47 Orchid Varieties: Different Types of Orchids (With Pictures)

Thinking of adding some orchids to your gardening space or home landscape? There are many different types of orchids, all of which have big, beautiful blooms. In this article, flower and garden expert Taylor Sievers examines 47 different orchid varieties with their names and pictures, to help you find the perfect bloom for your garden.

Types of Orchids

Amongst the list of popular houseplants and intriguing specimens in private plant collections, you will undoubtedly encounter an orchid. There seems to be no other plant family with such human fascination on Earth (at least in Western culture since the year 1731) than that of Orchidaceae—or rather, the Orchid Family.

The individual species and hybrids of orchids that exist today bear innumerable variability in size, shape, color, form, and growth requirements. So much so that it’s difficult for experts and botanists to keep them categorized.

Home to 26,000 species and counting, this family is one of the largest families of angiosperms (or flowering plants). The other large family is that of the daisies and sunflowers (Asteraceae).

About Orchids

Pink and White Flower
These unique tropical flowers are delicate and beautiful, each type having a fresh appearance.

It is believed that orchids have existed for millions of years—way back to the time of the dinosaurs. Today, they can be found growing on all continents except Antarctica. Many orchid species live in the tropics, while others grow on shady forest floors, and still, others inhabit cool meadows.

Some are epiphytic (growing on other plants), some are lithophytic (growing on rocks), and some are terrestrial (growing in the ground). Some orchid flowers have beautiful fragrances that smell of honey, vanilla, or cinnamon. Others smell as foul as rotten meat.

So, what about orchids is so alluring? The first noteworthy feature of these plants is their flowers. Again, they can vary on so many levels, but a few characteristics remain the same. First, the flowers are bilaterally symmetrical, and therefore pleasing to the eye because each side mirrors the other.

Anatomy

Second, each flower contains 3 petals, 3 sepals, and a column at the center where everything meets. This column is where the reproductive structures are housed, and thus the clumps of pollen are called pollinia. Typically, the bottom petal is quite showy and wide to attract pollinators, and it is therefore called the lip.

Pollenation

Another intriguing feature about orchids, which has fascinated scientists and collectors for some time, is the way orchid flowers use deception to accomplish pollination.

The flowers will use mimicry in order to attract pollinator insects. They may appear like a butterfly, wasp, or even a completely different species of plant. Sometimes orchids will use scent to attract pollinators as well, like the rotten meat smell of the Foul Giant (Bulbophyllum grandiflorum), which attracts flies.

Sub-families

Due to differences in the way orchid flowers are constructed, their vegetative form, or the growth habits of these plants, the Orchidaceae family is divided into subfamilies. Each subfamily has specific characteristics, like growth habit or flower morphology. The subfamily for each orchid discussed below will be listed with the species’ corresponding informative table.

Uses

Pink Flowers on a Windowsill
Orchids make for beautiful decor in a home, but they also have other uses.

While most people that envision an orchid think of bright colors and a uniquely shaped flower, this is not always the case. Orchids have long had uses other than being pretty houseplants. In many parts of the world, the juices and extracts from the flowers, leaves, and roots are and were used medicinally or cosmetically. Dyes, pastes, poultices, washes, flavorings, perfumes, and more are all made from parts of the orchid plant.

Ornamentally, these plants can be seen in such places as a sunny windowsill inside, in a hanging basket under a shady porch, outside in a bog garden, or even in a humid greenhouse. The uses for orchids all depend on what species or hybrid you are growing!

Cultivation History

Tropical Flower Seedlings
Orchids originated in tropical regions but have made their way around the globe.

In 1731, the first non-native or “exotic” orchid (Bletia purpurea) arrived in western Europe from the Bahamas. Later, other orchids were introduced to English greenhouses, and these orchids were mostly from the West Indies.

Many of these introductions were failures, however, because people assumed they should be treated as heat-loving plants. Several years later, Europeans began to understand orchid cultivation, and then it was off to the races.

Remarkably, the Chinese had been cultivating orchids since the Han Dynasty (which began as early as 206 BC). Orchid popularity did not gain traction until sometime later in the Tang Dynasty for the common people. Most of the cultivation prior was for private collections of Chinese nobility.

Orchid Hybrids

Orange Hybrid Flowers
Thanks to the hybridization of orchids, they are more widely found in homes and nurseries.

In 1853, the first orchid hybrid came about. After this time, subsequent discoveries were made that revealed how orchid seeds germinate, including the special relationship they have with fungi that will produce sugars and nutrients for the seed until it grows shoots and roots.

In the early days, orchids were known as objects of the wealthy only. However, improvements in plant propagation and mass production have allowed orchids to become widely available and affordable. Today, it is relatively easy to purchase an orchid from a supermarket or nursery. Some of the rarer species and hybrids can be quite pricey and hard to find. 

Resources

Because of the vast range in growing requirements between species of orchids, think of this article as a starting place for choosing and nurturing your own orchid. Much of the information for this article was obtained from the American Orchid Society and The Book of Orchids: A Life-Size Guide to Six Hundred Species from Around the World by Mark Chase, Maarten J.M. Christenhusz, and Tom Mirenda.

Both are great resources should you choose to delve deeper into the world of orchid history and culture. There are also additional resources like university and botanical garden publications.

Key Terms

Here are a few orchid key terms you may want to be defined before you read on:

  • Epiphyte: an epiphyte is a plant that grows on other plants, using the host plant as anchorage.
  • Lithophyte: a plant that grows on rocks.
  • Terrestrial: a plant that grows on the road, whether in the soil or in leaf litter.
  • Pseudobulb: specialized storage tissue for water and food, often appearing as a bulbous enlargement of the stem of a plant.
  • Lip: a modified petal that serves as a landing platform or flag to attract a pollinator, mimicking nectar, pollen, a mate, or a place to lay its eggs.
  • Column: a structure produced by the fusion of the male (stamen) and female (stigma) parts in the flower that is responsible for maneuvering the pollinator into collecting pollen.
  • Sepals: the protective covers of the flower bud that when opening may become enlarged and colored; some may even look like petals.

47 Different Types of Orchids

Now that you know a little bit about key terms, history, and the general allure behind orchids, let’s dive into the details of some of these beautiful and rare species. On the way, you’ll learn more about where each species hails from as well as tips for growing them in your own home or garden.

Tiger-Stripe Orchid

Tiger Stripe
These delicately fragrant orchids look similar to a tiger with dark stripes on yellow petals.

Scientific Name: Cymbidium iridioides

This species has grasslike leaf blades with a yellowish base and produces between 4 and 7 long-lasting flowers. The flowers are yellow with brown-striped petals that are spreading. The margin is frilly with large, irregular red spots.

The flowers are slightly fragrant. Many Cymbidium species are pollinated by Trigona bees. The bees collect a sticky, wax-like compound from the orchid flower’s lip and use this compound to seal up cracks in their nests.

C. iridioides is very popular in horticulture and has been used in hybridization. The species normally lives in wet forests and is an epiphyte on mossy trees, rocks, and limestone cliffs.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Himalayas to central China
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
Requires more water during spring and summer growing seasons
Temperature
Maximum night temperatures of 53 F
Light Preference
Bright morning or late evening sun; Shade when blooming
Flower Size & Season
3 to 4 inch flower, September to November (Fall)

Showy Tiger Orchid

Showy Tiger
Becasue of its massive size, the Showy Tiger has been named the largest orchid in the world.

Scientific Name: Grammatophyllum speciosum

These orchids are considered the largest (though not the tallest) orchids in the world. Their lanceolate leaves on cane-like pseudobulbs resemble the look of a palm. The markings on the sepals and petals of this orchid gave rise to its genus name, with gramma meaning “letter” and phyllon meaning “leaf.”

The species name means “showy” in Latin, due to the massive display of flowers this orchid produces. The flowers have large yellow sepals and petals with an overlay of chestnut-brown spots and blotches. The lips are pale yellow with some red.

Several sterile flowers (with no column or lip present) appear lower on the inflorescence. These flowers produce only fragrance. These orchids live in hot, wet forests near streams and rivers and are epiphytic.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
High moisture needs, less water in cooler months, blooms July to December
Temperature
High humidity and warmer temperatures
Light Preference
Bright light
Flower Size & Season
5 inches, July to October

Noble Rock Orchid

Noble Rock
The dark spot in the center of this orchid makes it distinguishable from others.

Scientific Name: Dendrobium nobile

This species of orchid has a long history of cultivation and medicinal use in Asia. It is often exploited in herbal medicine traditions, so much so that it is endangered in some areas. The flowers are fragrant and often white with purple tips.

The lip usually has a dark interior eyespot ringed in yellow. D. nobile is a popular epiphyte adapted to monsoonal seasonal rains and winter drought, though it can live terrestrially as well.

The plant is deciduous (drops all of its leaves) before blooming, just as the spring rains would normally come. D. nobile likes to inhabit broadleaf evergreen forests and mossy limestone rocks. This species is one of the showiest orchids with up to four large flowers and is popular in commercial trade.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Himalayas, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
Copious water when in growth with good drainage
Temperature
Mild to Moderate temps, doesn’t do well in cold
Light Preference
Bright to filtered light
Flower Size & Season
2 ⅜ to 3 inches, Late Winter to early Spring; Can bloom twice in a year

Halloween Orchid

Halloween Orchid
The horizontal rhizome is a unique feature of the Halloween Orchid.

Scientific Name: Laelia gouldiana

Elongate or flattened pseudobulbs cluster and are topped with 2 or 3 lanceolate leaves on this orchid species. The Halloween Orchid has a creeping horizontal stem (also known as a rhizome). The inflorescence of this orchid can carry up to 10 large, fragrant blooms.

These plants are epiphytes that usually live on oaks high in the mountains. This flower is often called flor de muerto (“flower of death”) in its native region of Mexico because it flowers around Halloween. The flowers are bright purple to rosy-purple.

The middle lobe of the tri-lobed lip is darker with a yellow callus and red spots or stripes. This flower was collected from the wild to decorate graves for Day of the Dead, and because of this collection has now become possibly extinct in the wild.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
State of Hidalgo in Mexico
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
High water requirements during the growing season (Spring-Fall) and dry during the rest period (Fall-Winter)
Temperature
Needs moderate temps, dry Winter rest for best blooming with ample humidity
Light Preference
Intermediate to bright with good air movement
Flower Size & Season
3 inches, Late October to December

Tiger’s Mouth Orchid

Tiger's Mouth
Another wild-looking, feline flower on our list is the Tiger’s Mouth Orchid.

Scientific Name: Rossioglossum grande (Formerly Odontoglossum grande)

This species was named for its coloration and pair of prominent teeth in the center of its lip. In Spanish, this species is called “boca del tigre” or “mouth of the tiger.” Most of these plants are found at higher elevations in seasonally dry deciduous forests.

The flowers have a large size and bright colors with a glossy finish, which makes their appearance quite impressive. Bright yellow sepals and petals are overlaid by reddish-brown barring that becomes more solid at the base.

These orchids mimic other common flowers that will reward certain species of bees with oil for their pollination services. There is not enough oil production from these orchids to actually serve as a reward for the bees, but the plant’s mimicry is successful. This species is an epiphyte.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Mexico (State of Chiapas), Guatemala, Belize
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
Plant should never be dry or sodden; Need dry rest period over the Winter; Choose rapidly draining media
Temperature
Moderate temps – doesn’t do well in high temperatures
Light Preference
Bright shade
Flower Size & Season
7 to 9 inches, November to January

Nun Orchid

Nun Orchid
The delicate white or pale petals of the Nun Orchid have a triangle shape.

Scientific Name: Lycaste virginalis

This orchid has exceptionally large, showy triangular flowers and a bemusing fragrance, making it so loved and cherished by many. The flower is very rare in the wild due its rampant exportation since discovery.

The species will vary in color, size, and form, but the most coveted plants are pure white. Some other colors range from pale purple to apricot. The lip callus is yellow and tongue-shaped.

The pure white forms are considered the national flower of Guatemala and they’re known there as “Monja Blanca” or “White Nun.” L. virginalis is adaptable and vigorous, preferring cooler temperatures similar to their native habitat of higher elevations.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
Water heavily; Mix should be barely moist before watering again; High humidity at night
Temperature
Moderate temps – doesn’t do well in high temperatures
Light Preference
Bright shade; Sometimes more sun in Winter if below 70 F
Flower Size & Season
6 inches, Late Spring to Summer

Spotted Cat of the Mountain Orchid

Spotted Cat of the Mountain
These fabulous orchids can be found in the wild on mountain slopes and ridges.

Scientific Name: Zygopetalum maculatum

These orchids generally grow in places with shade from nearby trees and can have one or tall spectacular, tall inflorescences per pseudobulb which carry up to 25 flowers. The sepals and petals are green, of a similar size and shape, and covered in reddish spots and bars.

The lip has a single large lobe with white and purple veins. Its native habitat includes mountain slopes and ridges with shrubs and rocks, and sometimes it can be found on roadside banks. These sites are typically wet, mossy areas amongst rocks.

This species has pleasingly sweet fragrance-producing compounds that are typically associated with fragrance-collecting male euglossine bees. A popular variety of this species is ‘Maui Jazz.’

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Northern Peru to Bolivia, eastern Brazil
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
Requires humid conditions with plenty of water; Less water after pseudobulbs have formed
Temperature
Moderate temps (70-75 degrees F)
Light Preference
70% Shade; Some direct light in early morning or late evening is fine
Flower Size & Season
1 ¾ inch, September to October (Spring), or throughout year

Easter Orchid

Easter Orchid
These orchids bloom in the spring and have a strong, sweet fragrance.

Scientific Name: Earina autumnalis

Pure white, strongly and sweetly perfumed flowers, yellow or orange markings on the lip, and a bloom time around Easter are all characteristics of the Easter Orchid. These plants are commonly found in lowlands and mountainous forests as epiphytes on branches or trunks or on rocky banks.

The roots are fibrous rhizomes. The individual flowers are small, but they form a panicle with 3 to 40 flowers. The strong fragrance of the flowers will often reveal its presence. In New Zealand, it is known by the common name “Raupeka.”

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
New Zealand and Chatham Islands
Use
Houseplant or Greenhouse Specimen
Water Needs
Moderate – High
Temperature
Prefers cool to warm temperatures, High humidity
Light Preference
Semi-shade
Flower Size & Season
½ inch, February to May (New Zealand’s Fall)

Putty Root Orchid

Putty Root
Putty Root Orchids have a stunning display most of the year, from the blooms to the unique leaves.

Scientific Name: Aplectrum hyemale

This species of orchid puts out a beautiful silver-streaked, purple-backed, ovate leaf in the fall after blooming and photosynthesizes over the winter, taking advantage of the bareness of the deciduous leaf canopy above. The small flowers appear in late spring with 4 to 12 blooms, and the leaf withers as the plant blooms.

The flowers don’t appear to fully open. The sepals and petals are olive with dull plum purple tips. The lip of the flower is white with a plum tip and a frilly margin. The plant gets its common name from its underground corms which yield mucilage when crushed.

Early Native Americans and European settlers used this mucilage as an adhesive to repair pottery and crockery. Native Americans made a paste to treat boils and tea to treat bronchial troubles from the roots. Putty root is often found beneath beech and sugar maple trees. This orchid is terrestrial and is often found in deciduous temperate woodlands. This species is also known as “Adam and Eve Root.”

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
North America, Quebec to Georgia and west to Oklahoma
Use
Garden Plant, Zones 3-7
Water Needs
Moderate
Temperature
Prefers cool to warm temperatures, High humidity
Light Preference
Filtered sun during Fall, Winter, and Spring; Unimportant in Summer
Flower Size & Season
1 ¼ to 1 ½ inch, Leaves absent during bloom, Late Spring (May)

Showy Orchid

Showy Orchid
The giant leaves of the Showy Orchid come out and soak up sunlight to produce a flower.

Scientific Name: Galearis spectabilis

A pair of broad leaves appear in the Spring from a cluster of fat roots and a short rhizome to produce an entirely white or entirely pink flower. Some plants may have pale yellow lips with pink petals and sepals. The inflorescence will have 3 to 10 or more blooms.

Leaves will emerge before the forest canopy leafs out in order to take advantage of the sun. Additional shoots may pop into tightly clustered clumps. Showy Orchids are found in moist calcareous (alkaline) woodlands, thickets, and old fields. These orchids are terrestrial in nature.

Subfamily
Orchidoideae
Native Origin
Eastern North America, from Quebec to Alabama
Use
Bog Gardens, Shaded Flower Beds
Water Needs
Moderate – Do Not Overwater
Temperature
Prefers cool to warm temperatures, High humidity
Light Preference
Shade to dappled sunlight
Flower Size & Season
1 inch, April to June (Spring to early Summer)

Ruffled Dancing Lady Orchid

Otoglossum brevifolium Flower
The Otoglossum brevifolium is a flower that’s native to South America.
Image Credit: Patricia Harding, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Scientific Name: Otoglossum brevifolium

Smooth, pear-shaped, flattened pseudobulbs each bear a single, rigid leathery leaf for this showy inflorescence of 12 to 18 blooms. An elongated rhizome is between each pseudobulb, which allows this plant to run along the surface of the soil.

This species frequents rainforests and cloud forests and is terrestrial on steep clay banks in leaf litter. The sepals of the flower have yellow edges and are wavy, spreading, and chestnut-brown. The petals have a thin, yellow margin with a yellow lip with reddish-brown markings at the base.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Northern and western South America (Colombia to Peru)
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
Moderate – Rapid drainage and air movement
Temperature
Prefers warm temperatures, High humidity
Light Preference
Bright shade
Flower Size & Season
1 ¼ inch, February to March (late Winter to early Spring)

Cockleshell Orchid

Cockleshell Orchid
What makes these orchids stand out is that the flowers are upside-down.

Scientific Name: Prosthechea cochleata

Up to 20 upside-down scentless flowers that open over a long period of up to six months adorns this national flower of Belize. There, this black flower is also known as “orquidea negra” or “Black Orchid.” The flowers bloom sequentially, so as one bloom fades another opens. Some people have reported a bloom time of up to 18 months because of this characteristic.

This plant is commonly cultivated due to its unusual and long-lasting flowers. In nature, these flowers are pollinated by wasps. The mucilage extracted from the pseudobulbs can be used as glue for repairing wooden objects.

The Cockleshell Orchid is found in tropical evergreen and deciduous oak forests and is an epiphyte.

The sepals and petals of the individual flowers are greenish-yellow, twisted, and downward-pointing. The lip is upright, hoodlike, and yellow with bold stripes of reddish-purple that fuse at the margins. The column is wide and has purple spots at the base. A popular variety of this species is ‘Hihimanu.’ 

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Caribbean region (including Florida where its endangered) and Mexico to northern South America
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
Moist but not wet
Temperature
Prefers warm temperatures, High humidity
Light Preference
Moderate diffuse light
Flower Size & Season
3 inches, Throughout the year

Pink Lady’s Slipper Orchid

Pink Lady's Slipper
The Pink Lady Slipper orchid was used for medicinal purposes for many years.

Scientific Name: Cypripedium acaule

This large showy wildflower has two opposite basal leaves with parallel veins and a large flower at the end of its erect stalk. The flower can be magenta to whitish-pink, whitish-pink flowers with darker pink venation, or (rarely) all white. A common name for this plant is “moccasin flower.”

The roots of this orchid were traditionally used as a remedy for nervousness, tooth pain, and muscle spasms. In the 1800s and 1900s, this species, along with other orchids, were widely used as a substitute for valerian root due to its sedative properties.

Pink Lady’s Slippers can live up to twenty or more years. This species frequents mixed hardwood coniferous forests of pine and hemlock on rocky/mossy slopes or semi-open areas in deep humus.

The soils are typically acidic but well-drained under birch and other deciduous trees. This species gets its name because of its resemblance to a woman’s shoe. Collection of this species in the wild is discouraged, but you may move a plant from your own property to your garden. Be aware they do not transplant easily.

Subfamily
Cypripedioideae
Native Origin
Eastern North America
Use
Shade Garden (though they do not transplant well)
Water Needs
Moderate
Temperature
Prefers moderate temperatures, High humidity
Light Preference
Shade to part shade
Flower Size & Season
3 inches, May to July

Grass Pink Orchid

Grass Pink
You can find 10 or more flowers on each spike of the Grass Pink Orchid.

Scientific Name: Calopogon tuberosus

These orchids are slender plants with narrow, folded leaves and an underground corm. The genus name means “beautiful beard” in reference to the bright yellow hairs on the lip of the flower. These are thought to mimic pollen and attract pollinators.

This species mimics another orchid called American Dragon Mouth, but the two do not hybridize due to positions of pollen placement on bumblebees. American Dragon Mouths deposit pollen on the top of the thorax of bees, while Grass Pink’s deposit pollen on the abdomen. 

These orchids can be found in bogs, meadows, savannas, swamps, and seepage slopes and are terrestrial in nature. The blooms are a bright pink-purple with 10 or more flowers per spike.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Eastern North America, from Canada to Florida, the Bahamas, Cuba
Use
Outdoors USDA Zone 3-9; Bog Garden or Pot
Water Needs
High
Temperature
Prefers moderate temperatures, High humidity
Light Preference
Full Sun to Part Sun
Flower Size & Season
1 to 1 ⅜ inch, April to July (Spring)

Moth Orchids

Moth Orchid
The brightly-colored orchids also go by the name Moon Orchid.

Scientific Name: Phalaenopsis spp.

Species and hybrids of this genus are some of the most widely grown. These orchids are known as “moth orchids” or “moon orchids.” Their aerial roots can photosynthesize, and they produce a green color from chlorophyll production. Flower colors are green, pink, purple/lavender, white, and various patterns of these colors.

The 3 to 6 leaves are thick and succulent. Popular species are P. equestris with purple flowers and P. schilleriana with whitish-pink flowers and variegated leaves. Some species have a sweet fragrance, and mostly the flowers are long-lasting, which is why these orchids are so popular. Moth orchids are epiphytic in nature. Moth orchids are often considered excellent for beginners of orchid culture.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Tropical and Subtropical Asia, Northeastern Australia
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
Moderate – water when almost dry, with 50% humidity
Temperature
Likes warm conditions with 65 F at night and 85 to 90 F during the day
Light Preference
Shade to Dappled Sunlight
Flower Size & Season
3 to 6 inches, Late Winter to Spring

Vanilla Orchid

Vanilla Orchid
The beans of this plant are used to make vanilla extract or flavoring.

Scientific Name: Vanilla planifolia

This species is perhaps one of the most commercially important orchids. In tropical places, Vanilla orchid is cultivated for its “beans” which are fermented and dried to produce vanilla flavoring. The Vanilla genus includes the vining orchids, which need the support of trees to grow to full potential.

These flowers are pollinated by wasps in their natural range of Mexico, but pollination is done by hand when cultivated in large numbers. This one species provides 95 percent of the world’s commercially produced vanilla pods.

Vanilla orchid typically inhabits lowland tropical forests and is considered terrestrial, though it climbs trees. The blooms are usually yellow or greenish. They last a single day, but the plant blooms frequently and successively.

Subfamily
Vanilloideae
Native Origin
Mexico
Use
Outdoors due to size
Water Needs
Above Average
Temperature
Keep warm with a minimum Winter temperature of 55 F
Light Preference
Bright light, but shade from Summer sun
Flower Size & Season
2 ½ inch, Throughout the year

Scarlet Cattleya Orchid

Scarlet Cattleya
This orchid is an epiphyte, so it grows on mossy surfaces.

Scientific Name: Cattleya coccinea (Formerly Sophronitis coccinea)

Scarlet Cattleya is a miniature orchid with a large flower, forming a cluster of pseudobulbs each with a single leathery leaf at the base. The midveins of the leaves are red. A single, long-lasting scarlet flower forms from the base of each leaf.

This particular species is used extensively in hybridization to create large, bright red varieties. C. coccinea is found in Atlantic rainforests and is an epiphyte on moss-covered trees or mossy rocks. The blooms are a brilliant red-orange (sometimes yellow) and the lip has yellow markings inside. ‘Wild Fire’ is a beautiful hybrid cross of C. coccinea and C. wittigana with pinkish-red flowers

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Southern and southeastern Brazil to northern Argentina
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
High water requirement during growth and low during rest period
Temperature
Prefers warmer temperatures, humid environments
Light Preference
Intermediate to bright light, Good air movement
Flower Size & Season
1 ½ to 3 inches, November to May

Common Jewel Orchid

Common Jewel
The leaves of the Common Jewel Orchid display colorful patterns.

Scientific Name: Ludisia discolor

The Common Jewel Orchid has attractive reddish-brown leaves with pinkish-white venation, giving rise to its name “jewel orchid.” The leaves are arranged in a spiral from fleshy rhizomes. The inflorescence is described as “hairy” and carries 10 to 25 flowers with woolly ovaries and pinkish bracts.

The sepals are white and one hooded sepal covers the yellow common and white curved lip. The column is twisted to one side, making a hook at the tip. L. discolor grows naturally in evergreen lowland forests or in shade near streams. The plant is terrestrial and sometimes lithophytic on rocky substrates.  This species is fairly common as a potted plant.

Subfamily
Orchidoideae
Native Origin
Southern China, Indochina, Sumatra, Borneo, Philippines
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
High water requirement during growth and low during rest period
Temperature
Even moisture throughout the year with high humidity
Light Preference
Shady to Medium light (No direct sun)
Flower Size & Season
⅝ inch, February to April

Dancing Lady Orchid

Dancing Lady
The flowers of this orchid are shaped like ladies dancing in big, yellow dresses.

Scientific Name: Oncidium spp.

This genus of approximately 300 orchid species gets its common name “dancing ladies” from the sepals and petals, which are free and spreading. The orchids in this genus are some of the largest and most popularly cultivated, but many of the species are very distinct, which causes some taxonomic confusion.

They are mostly epiphytes and occur in several different habitats. Oncidiums usually produce long, branched, many-flowered, erect, and arching inflorescences in colors from yellow to brown. Usually, the flowers are marked or blotched dark brown.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Neotropics of Central and South America
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
Water weekly during the warm part of the year, reduce water during the cool part of the year
Temperature
Prefer warm daytime temperatures (up to 80 F) and minimum low temperature of 55 F
Light Preference
Shaded to bright, indirect light
Flower Size & Season
Varies

Fried-Egg Orchid

Fried Egg Flower
The blooms of the Fried Egg Orchid emit a fragrance that smells like honey.

Scientific Name: Dendrobium chrysotoxum

A medicinal plant of Southeast Asia, the Fried-Egg Orchid will bear 20 or more honey-scented blooms on one flower spike. The flowers are collected and dried to make a medicinal tea said to induce peaceful, dreamless sleep. The leaves are used to treat ailments associated with diabetes.

These orchids are used to monsoonal climates with extreme spring and summer rainfall. These wet-dry cycles affect their growth and flowering. Unfortunately, the flowers only last 7 to 10 days. The blooms are variable in color but are generally a brilliant yellow-orange or darker orange with a reddish-brown spot in the lip center. These plants are naturally epiphytic.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, China, eastern Himalayas, Bangladesh, State of Assam in India
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
Supply plenty of water during the growing season, but the resting period should be dry
Temperature
Moderate temps, humid, moist climates
Light Preference
Bright, filtered light, but not full sun
Flower Size & Season
1 ½ to 2 inches, Late Winter to early Spring

Mayflower Orchid

Purple Mayflower
The Mayflower Orchid is one of the most sought-after orchids for enthusiasts.

Scientific Name: Laelia speciosa

A showy species, the Mayflower Orchid has short, round pseudobulbs with one or two fleshy purple-tinged leaves. The old pseudobulb will wither at the end of the season and a new inflorescence will form from the newly developing pseudobulb.

Each inflorescence will have 1 to 4 bright pink/purple, large, strongly-scented flowers. This plant is highly sought after among orchid-growing enthusiasts. The plant may not mature until it reaches 16 to 19 years old in its native habitat high in the mountains. L. speciosa prefers dry, open oak forests high in elevation, and lives as an epiphyte on mossy branches.

The plant is naturally exposed to cool weather and occasional frosts. The Mexican name for this orchid is “flor de todos santos” or “all-saints flower.” A starchy paste from pseudobulbs can be made into candy by mixing with sugar, lemon juice, and egg white traditionally for the Day of the Dead. This species is threatened in the wild due to overharvesting for horticultural and religious purposes. 

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Eastern and southern Mexico
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
Prefers drier conditions, especially during rest period; Intolerant of overwatering
Temperature
Moderate temps, prefers humidity but can handle drier climates
Light Preference
Intermediate to Bright Light, Excellent air movement
Flower Size & Season
8 inches, May to August

Spectacular Big Lip Orchid

Spectacular Big Lip
The brightly-colored veins of the Spectacular Big Lip Orchid make it stand out from others.

Scientific Name: Miltonia spectabilis

This species is highly variable in its coloration, and most likely the species name “spectabilis,” meaning “notable” or “remarkable” in Latin, is in regards to this feature. The flowers are similar in shape to the genus Oncidium, with the shapes associated with pollination by oil-collecting bees.

These flowers are deceptive, however, because they do not produce oil. The colors range from pink to lavender with a large, broad lip with purple veins and a yellow callus on the front of the column. The plants are epiphytic in nature and prefer wet forests.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Southeastern Brazil
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
Plants should dry out between waterings
Temperature
Day temperatures of 75 to 85 F and night temperatures of 60 to 65 F
Light Preference
Partial Sun
Flower Size & Season
4 inches, Summer

Slipper Orchid

Slipper Orchid
The unique slipper-shaped lip of these flowers has earned them the name, Slipper Orchid.

Scientific Name: Paphiopedilum spp.

While other species are also known as “lady’s slippers,” these orchids are so named “lady’s slippers” or “slipper orchids” due to the unique slipper-shaped lip of their flowers. Paphiopedilum comes from the Greek Paphos, which was a city with a temple dedicated to Venus, and pedilon, meaning sandal.

These plants are mostly terrestrial and form fans of six or more leaves. The flowers of some of the species have warts or hairs and can be single or in multiples. They are easily cultivated, so they are common in hobbyist collections. All plants are either collected or grown from seed, because some plant collection from the wild may be illegal.

Subfamily
Cypripedioideae
Native Origin
Tropical Asia
Use
Houseplant; Grown outside in mild climates
Water Needs
Frequent watering required
Temperature
Mild climates with temps no lower than 40F and no higher than 95F
Light Preference
Low Light (Reddish tinge on leaves means they need more shade)
Flower Size & Season
Varies

Christmas Orchid

Pink Christmas
This orchid comes in lavender or blue, yellow, and red.

Scientific Name: Cattleya trianae

The Christmas Orchid is the national flower of Colombia, naturally occurring in wet lowland and cloud forests of the Colombian Andes. The combination of lavender/blue, yellow, and red colors in the flower is reminiscent of the Colombian flag.

The species name is after the Colombian botanist Jose Jeronimo Triana. The species lives as an epiphyte and produces 3 to 14 flowers on each inflorescence. Scents from C. trianae are extracted and used in the perfume industry. In the 20th century, it was a popular cut flower for corsages.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Colombia
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
Allow medium to dry 60 to 80 percent before watering; Prefers high humidity levels
Temperature
Prefers 60 to 90 degrees F temperatures
Light Preference
Bright, indirect light; Leaves will be lime green when level is correct
Flower Size & Season
8 inches, Winter to early Spring

Monkey-Face Orchid

Monkey-Face
True to its name, this orchid looks just like the face of a monkey.

Scientific Name: Dracula simia

The center of each down-facing flower of this orchid appears to be a monkey’s face, which gives rise to its common name. The Latin species name “simia” is also translated as “monkey.” The flowers are long-tailed and produced successively. They hang below the foliage.

The blooms are hairy and warty with a rounded lip that has structures that resemble gills on the undersides of mushrooms. The sepals are reddish-brown with long tails, and the petals are small and darkly colored. Fungus gnats pollinate this orchid in the wild.  The plant is naturally an epiphyte of cloud forests and loves wet, cool conditions. Dracula orchids are popular in hobbyist collections.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Southeastern Ecuador
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
Frequent watering, do not allow it to dry out
Temperature
Prefers cooler temperatures, higher humidity
Light Preference
Bright shade
Flower Size & Season
6 inches, Spring and Fall to Winter

Holy Ghost Orchid

Holy Ghost
Another name for the Holy Ghost Orchid is the Dove Orchid, as it has soft, white petals.

Scientific Name: Peristeria elata

Also known as the “dove orchid,” P. elata produces a rigid, erect inflorescence of 10 to 15 waxy flowers with a strong fragrance. The lip of the flowers is hinged so that when a bee lands on it, the bee is propelled against the column and thus picks up pollen as it struggles to get free. This orchid is the national flower of Panama.

The flower resembles a white dove sitting on a nest, which is where its common names come from, the dove being the symbol of the Holy Ghost in the Christian tradition. This orchid naturally lives in humid, deciduous mountain forests, at the edge of shaded grasslands, or on rocky outcrops. It can be either terrestrial, lithophytic, or epiphytic on the base of mossy tree trunks.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Central America, Northwestern South America, Costa Rica, Ecuador
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
Frequent watering, after pseudobulbs have grown, let them dry
Temperature
Prefers 60 to 70 F temperatures, high humidity
Light Preference
Medium light, filtered
Flower Size & Season
2 inches, July to August (Summer)

Northeastern Butterfly Orchid

Northeastern Butterfly
Each flower of the Northeastern Butterfly Orchid lasts only about 10 days.

Scientific Name: Psychopsis papilio

The name speaks for itself with this orchid, because its large flowers resemble exactly what its common name states: a butterfly. The top sepal is antenna-like while the lateral petals and sepals resemble wings. There’s a theory that pollination of this orchid occurs by male butterflies that think the flower is a female, but this flower is actually pollinated by bees.

The flowers have a yellow background overlaid with red blotching. The lip is large and ringed with an ocher with a broad, yellow center. The flowers bloom in succession, with each flower lasting 10 days. The inflorescences of these orchids will flower for many years. P. papilio lives naturally as an epiphyte in lower mountainous wet forests. They do not require a rest period.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, French Guiana, Surinam, Venezuela, Colombia, northern Brazil
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
Moderate, allow soil to dry out between waterings
Temperature
Prefers 60 F to 80 F temperatures, high humidity
Light Preference
Medium to bright light (Flowers will be smaller under bright light, but will have fewer flowers under shady conditions)
Flower Size & Season
6 inches, Throughout the year

Black Fiddle Orchid

Black Fiddle
the flowers of the Black Fiddle Orchid bloom almost all year.

Scientific Name: Coelogyne pandurata

The Black Fiddle Orchid has yellowish green sepals and petals with a large greenish lip overlaid with black spots and stripes. A series of ridges, knobs, keels, and a frilly margin gives the lip an interesting shape like a fiddle or lute, which gives rise to its name.

There can be up to 15 blooms on one inflorescence that open all at once and smell strongly of honey. The plant will flower almost year-round. C. pandurata is an epiphytic climber in nature and prefers tropical wet forests or areas near streams.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo, Phillipines
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
High watering needs, constant watering with good drainage year-round
Temperature
Prefers intermediate temps, between 55 and 75 F
Light Preference
Shade with good air movement
Flower Size & Season
3 inches, Mostly in Summer

Blue Vanda Orchid

Not only are these orchids unique-looking, but they have also been used to treat glaucoma.

Scientific Name: Vanda coerulea

Blue Vanda was discovered by William Griffith in 1847. After its discovery, there was quite a stir over its long-lasting, large, checkered blue flowers. Several expeditions were made to recover this orchid and other plants and transfer them to Europe. Many cultivated hybrids of V. coerulea have their vibrant blue and purple colors due to the Blue Vanda.

Juices from the flower have been used to create eyedrops for the treatment of glaucoma and cataracts. Research has indicated that extracts from the Blue Vanda have the potential for use in anti-aging skin treatments.

Blue Vanda orchids live naturally as epiphytes on exposed deciduous trees, particularly inhabiting dwarf oak. Many species of Vanda, including V. coerulea, have been used to hybridize with Asocentrum species to produce Ascocenda.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Assam and Khasi Hills of India, Yunnan Province in China, Myanmar, northern Thailand
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
High watering needs (daily)
Temperature
Prefers intermediate temps, between 60 and 80 F, high humidity
Light Preference
Bright light
Flower Size & Season
4 to 4 ¾ inches, September to November (Fall)

Pink Foxtail Orchid

Pink Foxtail
The blooms of the Pink Foxtail Orchid are long-lasting and have a sweet fragrance.

Scientific Name: Aerides multiflora

This beautiful orchid has a long inflorescence of 25 to 50 white with pinkish spots to solid rosy-lavender flowers. The genus Aerides is often called “foxtail orchids,” which can be confused with the genus Rhynchostylis. Aerides translates to “child of the air.”

The flowers have an extremely sweet fragrance and are long-lasting. In Nepal, reports of medicinal uses of this orchid have been made, usually as a tonic for wounds and skin diseases. A. multiflora lives as an epiphyte in deciduous and semi-deciduous forests naturally.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Himalayas to Indochina
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
High watering needs (daily)
Temperature
Prefers intermediate temps, between 60 and 80 F, high humidity
Light Preference
Bright light
Flower Size & Season
¾ inch, May to June (late Spring to early Summer)

Foxtail Orchid

Pink and White Foxtail
The impressive blooms of the Foxtail Orchid come in a range of colors.

Scientific Name: Rhynchostylis gigantea

A long inflorescence of 15 to 20 flowers with a spicy fragrance characterizes this species. The colors range from pure white to dappled rose and white to pink to wine to peach. The display is absolutely stunning coupled with its warm fragrance.

The genus Rhynchostylis resembles Aerides, which is why there is confusion between the common name of “foxtail orchid.” This orchid is naturally an epiphyte.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Southeast Asia, Philippines
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
High watering needs, don’t overwater
Temperature
Prefers intermediate temps, between 60 and 80 F, high humidity
Light Preference
Medium light (Widely tolerant of other light conditions, though)
Flower Size & Season
¾ to 1 ½ inch, January to February

Spider Orchid

Spider Orchid
These orchids look like spiders, hence their name.

Scientific Name: Brassia spp.

The flowers of the Brassia genus have extremely long narrow sepals and petals, which gives them a spider-like appearance. Spider orchids live naturally as epiphytes with few to many flowers that are large. The colors range from whitish to yellowish to light brown. The sepals and petals are often spotted and blotched dark brown.

Female wasps are the pollinators of this flower, as it is said they are attempting to sting the lip callus of Brassia flowers. These wasps naturally paralyze spiders by stinging them and laying their eggs on them, and the hatching larvae will eventually consume the spider as their first meal. The wasps incidentally pollinate this orchid as a result of their confusion.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Caribbean, Mexico, Florida, Brazil, Bolivia
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
Moderate – reduce watering during cooler parts of year
Temperature
Prefers intermediate temps, between 60 and 80 F, high humidity
Light Preference
Bright, filtered light
Flower Size & Season
Varies

Foul Giant Orchid

Foul Giant
Unlike most other orchids, the Foul Giant Orchid emits a foul odor.

Scientific Name: Bulbophyllum grandiflorum

Bulbophyllum is considered to be one of the largest genus of orchids, though taxonomists have combined and separated this genus with others over the years. The plants have prominently egg-shaped pseudobulbs with one oblong leaf. The inflorescence contains one single flower with an extremely foul odor.

Due to this orchid’s foul odor, it is believed the plant is looking to attract flies for pollination, as many (but not all) of the species in the genus Bulbophyllum have foul odors and so are pollinated by flies.

The flowers are quite unique, with the cream to tan sepals with reddish-purple spots bending forward to cover the flower. The shape almost resembles a duck’s head. This orchid lives naturally in rainforests as an epiphyte on lower limbs or trunks.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Eastern Indonesia, New Guinea, Solomon Islands
Use
Houseplant or Greenhouse
Water Needs
Water frequently, thrives under wet conditions
Temperature
Needs warmer temperatures of no less than 65 F at night
Light Preference
Moderate to Bright light
Flower Size & Season
6 inches, April to May (Fall in its native region)

Bamboo Orchid

Bamboo Orchid
The stem of this orchid resembles bamboo, therefore, it is called the Bamboo Orchid.

Scientific Name: Arundina graminifolia

The Bamboo Orchid has escaped gardens and has been naturalized in places such as Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Guadeloupe, Hawaii, and Reunion. This species is terrestrial, readily colonizing fresh lava flows. It can be found naturally in exposed situations, rocks, and meadows.

The tall stem and foliage are reed-like, bearing a resemblance to bamboo, which is why this orchid is so-named. The stem carries up to 6 fragrant flowers, and the flowers open successively. The flowers are bright purple with a trumpet-shaped lip and a yellow central spot on the column. The petals are broad and showy. These orchids are often grown ornamentally in gardens of the tropics.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Tropical and subtropical Asia, Naturalized in American and African tropics
Use
Garden or Outdoor Pot in USDA Zone 9 to 10
Water Needs
Water frequently, thrives under wet conditions
Temperature
Needs warmer temperatures, Minimum night temperature of 60 F
Light Preference
Full Sun
Flower Size & Season
2 ½ inches, December to January (also throughout the year)

Cymbidium Orchids

Pink Cymbidium
Cymbidium orchids are semi-dormant in the winter, but their beautiful blooms are long-lasting.

Scientific Name: Cymbidium spp.

This genus contains about 100 recognized species, but fewer than 20 are used in horticulture. The modern Cymbidium hybrids have lines that trace back to only about ten species native to the higher elevations of the mountains in Asia.

The Oriental species are known for their fragrance and charm, often being grown in deep pots, because their roots grow down rather than branch. Naturally, most of these orchid species are terrestrial and semi-dormant over the Winter. This genus of orchids is prized for long-lasting flowers that are often used as cut flowers. Bright but cool locations are ideal for this orchid.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
India across Asia to Japan and down to Australia
Use
Houseplant or Outdoor Pot
Water Needs
Water well during the Summer but let pot dry out between waterings
Temperature
Temperatures between 40 F and 85 F
Light Preference
Bright Light, Avoid full sun all day except in mild climates, Add shade during flowering so blooms do not fade
Flower Size & Season
Varies, Fall to Spring

Lady of the Night Orchid

Lady of the Night
Another orchid with a lovely sweet fragrance is the Lady of the Night Orchid.

Scientific Name: Brassavola nodosa

The Lady of the Night gets its name from its wonderfully sweet fragrance that is emitted at night from the clusters of 4 to 12 flowers. The flowers have green to whitish-cream, spidery sepals and petals. The lip is large and tubular, flaring into a heart shape. A few reddish spots may adorn the throat. Lady of the Night might flower multiple times a year and at any time of the year, but it most often flowers in Fall or Winter.

Make sure to keep temperatures above 55 degrees F or this orchid may not flower. The round, pencil-like leaves appear as thick clusters, giving the trunks of the trees this orchid lives on an appearance like shag carpet. B. nodosa naturally inhabits seasonally dry forests, often near the coast, and lives as an epiphyte. If you’ve had success growing Cattleya or Laelia orchids, then you’ll have success with Lady of the Night, due to similar growth requirements.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Widespread in lowland forests, from Mexico to Brazil to the Caribbean
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
Water during active growth, decrease water and humidity during rest periods
Temperature
High Humidity, temperatures between 60 F and 85 F
Light Preference
Medium light
Flower Size & Season
4 inches, Throughout the year

Marsh Orchids

Pink Marsh
The striking resemblance to hyacinths has earned these orchids the nickname Wild Hyacinths.

Scientific Name: Dactylorhiza spp.

These orchids grow in marshes, grasslands, or woodlands as terrestrial plants and are native to Europe. Daktylorhiza comes from the Greek word “daktulos,” meaning “finger,” in reference to the finger-shaped roots (actually tubers) of these orchids. They have beautifully colorful inflorescences and are relatively easy to cultivate. Some people call them “wild hyacinths” due to the shape of their inflorescence.

Natural hybridization occurs easily, so this genus is rife with taxonomic controversy. Marsh orchids can be found in boreal, temperate zones or (rarely) in Mediterranean areas. In the wild, marsh orchids that like the full sun are often found in heavy clay soils in quarries, railway lines, and species-rich grasslands, limestone, and sand-dunes. Other marsh orchids are found in light woodlands.

Subfamily
Orchidoideae
Native Origin
Europe, North Africa, Middle East, Asia, Aleutian Islands
Use
Garden or Outdoor Pot (USDA Zones 5 to 8)
Water Needs
Moderate
Temperature
High Humidity, temperatures between 50 F and 75 F
Light Preference
Full sun to light shade for woodland species
Flower Size & Season
Varies, Summer

Egret Flower Orchid

Egret Flower
Another orchid with a strong resemblance to an animal is the Egret Flower.

Scientific Name: Pecteilis radiata (syn. Habenaria radiata)

The flower of this lovely orchid has a beautifully fringed and feathery lip with a resemblance to the silver heron (or egret), which is why it is so named. The flowers appear 2 or 3 at a time from one stem, and they are white and with a nocturnal fragrance. The stem arises from a pea-sized tuber.

The foliage appears grass-like. In Asia, these plants are propagated widely for the potted flower market. This orchid is considered a beginner’s windowsill orchid. In nature, the Egret Flower habits seasonally boggy forest glade areas adjacent to mountainous forests. They can be short-lived, both in nature and on the windowsill. Egret Flowers are naturally terrestrial.

Subfamily
Orchidoideae
Native Origin
Temperate areas of China, Japan, Korea, eastern Russia
Use
Houseplant,  Garden or Outdoor Pot (USDA Zone 7 to 9)
Water Needs
Moderate-High
Temperature
High Humidity, temperatures between 50 F and 75 F
Light Preference
Full sun to part shade
Flower Size & Season
1 ⅛ inch, Late Spring to early Summer

Cinnamon Orchid

Yellow Cinnamon
These orchids are named after their scent, which strongly favors cinnamon.

Scientific Name: Lycaste aromatica

Up to 10 yellow, cinnamon-scented blossoms emerge from a leafless pseudobulb on this adaptable orchid. The genus name Lycaste is from the beautiful daughter of King Priam of Troy. The cinnamon scent is emitted in order to lure male bees looking to attract females. The flowers are long-lasting.

In nature, this orchid can be epiphytic, terrestrial, or lithophytic. They are deciduous plants, so their leaves brown up and fall. During this time they require less water. They are found in seasonally dry forests, but they usually always live in moist conditions—like a mossy tree or damp limestone cliff.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
Moderate-High
Temperature
High Humidity, temperatures between 50 F and 75 F
Light Preference
Bright shade; Can take more sun in Winter as long as temperatures remain cool
Flower Size & Season
3 inches, Late Spring to Summer

Queen Victoria Blue Orchid

Queen Victoria Blue
Known for its colorful blooms, the Queen Victoria Blue Orchid has a distinct dormant period.

Scientific Name: Dendrobium victoriae-reginae

This Filipino orchid grows naturally in mossy, wet, cool oak forests alongside rhododendrons, azaleas, and myrtles. The unusual lilac blue of the 2 to 5 flowers on the inflorescence appears to be mimicking rhododendrons. Queen Victoria Blue is an epiphyte in nature. The name of this species honors Queen Victoria, who was ending her long reign when this orchid was discovered.

This orchid loves warm days and cool nights color with high humidity, and it has a distinct dormant period. D. victoriae-reginae will attract birds and butterflies. This species of Dendrobium is in the genus section Pedilonum, known for their colorful nature.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Philippines
Use
Houseplant, Outdoor Garden (USDA Zones 10 to 12)
Water Needs
Moderate-High; Ample water during growing season, allow plants to dry during rest period only
Temperature
High Humidity, temperatures between 50 F and 80 F
Light Preference
Bright light with adequate ventilation
Flower Size & Season
1 ½ inch, April to May (Spring); Almost continuously in flower

Ghost Orchid

White Ghost Flower
This orchid is a very unique and rare find.

Scientific Name: Dendrophylax lindenii

The Ghost Orchid is a unique and rare plant that is leafless with photosynthetic roots. The white to greenish-white frog-shaped flowers appear to dangle in space, which is where this species gets its name.

The roots form a mass on their host tree, thus giving rise to the genus name Dendrophylax. “Dendro,” meaning “tree” in Greek, and “phylax,” meaning “guard, as the roots appear to be “guarding” its host tree. The Ghost Orchid is believed to be pollinated by the Giant Sphinx Moth at night, as well as other moths.

This species is considered endangered in Florida, and in captivity, it is rare that this species will flower reliably. Over-collection and habitat destruction has been a major issue for this epiphyte that enjoys lower elevation rainforests in swamps. There are laws in place in Florida protecting this rare orchid.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Southern Florida, Cuba, the Bahamas
Use
Best enjoyed in nature (doesn’t do well as houseplants)
Water Needs
Water until saturated daily
Temperature
High Humidity, temperatures between 60 F and 80 F
Light Preference
Moderate light
Flower Size & Season
3 ½ to 6 inches, July to September

Crested Snow Orchid

Crested Snow Flower
The Crested Snow Orchid can grow to be quite large.

Scientific Name: Coelogyne cristata

Exquisite, glistening white sepals and petals with a broad, flaring lip are all features of the beautiful and large Crested Snow Orchid. If well-tended, these orchids can grow to an enormous size with hundreds of blooms.

The name of the town Kurseong in India, at the epicenter of this orchid’s native range, was named so because it translates to “land of the white orchids.” It has a wonderful fragrance as well. C. cristata prefers cool mountainous mossy areas and lives as an epiphyte or lithophyte naturally.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Eastern Himalayas, Vietnam
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
Regular watering, needs constant moisture through the day
Temperature
Moderate temps, can tolerate lower temperatures
Light Preference
Shade to Part Shade (Needs good air movement)
Flower Size & Season
4 inches, Late Winter to early Spring

Cattleya Orchids

Pink Cattleya
Probably the most well-known of the orchids is the Cattleya Orchid.

Scientific Name: Cattleya spp.

Often considered “THE orchid” of orchids, Cattleya species of orchids were once standard in floristry for corsages. Cattleya orchids were often referred to as Queen of the Orchids.” The flowers come in almost every color (except true blue) and are often quite showy. 

The blooms last for weeks and are fragrant. The lip of these orchids often contrasts with the rest of the flower. They can be grown almost anywhere in the world with reasonable care due to their few requirements for growth.

In nature, these plants are mostly epiphytic and lithophytic. Many hybrids have been created using these species. Miniature Cattleyas or “minicatts” are increasing in popularity due to their size for growing easily in windowsills.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Tropical America
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
High watering requirements and humidity during growing season
Temperature
Humid climates between 55 F and 80F
Light Preference
Intermediate to bright light (Needs good air movement)
Flower Size & Season
Varies, Can rebloom within the year

Sparkling Jewel Orchid

Sparkling Jewel Flower
The Sparkling Jewel Orchid has just as beautiful foliage as it does bloom.

Scientific Name: Macodes petola

Macodes is home to the “jewel orchids.” These orchids are renowned for their veined foliage, which is more beautiful than their often unexciting flowers (though full-bloomed plants are still beautiful). The leaves of Sparkling Jewel Orchid form a rosette and have silvery veins that sparkle in the light.

Plants creep along the ground using rhizomes. Because the veins of the leaves resemble writing, it was once believed that squeezing the juice of this species’ leaves on the eyes would improve writing skills. M. petola naturally inhabits lowland and lower mountainous forests and lives terrestrially.

Subfamily
Orchidoideae
Native Origin
Peninsular Thailand and Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo, Java, Philippines, Ryukyu Islands of Japan
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
Moderate-high watering needs, plants should never dry out, keep evenly moist through the year
Temperature
Humid climates between 60 F and 80F
Light Preference
Shade
Flower Size & Season
⅜ inch, Any time

Phaius Orchids

Pink Phaius Flowers
The blooms of the Phaius Orchid come in white, purple, magenta, or even yellow.

Scientific Name: Phaius spp.

The Phaius genus contains about 50 species of robust plants that grow from pseudobulbs and short rhizomes. They can be terrestrial or epiphytic. The inflorescences can be quite large, with some reaching 4 feet. The blooms can be white, purple, magenta, or yellow.

These are not plants for the windowsill, because the leaves can reach up to 4 feet as well for some species. Unique to this genus and the related Gastrorchis, these species can be propagated by cutting the flower stem above the base (just below where the first flower was attached), and below each bract on the stem is a bud capable of producing a new plant.

If the stems are laid flat on sphagnum moss that is moist, they’ll produce roots. When these roots form, each new plant can be snapped from the main stem and placed in individual pots. Plants will take 2 to 3 years to flower by this propagation method.

The Greater Swamp Orchid (P. tankervilleae) is a well-known species in this genus. Indigo from the blooms of this orchid was traditionally extracted to dye clothing. Plants were also used as poultices for infected sores. This species commonly escapes cultivation and is becoming invasive in Hawaii and Florida.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
India, Bhutan, Burma, Thailand, S. China, Laos, Vietnam, Taiwan, adjacent islands to the Philippines
Use
Houseplant, Outdoor Garden (USDA Zones 9 to 12)
Water Needs
Ample water during growth period, Keep the plant dried in cooler conditions
Temperature
Humid climates between 60 F and 80F
Light Preference
Moderate to bright filtered light
Flower Size & Season
Varies

Spotted Bull Orchid

Spotted Bull
These orchids attract bees with their sweet fragrance.

Scientific Name: Stanhopea tigrina

The flowers of the Spotted Bull are quite complex creamy yellow with dark purplish-brown markings that vary from small spots to blotches. The species name “tigrina” refers to the tiger-like markings of the large flowers.

This orchid has a sweet fragrance that attracts bees. Some say the shape of the flower resembles a descending bird of prey with talons outstretched. In nature, this orchid inhabits seasonally wet forests and is epiphytic.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Mexico
Use
Greenhouse or Outdoor Baskets (Temps shouldn’t drop below 52 F at night)
Water Needs
Ample water during growth period, Keep the plant dried in cooler conditions
Temperature
High humidity, can handle higher temps between 65 F and 85 F
Light Preference
Filtered to Bright Sun
Flower Size & Season
8 inches, July to October

Masdevallia Orchids

Masdevallia Flower
There are about 300 species in this genus of orchid.

Scientific Name: Masdevallia spp.

This genus contains approximately 300 species that are mostly epiphytic in nature. They prefer higher elevations and cool conditions. The flowers are usually brilliantly-colored, ranging in size from less than an inch to over 12 inches across.

White, red, and purple are the most popular color combinations. Each inflorescence typically has one flower (not all species, though). The sepals of these species unite at the base to form a narrow bell-shaped tube.

Subfamily
Epidendroideae
Native Origin
Mexico, south to tropical South America, Andes from Peru to Venezuela
Use
Houseplant
Water Needs
Water frequently, lacks pseudobulbs so should not be allowed to fully dry out
Temperature
Moderate temps between 55 F and 80 F
Light Preference
Bright Shade
Flower Size & Season
Varies

Frequently Asked Questions

Why won’t my orchid flower?

This is a complicated question, but the first reason may likely be due to incorrect lighting. Consider giving your orchid more light if it has been shaded for a long time. However, some orchids will require a resting period to induce flowering, so if it’s been in bright light for some time and you aren’t seeing a flower, this is likely because the resting period requirement has not been met.

To meet resting period requirements, you may need to put your orchid in shade, subject your orchid to cooler temperatures, or water them less. The best thing to do is research your specific orchid’s growth requirements as well as their native habitat. This will help you to care for your orchid in the best manner possible.

How do I know what type of orchid I have?

This may be a hard question to answer, especially if the orchid is not in flower or has never bloomed for you. First, it’s best to purchase your orchid from a reputable grower that knows what they’re producing, like a specialty nursery or even from a botanical garden or plant group. Second, if you’re still unsure, try seeking answers from your local(ish) botanical garden.

If they don’t know the answer, they may be able to help you find someone who will be able to help you. There are also many orchid societies that have a vast wealth of information published on their websites and also contact information for people that have an enormous amount of knowledge on the subject of orchids.

Final Thoughts

If you were wondering why orchids are considered hard to grow, then I’m sure after reading this article you’ve come to understand why these beautiful plants have caused so much human stress over the years!

Each orchid has unique growth requirements, and if these growth requirements aren’t met, then you might as well forget about seeing a flower. However, if you’re willing to educate yourself on your orchid’s origins and growth habits, then you can easily set yourself up for success.

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