Orchids are some of the most beautiful and mysterious flowers. The most expensive flower ever sold and the most priceless are both orchids.
Orchids, perennial herbs belonging to the orchidaceae family, can be found in every region of the world, except Antarctica. There are more than 800 known genera, 28,000 species and 100,000 hybrids and cultivars in the orchid species.
The different types vary extremely in size, weight and color with the smallest orchid (discovered in 2009 in the Cerro Candelaria Reserve, Ecuador, living in the roots of another orchid) only half a millimeter in length. Native to Sumatra, Malaysia and other tropical regions, Grammatophyllum speciosum (also called giant orchid, tiger orchid, sugar cane orchid or queen of the orchids) is considered one of the largest orchids, reaching heights of over 25 feet.
Competing with the genus asteraceae, orchids are one of the two major species of flowering plants. In this article we will cover some characteristics of the orchid plant, details about growing them and other interesting facts.
What is an Orchid?
Orchid flowers have a bilateral symmetry divided into two equal halves, and two distinct growing habits, depending on the variety:
Monopodial Orchids: Stem of the plant grows from a single, central bud. Leaves will emerge from the apex each year and the stem will grow vertically.
Sympodial Orchids: Series of stems grow to a certain length, the flower will bloom, and that stem will die and be replaced with another stem. The stems tend to grow laterally.
Orchids can also differ in the environment that they grow in and how they interact with other plant life:
Terrestrial Orchids: Usually rhizomatous plants, meaning that they grow from underground tubers or corms which act as nutrition reserves for the plant.
Epiphytic Orchids: Grow aerial roots anchored to trees and shrubs and usually found in tropical and subtropical regions.
Some epiphytic orchids are not able to photosynthesize and develop a different way to obtain nutrients. They form symbiotic relationships with fungal species and intertwine their root systems for an exchange of nutrients.
Where do Orchids Grow?
Different types of orchids can live in either full sunlight or full shade. They can grow in waterlogged sites or in other regions that are completely dry. They are known to exist in almost every type of habitat, except for glacial environments.
Amazing Facts about Orchids
- Every petal of every type of orchid is bilaterally symmetric and can be divided into two equal parts.
- Some species of orchids are parasitic and are unable to obtain food using carbon dioxide and the sun like other types of plants. Instead, these orchids get their food from the fungi that live within their roots.
- Although orchids can produce several million seeds, only a few of these seeds develop into a mature plant.
- Orchids are used for various purposes, including as a spice for some foods, in certain types of herbal medicines in Asia, and as a way to scent perfume.
- One of the species, vanilla planifolia, has vanilla in its pod that can be removed and used in various products.
- Orchids have been around for approximately 100 million years.
- Certain species of orchids can live for up to 100 years.
- Grammatophyllum speciosum is the largest type of orchid and grows up to 25 feet in height.
- The world’s most expensive orchid, Shenzhen Nongke, sold for $200,000 at an auction in 2005 and is named after the Guangdong university that developed it in a research lab for over eight years.
- Sri Lanka’s Kadupul flower, on the other hand, is considered the most priceless because it blooms just once a year in the night and withers before dawn breaks.
- There is a species of orchid, the Australian hammer orchid, that has developed a very curious evolutionary trait. It is able to perfectly mimic the pheromone of a female Thynnid wasp. The chemical attracts male wasps to the flower who attempt to mate with the orchid flower impersonating a female Thynnid. A sticky pollen sack will then stick to the bottom of the male’s belly, and once it leaves, it will disperse the seeds.
24 Types of Orchid Species
1. Angraecum Orchid
Star-shaped orchid with over 200 species, native to Africa, Madagascar and surrounding islands in the Indian Ocean. Most Angraecum orhids have small- to medium-sized blooms and although primarily white can start out as other colors, such as light green or yellow.
Naturalist Charles Darwin was fascinated by the long spur of the Angraecum sesquipedale, an orchid found in the lowlands of Madagascar, living in an environment of almost continuous heavy rainfall. Darwin had been sent several flowers of the species and hypothesized that only a moth with a tongue, or proboscis of up to a foot long, would be able to collect pollen as part of an evolutionary process. Traveling down the spur, or nectar tube as long as 30 centimeters, the moth would gather pollen and distribute it to other flowers. The theory was disputed for many decades but in 1903 the sphinx moth involved in the co-evolutionary process was discovered on the island, confirming Darwin’s prediction. It wasn’t until 1992 the process described by Darwin in 1862 was actually documented.
The angraceum orchid is known for having an exceptionally lovely scent and is used commercially as an ornamental and perfumery plant.
Angraceum orchids need even amounts of water, and prefer temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, mainly because they are not a bulb plant and therefore cannot store water.
2. Boat Orchid
Cymbidium or boat orchids are an entire category in the orchid genus, and are called so because of the overall shape of the flower.
The evergreen plants can be recognized by their evenly arranged leaves in two ranks. Each flower petal is quite long and distinctly separate from the others. They grow wild in the tropical and subtropical regions of Southeast Asia, Indonesia and Australia.
Boat orchids are prized by gardeners all over the world because of their beauty, they come in a variety of colors, and they are relatively easy to care for. They make excellent indoor or outdoor plants, and are a wonderful addition to a cut flower bouquet as well.
3. Brassavola Orchid
Brassovala, a genus of 21 species, is found throughout Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America. The main characteristic of this type of orchid is its very pleasant aroma, which means you will likely smell it even before you see it. The pure white flowers release their scent at night, are frequent bloomers, and can bloom all year long in much of its habitat.
Brassavola orchids are a small but showy type of orchid, and their leaves are long, reed-like in shape, and light green in color. They are aeasy to grow, low-maintenance flowers.
You may have also heard of the brassavola orchid under the name of “Lady of the Night” orchid, because of their habit to only bloom at night.
4. Catasetum Orchid
Native to Central and South America, deciduous catasetum orchids have leaves that turn yellow and fall off during the winter when it’s dormant. Because they grow both male and female flowers, their blooms can look quite different, with the former consisting of an anatomical trigger that injects pollen onto foraging insects.
Catasetum orchids have very specific growing requirements. In the wild they grow in sunny, warm and moist tropical environments. Specific temperature, light and water requirements should be maintained throughout the growing season for houseplants but when dormant they can be allowed to dry out.
5. Cattleya Orchid
Cattleya orchids, found in Central and South America, grow up to eight inches in width and come in a variety of colors and designs. The flower is also very popular among breeders and collectors, and they do well indoors. The flowers are valued for their remarkable ornamental quality and their relatively easy care.
6. Cycnoches Orchid
Also known as the swan orchid cycnoches orchids have a strong, almost spicy scent. Like catasetum, they bear both male and female flowers on separate plants with occasional hermaphroditic forms.
Native to Central and South America, cycnoches have a rather unusual growth habit and after flowering they go into a dormant phase where watering will cause the plant to rot and die.
7. Cymbidium Orchid
The petals of these orchids are a bit smaller than those of other orchids, and it consists of many spikes so there are a lot of those petals to look at. The Cymbidium orchid has won several international flower awards, and it comes in colors such as yellow and red (the Showoff cultivar), lime green (the Chica cultivar ), and bright pink (the Frae cultivar).
These and other Cymbidiums are excellent for first-time growers, because they are easy to grow and are low-maintenance. They also do better in cold climates than many other orchids do, and they make beautiful centerpieces.
8. Dendrobium Orchid
Top-heavy with lots of blooms on each stem, dendrobium orchids often require staking. There are over 1,000 species in this category, and they usually come in colors such as white, lavender, or yellow.
There are more than 1,800 species of dendrobium — they can grow almost anywhere and some keep their leaves all year long.
9. Encyclia Orchid
Also called Cockleshell orchids, this variety has no fragrance, but they do bloom for several consecutive months, making them appealing for people who want color in their garden for long periods of time. Found in much of the tropical Americas, encyclia orchids live in dry, humid lowland forests which receive little rain.
The encyclia orchid has dangling petals and sepals, which is why some people say it resembles an octopus. It thrives when planted on an orchid mount because this simulates the epiphytic growing conditions found in the wild, and it comes in colors such as yellow-white with purple throats at the top.
10. Epidendrum Orchid
With more than 1,500 pure species and many hybrids, epidendrum orchids are found in different environments including higher altitudes in the Andes.
The epidendrum orchid comes in colors such as pink and dark orange with yellow throats, and if treated right will bloom year after year.
11. Lady Slipper Orchid
The lady slipper orchid gets its name from the obvious shape of the flower head that resembles a slipper. The flowers can be identified by their two glossy green leaves that emerge from the center stalk.
Lady slipper orchid flowers can come in a variety of colors, from white, to bright yellow, or on the other range of the color spectrum in the deep pink and purple region.
Lady slipper orchid populations are slowly depleting in the wild, and unfortunately, some species are actually becoming endangered.
The plants require quite a bit of both sunlight and moisture. Their natural growing conditions must be replicated, and so it is important that they are only watered with either natural rain water, or with distilled water.
12. Ludisia Orchid
Also known as the Jewel orchid, the plant looks great whether it’s in bloom or not. Its large green leaves are variegated with stripes, and tiny white flowers appear in the fall and winter. There are two varieties of the ludisia orchid, a white ‘albino’, and black ‘nigrescens’.
Native to tropical areas of Asia they require very hot, humid and damp conditions.
13. Lycaste Orchid
The lycaste orchid is deciduous and sheds its leaves during the winter when it’s dormant. When this happens, sharp spines appear on the tips of the pseudobulbs, which are so sharp they can actually draw blood if you brush against them. This gives them the same kind of vibe as a rose bush: beautiful, but it can sting!
They usually come in colors such as lavender, red, white and pink, with yellow centers. Orchids are known for having extra little punches of color and extravagance, and that is definitely the case when it comes to the lycaste orchid.
14. Masdevallia Orchid
The characteristic that distinguishes masdevallia from many other orchids is their shape, which is triangular, blocky and compact, or thin, whiskery, and elongated.
There are more than 500 species of masdevallia with some found in the high altitude cloud forests of South America’s Andes. They bloom in the summer and require certain temperatures and humidity levels — cultivation requires the plants be kept in cool and moist conditions.
15. Maxillaria Orchid
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.
16. Miltonia Orchid
The miltonia orchid is also called the pansy orchid, due to its face-like appearance. Flowers bloom from late spring into the summer and come in colors such as hot pink and white with golden yellow centers. The plant can have a combination of two or more colors that include red, various shades of pink, and white.
Miltonia orchids are known as being “the friendliest looking orchids” because of their resemblance to pansies. They’re a great choice of orchid for an indoor plant that doesn’t need much maintenance.
17. Odontoglossum Orchid
A very showy flower, this type of orchid comes in colors that include white, yellow, brown, purple, red, and a few varieties that are multicolored. The odontoglossum orchid has stems that can grow up to four feet high and blossoms that can reach up to six inches in width. Between 20 to 150 blossoms grow on each stem with petals that are ruffled and fragrant.
Odontoglossum prefer the cool climates of cloud forests and the higher altitudes of the Andes.
18. Oncidium Orchid
Most oncidium orchids are epiphytes and grow on other plants, but some are lithophytic and grow on rocks or terrestrial and grow in soil. They are found throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America, usually in seasonally dry habitats. The plant is low-maintenance and easy to grow, and it comes in stunning colors such as bright yellow and gold.
19. Paphiopedilum Orchid
Also called the Venus slipper, the orchid is easy to grow and great for the beginner. They come in a wide variety of colors, including pink, white, and yellow, as well as more somber colors such as brown, burgundy, and near-black tones. In addition, many of the varieties include petals that have bristly hairs, freckles, and even stripes, with an added bonus of specks on some of the varieties’ leaves.
20. Phaius Orchid
This is not a type of orchid you’ll want to place on your windowsill, because the stems grow up to four feet high. Phaius orchids have large, strappy leaves, and they usually produce petals that are yellow, purple or white. They’re known for their ornamental quality, as a single bloom can have up to four different colors.
Also known as the nun’s cap orchid, phaius is part of a genus of about 50 species native to Southeast Asia.
21. Phalaenopsis Orchid
Also known as the moth orchid the plant is great for beginners because it is easy to grow and maintain. Appearing in colors such as yellow, light pink, and spotted with burgundy, phalaenopsis blooms on and off throughout the year and can tolerate repotting efforts. They have long-lasting flowers and look great as an indoor plant.
22. Phragmipedium Orchid
Native to wet mountain forests in the Andes, phragmipedium can tolerate a lot of dampness and regular watering. The petals consist of little pouch-like shapes surrounded by a moustache, and it comes in colors that include light green, white and light burgundy.
23. Psychopsis Orchid
Also called the butterfly orchid, psychopsis has four species spread over Central and South America and the island of Trinidad. The plant blooms for several months, needs only moderate light conditions, and is easy to grow and maintain.
24. Vanda Orchid
With long, thin foliage and beautiful colors that include violet, lavender, and white, the vanda orchid is found in Southeast Asia, India, Indonesia, New Guinea and northern Australia. Some wild vanda orchid species are considered endangered and export is prohibited worldwide.
25. Vanilla Orchid
There are over 60 varieties of the vanilla orchid, and unfortunately, it only blooms for one day, opening in the morning and closing at night. They grow in clusters of 12 to 20 buds, with yellow-green flowers that reach approximately six inches in length.
The plants need two to three years to mature before they flower, and grow up to ten feet in height. They do best in a garden or a greenhouse and require vertical support to grow and thrive.
26. Zygopetalum Orchid
The plant blooms consistently from the fall to the spring and comes in colors such as purple, burgundy and chartreuse. The foliage is green with splotches of deep purple, and they often have veins of a darker or lighter color running through the petals.
Best Type of Orchid for Various Settings
Best Type of Orchid
Here are some of the amazingly beautiful orchids ideal for various occasions and settings:
Beginners – Moth/Phalaenopsis
With their lengthy bloom times and ease of care, they are the most popular orchids for beginners. Phalaenopsis orchids make up 80 percent or more of every orchid marketed in the United States. It’s easy to see why they’re so popular.
From the full-size beautiful whites that regularly appear in home decoration magazines to the petite, lovely miniatures that may fit in any growing space, they come in a variety of colors and sizes.
Indoors – Cattleyas
One of the most common indoor orchids is the cattleya. Brazilian tropical and subtropical woods are the sources of these creatures’ origins. Because of their natural habitat, these orchids are perfect for mounting.
Cattleyas can only be a problem if your living space has adequate air circulation. Cattleyas, which have evolved to thrive in windy climates, will quickly succumb to root rot if not given adequate airflow.
Outdoors – Cymbidium
Beautiful, long-lasting flower displays are a hallmark of these orchids, which also thrive in the open air.
A standard is a larger version of a smaller one. Only in regions with 70°F+ summer nights may miniatures flourish. Meanwhile, the only way to successfully cultivate small plants in a coastal climate is to do so in a greenhouse or indoors.
Weddings – Dendrobium
Whenever it relates to floral arrangements for weddings, dendrobium orchids reign supreme and will continue to do so in the years to come.
Whether you want a passionate, formal, impulsive, futuristic, or even rustic look for your wedding, these flowers are a great choice. They’re available in a variety of hues, too.
Bouquet – Ocean Breeze
The stems of Anthurium, as well as Cymbidium, could be used for trimmed setups, corsages, boutonnieres, and floral arrangements for up to six weeks.
The stems of Aranthea, Mokara, Paphiopedilum, Oncidium, and Phalaenopsis, can also be used in a variety of ways and endure between one and two weeks.
Bedroom – Paphiopedilum Orchids
During the daytime, orchids absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, making these flowers ideal for bedrooms. So, they could be able to assist us with sleeping better. In addition, they’re ideal for use in the bedroom.
One of the easiest and best low-light orchids to grow indoors is the Paphiopedilum Orchid, often recognized as the Lady Slipper Orchid. You can use this selection if your bedroom doesn’t have much light.
Birthdays – Phalaenopsis, Dendrobium & Cymbidium
Phalaenopsis orchids, often known as moth orchids, feature long, sturdy stems and large flowers that epitomize the beauty of nature. You can’t go wrong with these orchids, regardless of how much they cost.
This dendrobium orchid is one of the hardiest orchids since it can thrive in a wide variety of environments and is tolerant of low humidity levels.
During the winter and into early April, a single stem of Cymbidium orchids might produce up to 30 flowers.
Coffee table – Cymbidium
As many as 30 flowers may emerge on a solitary Cymbidium, and the blooms will last for months before fading.
At a temperature of 70℉ (21℃), with plenty of natural light, Cymbidium can thrive.
Hanging basket – Angraecum
While we can cultivate them in soil, orchids in this genus perform best when placed in hanging positions. Angraecum has a wide range of elements, but they’re monopodial, which means they have only one stem.
To entice moths, which are the primary pollinators of these orchids, many of them are white and emit a sweet aroma at night. Humidity levels ranging from 50% to 70% are required.
Pots and containers – Vanda
It is possible to cultivate Vanda in a basket or a pot. Pots work well in most domestic settings because they keep more moisture in the soil around the plant’s roots. Utilizing quality moss film New Zealand or orchid bark mix is what we suggest when it comes to potting Vanda orchids.
Garden – Aplectrum, Bletilla & Calanthe
Phalaenopsis as well as cattleya are well-known and beloved exotic tropical orchids, so isn’t it great to get an orchid that can thrive in moderate climates?
Numerous lovely terrestrial orchids, including such Bletilla and calanthe, may be grown successfully in temperate zones 5 to 9, which may come as news to you.
Lots of suns – Vandas, Dendrobium, Cattleyas
There are a few other light-tolerant orchids that can handle some direct sunlight, like Vandas, Cattleyas, and Dendrobiums, if the leaf doesn’t grow too hot.
Full sun exposure is no problem for these orchids, which thrive at the tree tops as well as in other visible places. Numerous orchids can take greater light throughout the wintertime, whenever the sun is downward in the sky.
Shade – Phalaenopsis genus
Moth orchids, as they are more popularly called, bloom intermittently all year round and are easily grown.
Although these orchids are relatively easy to care for, they prefer a more diffused light source. Within this genus, there are approximately 75 species that have been officially recognized, as well as numerous cultivars.
Are orchids good house plants?
There are so many different orchid types that it would be difficult to answer if orchids make a good house plant. There are some varieties that prefer to live inside, as this is an easier way to maintain the perfect growing environment, but there are other varieties that prefer to live outside. Either way, they are exceptionally beautiful and well worth the effort.
Do orchids prefer sun or shade?
Depending on the orchid type, it may prefer to live in full shade conditions or in full sun conditions.
How do you get an orchid to bloom again?
A sure way to get your orchid to bloom another time (depending on the orchid species) is by making sure that it is in indirect sunlight, and that it gets put in a cooler environment at night time. This is a way to mimic outdoor-like conditions which can sometimes encourage a re-blooming.
How do you take care of potted orchids?
If you have a potted orchid, chances are that it would benefit from receiving weekly fertilizer and living in indirect sunlight. There are also specific orchid potting mixes that you can buy to create the perfect growing environment for them.
Are orchids perennials?
Orchids are perennial plants. This means that once they are established in the ground they will continue to live and bloom every season until they die because of age or because of environmental stress.
Are orchids parasites?
Orchids are not parasites but are such things as epiphytic orchids. This is an orchid type that is unable to photosynthesize. In order to obtain nutrients, it must then develop a symbiotic relationship with another plant type (usually a tree or fungi) where its root system will link up to its root system to share nutrients and whatnot.
Can I grow orchids in water?
Aerial rooted orchids are able to grow in purely potted water. It is important that water is either rainwater or distilled water, but they are able to grow their roots just off of water and sunlight alone!
Can I plant orchids outside?
There are certain orchid types that may be a little bit too sensitive to be able to live outdoors, but there are other orchid types that must be planted outdoors because of those specific growing requirements and also because they can become very large. There are species that can grow to be over 4 feet tall!
Do orchids rebloom?
If you’ve ever had an orchid before, you know that there is almost no telling when they will bloom. There are some types that will only bloom once a year, and others that can bloom several times a year. There are some that will only bloom at night, others that will only bloom for a single day. Simply do your research to find out how to encourage your orchid to bloom again.
How should an orchid be watered?
Different orchid types have different growing requirements, and it is best to learn what their original growing region was to know exactly how they should be maintained. There are orchid types that are used to living on very dry sites, and so their potting mix should be allowed to completely dry out before being watered again.
There are other orchid types that prefer to be completely saturated (to the point of being waterlogged), and there are other orchid types still that perform best if they just receive a single ice cub every couple of weeks.