sheer cloth.
Water & pH
Not wet but not dry—helpful, right? According to the care sheet, I’ve read people grow this plant quite wet, watering 3-5 times per week. However, I water once a week, with a heavy drench and then let approach dryness before the next watering. I also give it tap water which is pH adjusted to 5.8 from 7.5; I do that every other watering (so it still gets alkaline water of 7.5pH every other watering); my tap water has a TDS of 250ppm.
Given the lythophytic nature of it’s natural growth, it leads me to believe that Phal lowii will do better with higher pH and/or may also require an abundant amount of Calcium and Magnesium to grow best. These are not an issue for my conditions because my tapwater is high in calcium carbonate. This is still just a guess, don’t take it as fact.
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 all of 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.
I grow this in a coarse mix with a top-dressing of sphagnum moss. When the moss is crispy and the roots are silvering, I water liberally.
Phalaenopsis lowii Photos