With over 300 species, this type of orchid is well-known but not as common as people think, in part because only a few of the species consist of showy flowers that catch people’s attention. The ones that do, however, come in colors such as yellow with white tips and dark red edges, or dark red with wide white stripes. They contain three separate lobes and beautiful, narrow leaves that perfectly complement the petals.
Dendrobium species live as epiphytes and lithophytes in New Guinea, Southern China, Thailand, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti and more. As a result, it’s hard to generalize how to care for these types of orchids. Some of them require cool nights of 50 to 59°F (10 to 15°C) while some of them require warm temperatures in the 80s°F (27°C). That’s why it’s so important to understand their natural environment so that you can make them happy. Learn more about Dendrobium orchids.
Horticultural techniques have been devised for germinating orchid seeds on an artificial nutrient medium, eliminating the requirement of the fungus for germination and greatly aiding the propagation of ornamental orchids. The usual medium for the sowing of orchids in artificial conditions is agar agar gel combined with a carbohydrate energy source. The carbohydrate source can be combinations of discrete sugars or can be derived from other sources such as banana, pineapple, peach, or even tomato puree or coconut water. After the preparation of the agar agar medium, it is poured into test tubes or jars which are then autoclaved (or cooked in a pressure cooker) to sterilize the medium. After cooking, the medium begins to gel as it cools.
Pollinators are often visually attracted by the shape and colours of the labellum. However, some Bulbophyllum species attract male fruit flies (Bactrocera spp.) solely via a floral chemical which simultaneously acts as a floral reward (e.g. methyl eugenol, raspberry ketone, or zingerone) to perform pollination. The flowers may produce attractive odours. Although absent in most species, nectar may be produced in a spur of the labellum (8 in the illustration above), or on the point of the sepals, or in the septa of the ovary, the most typical position amongst the Asparagales.
^ Guillaume Chomicki; Luc P.R. Bidel; Feng Ming; Mario Coiro; Xuan Zhang; Yaofeng Wang; Yves Baissac; Christian Jay-Allemand & Susanne S. Renner (2015). "The velamen protects photosynthetic orchid roots against UV‐B damage, and a large dated phylogeny implies multiple gains and losses of this function during the Cenozoic". New Phytologist. 205 (3): 1330–1341. doi:10.1111/nph.13106.
To give you a better feel for how orchid subfamilies, tribes, and genera are interconnected, we created a compendium of popular American orchids. It plots over 100 “local” genera of orchids so you can see just how impressive and expansive this family is. You may be surprised that some of these vibrant, exotic looking orchids exist in your own backyard! Want to learn more about flowers and plants? Check out our other compendiums featuring types of roses and types of desert plants.
Brassia, Comparettia, Odontoglossum, Polystachya, Cochleanthes, Tolumnia, Trichocentrum, Brassavola, Psychilis CC Image courtesy of Arne and Bent Larsen on Wikimedia Commons | Catasetum, Cymbidium CC Image courtesy of http://www.larsen-twins.dk on Wikimedia Commons | Cephalanthera CC Image courtesy of Sramey on Wikimedia Commons | Dichaea, Eulophia, Galeandra, Trichoglottis, Lycaste, Stanhopea, Caularthron, Domingoa, Prosthechea, Dendrobium, Goodyera, Stenorrhynchos, Pogonia, Gymnadenia CC Image courtesy of Orchi on Wikimedia Commons | Dipodium CC Image courtesy of David Lochlin on Flickr | Ionopsis, Campylocentrum CC Image courtesy of Maarten Sepp on Flickr | Macradenia CC Image courtesy of Maarten Sepp on Flickr | Koellensteinia CC Image courtesy of Alex Popovkin on Flickr | Leochilus CC Image courtesy of Marcos Antonio Campacci on Wikimedia Commons | Oeceoclades, Bletia, Chiloschista, Renanthera, Miltonia, Brachionidium, Cattleya, Lepanthopsis, Nidema, Scaphyglottis, Trichosalpinx, Eria, Coelogyne, Cyclopogon, Eltroplectris, Eurystyles, Platythelys, Prescottia, Psilochilus, Triphora, Paphiopedilum CC Image courtesy of Dalton Holland Baptista on Wikimedia Commons | Oncidium CC Image courtesy of Calyponte on Wikimedia Commons | Arethusa CC Image courtesy of Chris Meloche on Wikimedia Commons | Arundina CC Image courtesy of Kevin Gepford on Wikimedia Commons | Calopogon CC Image courtesy of Bob Peterson on Flickr | Cleisostoma CC Image courtesy of Earth100 on Wikimedia Commons | Dendrophylax CC Image courtesy of Mick Fournier on Wikimedia Commons and CC Image courtesy of Big Cypress National Preserve on Flickr | Micropera, Crepidium CC Image courtesy of Raabbustamante on Wikimedia Commons | Taeniophyllum CC Image courtesy of Airborne Pilot on Flickr | Corallorhiza CC Image courtesy of Wsiegmund on Wikimedia Commons | Maxillaria CC Image courtesy of Walter on Flickr | Govenia CC Image courtesy of Sanfelipe on Wikimedia Commons | Isochilus CC Image courtesy of Patricia Harding on Wikimedia Commons | Lepanthes CC Image courtesy of Quimbaya on Flickr | Elleanthus CC Image courtesy of Philipp Weigell on Wikimedia Commons | Pleurothallis CC Image courtesy of KENPEI on Wikimedia Commons | Restrepiella CC Image courtesy of Moises Béhar on Wikimedia Commons | Bulbophyllum CC Image courtesy of Montrealais on Wikimedia Commons Calanthe CC Image courtesy of Qwert1234 on Wikimedia Commons | Phaius CC Image courtesy of Hectonichus on Wikimedia Commons | Spathoglottis CC Image courtesy of Vaikoovery on Wikimedia Commons | Calypso CC Image courtesy of Walter Siegmund on Wikimedia Commons | Tipularia CC Image courtesy of TheAlphaWolf on Wikimedia Commons | Malaxis CC Image courtesy of Bernd Haynold on Wikimedia Commons | Oberonia CC Image courtesy of Ramesh Meda on Flickr | Anoectochilus CC Image courtesy of Badlydrawnboy22 on Wikimedia Commons | Cranichis CC Image courtesy of Americo Docha Neto on Wikimedia Commons | Mesadenus, Pteroglossaspis CC Image courtesy of NC Orchid on Flickr | Pelexia CC Image courtesy of Elena Gaillard on Wikimedia Commons Ponthieva CC Image courtesy of Jose Lacruz on Wikimedia Commons | Spiranthes CC Image courtesy of Eric in SF on Wikimedia Commons | Zeuxine CC Image courtesy of Panoso on Wikimedia Commons Dactylorhiza CC Image courtesy of Uoaei1 on Wikimedia Commons | Habenaria CC Image courtesy of J.M.Garg on Wikimedia Commons | Ophrys, Pseudorchis CC Image courtesy of Hans Hillewaert on Wikimedia Commons | Orchis CC Image courtesy of Algirdas on Wikimedia Commons | Platanthera CC Image courtesy of Enrico Blasutto on Wikimedia Commons | Epipactis CC Image courtesy of Dcrjsr on Wikimedia Commons | Listera CC Image courtesy of Superior National Forest on Flickr | Sobralia CC Image courtesy of João Medeiros on Flickr | Broughtonia CC Image courtesy of Walter on Flickr Masdevallia CC Image courtesy of trixty on Flickr | Isotria CC Image courtesy of Jason Hollinger on Flickr | Flickingeria CC Image courtesy of Averater on Wikimedia Commons | Cleistesiopsis CC Image courtesy of Charly Lewisw on Wikimedia Commons | Cypripedium montanum CC Image courtesy of Bill Bouton on Flickr | Cypripedium reginae CC Image courtesy of Orchi on Wikimedia Commons | Disperis, Encyclia, Epidendrum, Vanilla planifolia, Vanilla barbellata CC Image courtesy of Malcolm Manners on Flickr | Govenia CC Image courtesy of Bosque Village on Flickr | Psychopsis CC Image courtesy of LadyDragonflyCC – >;< on Flickr | Aplectrum CC Image courtesy of Fritz Flohr Reynolds on Flickr
Most orchids are not heavy feeders. Many orchids bloom year after year with no fertilizer at all. During active growth, when new leaves are being produced, you may fertilize every other time you water at half the strength recommended on the fertilizer package. However, it's important to deliver water without fertilizer at least once a month to flush excess fertilizer salts from the bark mix and avoid fertilizer burn to the roots.
The quality of water used, whether for spraying or watering, is of great importance. Since tap water has often been chemically treated, generally with chlorine, it should be used with caution. The best water for orchids is undoubtedly rainwater. Rainwater, as it passes through the air, dissolves and absorbs many substances such as dust, pollen and other organic matter. This enriched rainwater contributes to the nourishment of the plant.
The Bulbophyllum orchid genus is the largest in the Orchidaceae family, with over 1800 species, making it the third largest genus of plants. (Taxonomists will probably eventually split it into several smaller genera, but with so many types of orchids it's a massive undertaking!) They differ widely in appearance, but all have a single leaf emerging from the top of the pseudobulb, flower stems coming from the bottom of the pseudobulb, and a hinged lip designed to tip insects against the column. Many are pollinated by flies, and stink like dung or rotting carcasses, which is a great conversation starter and gives you bragging rights for putting up with it! (They don't all stink, fortunately.) The rhizomes wander all over the place and often branch freely, so it's easy to grow an impressive specimen.
Orchids come in different sizes. I have a miniature phal in a 3-inch pot. This orchid needs watering more often than the larger ones in 6″ deep pots. An orchid in a larger pot will need watering less often, but will need more water quantity wise. The material of the pot will also make a difference. Those in plastic will dry out a bit slower than those planted in porous terra cotta.
The other important use of orchids is their cultivation for the enjoyment of the flowers. Most cultivated orchids are tropical or subtropical, but quite a few that grow in colder climates can be found on the market. Temperate species available at nurseries include Ophrys apifera (bee orchid), Gymnadenia conopsea (fragrant orchid), Anacamptis pyramidalis (pyramidal orchid) and Dactylorhiza fuchsii (common spotted orchid).
The Gongora orchid genus is a really neat type of orchids, related to Stanhopea. They have nice, strong fragrances, often of cinnamon, allspice, or nutmeg. The flower stems hang over the pot's edge and the flowers point downwards. They can adapt to a wide variety of lighting conditions and a relatively large temperature range, but like a lot of water.
Orchids of all types have also often been sought by collectors of both species and hybrids. Many hundreds of societies and clubs worldwide have been established. These can be small, local clubs, or larger, national organisations such as the American Orchid Society. Both serve to encourage cultivation and collection of orchids, but some go further by concentrating on conservation or research.
Always water early in the day so that your orchids dry out by nighttime. The proper frequency of watering will depend on the climatic conditions where you live. In general, water once a week during the winter and twice a week when the weather turns warm and dry. The size of your orchid container also helps determine how often you need to water, regardless of climate conditions. Typically, a 6-inch pot needs water every 7 days and a 4-inch pot needs water every 5 to 6 days.
Once you develop more than a passing interest in orchids, you will quickly notice how diverse this exotic plant family is. Encompassing genera that yield both the vanilla you love to bake with and fragrances you love to wear, each flower has unique characteristics and care requirements. Compare your plants to some of the most commonly cultivated orchids to help you determine what type of orchid you are growing.