Phal-a-normal: So What's A Phal Supposed to Look Like?
So what is normal for a phalenopsis leaf? (Or how can I tell if I’m growing it right? J )
Although you almost certainly got your phal because of its flowers, the plant’s leaves are a good way to diagnosis the plant’s health and to spot any potential problems. With all orchids, it is tough to say anything is absolutely normal, but here are some good rules of thumb.
First, the leaves should be smooth to the touch. For many phals, the ideal color is a light, bright green. (think new tree leaves in spring J )
However, depending upon the plants genetics, it may naturally and healthily be a darker green as well.
Usually if the leaves are much darker—say a jungle or forest green, the plant is not getting sufficient light. (See articles section for phal culture requirements on light).
There are other phals, such as Phal. schilleriana, whose leaves have a gray mottling.
On fully grown plants, the leaves can vary from about three inches per to over twelve inches—so the leaf span can be anywhere from six inches to well over two feet! Like human height, the leaf size is very much determined by the plant’s genetics, so don’t worry if your mature plant has small leaves. J
The plant will produce new leaves, one at a time on alternating sides. As the plant ages, it is perfectly normal for the plant to loose a bottom leaf. For example, this bottom leaf is more than four years old, and will likely continue to yellow and then fall off all by itself.
Of course, because yellowing leaves can also be a sign of disease or other problems, a grower unfamiliar with phals could easily be confused. Sure signs that the plant is doing well and just normally dropping a leaf due to its “old age” are if (1) the yellowing leaf is the bottom-most leaf on the plant; (2) there is new leaf growth on the plant and (3) at least one other pair of established, healthy leaves. For example, the same plant above with the four-year old leaf turning yellow, also has this new growth and three additional healthy leaf pairs.
The underside of the leaf is frequently where the first signs of disease or infestation appear, so it is helpful to know what the underside should look like normally. Like the top, the underside should be smooth.
Again, there is some variation in the shade of green and some plants even have a purplish pigment to the underside.
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