Orchids are some of the most beautiful and mysterious flowers. The most expensive flower ever sold and the most priceless are both orchids.
Orchids belong to the orchidaceae family and have 800 known genera, over 25,000 species and over 100,000 hybrids and cultivars. They can be found in every region of the world except in Antartica. The different types vary extremely in size, weight and color. The smallest orchid was initially mistaken for a fungus and is only half a millimeter in length!
Competing with the genus asteraceae, orchids are one of the largest species of flowering plant. Whether it be a tropical orchid or a terrestrial orchid, they are one of the most beautiful plants you will ever see.
In this article we will cover characteristics of the orchid plant, the details of growing orchid plants, where they tend to grow best, and some super weird and interesting facts about them.
Table of Contents
- What is an Orchid?
- Where do Orchids Grow?
- Amazing Facts about Orchids
- 24 Types of Orchid Species
- 1. Angraecum Orchid
- 2. Boat Orchid
- 3. Brassavola Orchid
- 4. Catasetum Orchid
- 5. Cattleya Orchid
- 6. Cycnoches Orchid
- 7. Cymbidium Orchid
- 8. Dendrobium Orchid
- 9. Encyclia Orchid
- 10. Epidendrum Orchid
- 11. Lady Slipper Orchid
- 12. Ludisia Orchid
- 13. Lycaste Orchid
- 14. Masdevallia Orchid
- 15. Maxillaria Orchid
- 16. Miltonia Orchid
- 17. Odontoglossum Orchid
- 18. Oncidium Orchid
- 19. Paphiopedilum Orchid
- 20. Phaius Orchid
- 21. Phalaenopsis Orchid
- 22. Phragmipedium Orchid
- 23. Psychopsis Orchid
- 24. Vanda Orchid
- 25. Vanilla Orchid
- 26. Zygopetalum Orchid
What is an Orchid?
Orchids are one of the most elegant, unique, and striking flowering plant on the planet. These flowers are wonderfully interesting both to look at, and to learn about. An orchid plant is very easily identifiable, as there are truly no other plant species that can compare.
An orchid is a perennial plant that is a member of the genus orchidaceae. An orchid flower has characteristic bilateral symmetry, and they have two distinct growing habits, depending on the orchid variety: monopodial orchid, or sympodial orchid.
Monopodial Orchids: where the 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: where a series of stems grow to a certain length, the flower will bloom, and that stem will die and be replaced with another stem. These stems tend to grow laterally.
Orchids can also differ in the environment that they grow in and how they interact with other plant life. there are terrestrial orchids or epiphytic orchids (sometimes called aerial orchids).
Terrestrial Orchids: are usually rhizomatous plants, meaning that they grow from underground tubers or corms. These act as the nutrition reserves for the plant.
Epiphytic Orchids: are an orchid type that grow aerial roots and can be anchored to trees and shrubs. These species usually exist in tropical and subtropical regions.
Some epiphytic orchids are not able to photosynthesize and so they have to develop a different way to obtain nutrients. They do this by forming a symbiotic relationship with fungal species and they intertwine their root systems for an exchange of nutrients.
Where do Orchids Grow?
Members of the genus orchidaceae can be found growing in every continent on the planet, except for Antartica. This is a tell tale sign they they are evolutionarily superior and extremely resilient plants.
Orchids can live in both full sunlight and full shade. They can grow on sites that are waterlogged (they can literally be grown in pots of water) and other sites that are completely dry. They occur in nearly every type of habitat except for literal glaciers.
Cultivated orchids can also grow in a great variety of environments. A potted orchid will be happy in orchid mix or in sand. Orchid repotting can be a little bit tricky, so ensure you pick a pot that it will be happy in forever.
Amazing Facts about Orchids
- Orchids can be as small as a penny and large enough to weigh a few hundred pounds, so they vary greatly in size.
- Their roots are somewhat different than other types of plants, because they have either rhizome, aerial, or tubular roots.
- Every petal of every type of orchid can be divided into two equal parts; this is known as being bilateral symmetric.
- 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 produce several million miniature 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, the vanilla planifolia, has vanilla in its pod that can be removed and utilized in various products.
- Orchids have been around for approximately 100 million years, according to fossil evidence.
- Certain species of orchids can live for up to 100 years.
- Grammatophyllum speciosum is the largest type of orchid and grows up to three meters in height
- The world’s most expensive orchid, Shenzhen Nongke, sold for $200,000 at an auction in 2005 and is named after the university that developed it for 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 that has developed a very curious evolutionary trait. It is able to perfectly mimic the pheromone of a specific type of wasp. This chemical attracts male wasps to the flower and it will literally attempt to mate with the orchid flower. A sticky pollen sack will then stick to the bottom of the wasps belly, and once it leaves, it will disperse the seeds!
24 Types of Orchid Species
1. Angraecum Orchid
This type of orchid has over 200 species and has a star-shaped appearance. Most of them have small- to medium-sized blooms and come in colors such as yellow, white, or light green, although most of them are white.
The angraceum orchid is known for having an exceptionally lovely scent and are used mainly as an ornamental and perfumery plant. They make a perfect potted orchid or a hanging basket orchid.
Angraceum orchids needs even amounts of water, and prefers temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, mainly because they are not a bulb plant and therefore cannot store water.
2. Boat Orchid
Boat orchids are an entire category in the orchid genus, and are called so because of the overall shape of the flower. These are evergreen plants, so they provide interest even when the plants aren’t in bloom.
They can be recognized by their evenly arranged leaves in 2 ranks. Each flower petal is quite long and distinctly separate from the others. They grow wild in the tropical and subtropical regions of Asia 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 plants and outdoor plants, and are a wonderful addition to a cut flower bouquet as well.
3. Brassavola Orchid
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 many places.
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 also easy to grow and are 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 time. They are wonderfully easy to care for and will grow readily as an epiphytic orchid type.
4. Catasetum Orchid
These orchids are snowy white and have a dark yellow-orange center. It is a deciduous orchid that has 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 into nearby bees.
Catasetum orchids are one of those orchid types that have very specific growing requirements. A steady temperature must be maintained throughout the entire year, they have specific light requirements and specific water requirements as well. Only expert gardeners are usually able to keep this variety happy.
5. Cattleya Orchid
Often a stunning two-toned orchid of bright pink-red and white, this flower is a hybrid that can actually have various freckles and specks, and even other colors, such as orange. The Cattleya orchid are very fragrant, and they are very popular for use in corsages.
Cattleya orchids 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. These orchid flowers are valued for their remarkable ornamental quality, and their relatively easy care.
6. Cycnoches Orchid
This orchid is also called the Swan orchid. It consists of many male flowers, which look like the neck of a swan, and it has a strong, almost spicy scent. It can grow up to 30 blooms on a single stem, and it is a sturdy and long-lasting flower.
Cycnoches orchids have a rather unusual growth habit and unusual looking flowers. The photo above is just one type of cycnoches orchid. This orchid variety can be a little bit tricky to maintain, so keep that in mind if you’re planning on choosing your next garden orchid.
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
Because these orchids are top-heavy with lots of blooms on each stem, this type of orchid often requires staking. There are over 1,000 species in this category, and they usually come in colors such as white, lavender, or yellow.
One of its biggest advantages of growing this type of orchid is the fact that it can grow almost anywhere, regardless of the zone you live in, and some of them keep their leaves all year long. Evergreen plants make for great botanical interest all year long. They can also come in more than one color per bloom, which makes them especially attractive.
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.
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 over 1,000 pure species and many hybrids, this type of orchid is petite and attractive. They need a lot of bright light in order to grow and thrive, and if grown indoors, you may even need artificial lighting of some type.
The Epidendrum orchid comes in colors such as pink and dark orange with yellow throats, and if treated right, it will bloom year after year. These orchids are particularly dainty, but also particularly lovely.
11. Lady Slipper Orchid
The lady slipper orchid is a truly lovely orchid variety. It gets its name from the obvious shape of the flower head that resembles a very fancy lady’s slipper. These 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. For this reason, it is actually encourage to collect wild lady slipper orchids and transplant them into your own garden.
Just remember that these orchids require quite a bit of 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, this orchid looks great whether it’s in bloom or out of bloom. Its large leaves are green and variegated with stripes, and it grows tiny white flowers in the fall and winter. There are two varieties of the ludisia orchid, “albino“, which is pure white, and “nigrescens“, which is black. They are both gorgeous and striking flowers.
These orchids are native to the most tropical areas of Asia, and so it is important that their natural growing conditions are perfectly replicated. They must exist in very hot, humid, and damp conditions, otherwise they will not perform well.
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, and they have beautiful yellow centers. Orchids are known for having extra little punches of color and extravagance, and that is definitely the case when it comes to lycaste orchid.
14. Masdevallia Orchid
The characteristic that makes these different than many other orchids is their shape, which is triangular, blocky and compact, or thin, whiskery, and elongated. Masdevallia orchids have a bit more of a harsh shape to them, almost having a halloween-style to them, like a spider or something else a little bit creepy.
They bloom in the summer and require certain temperatures and humidity levels, so you should research them before you decide to purchase them. They can be tricky to grow and therefore, they are better for people who are more experienced in the garden, and they come in colors such as yellow-orange and have leaves that are a beautiful shade of green.
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. It blooms from late spring into the summer and comes in colors such as hot pink and white with golden yellow centers. It can have a combination of two or more colors that include red, various shades of pink, and white. It is a truly stunning-looking plant.
Miltonia orchids are known as being “the friendliest looking orchids” because of their resemblance to pansies. Their also friendly in the way that they are not too difficult to care for! 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, and their petals are ruffled and very fragrant.
They can be a challenge to grow, but they grow well if the temperature is below 80 degrees Fahrenheit because they are used to cool or cold climates.
18. Oncidium Orchid
With a shape that is similar to a dancing lady is a striking sundress, the Oncidium orchid is low-maintenance and easy to grow, and it comes in stunning colors such as bright yellow and gold. The variety called Sharry Baby has a chocolate-like scent, and although simple to grow, the Oncidium orchid does require a lot of moisture and humidity to thrive.
If you notice any type of deformities in the leaves of this plant, it is likely because this requirement has not been met. They are truly beautiful bloomers when they are properly maintained, encouraging you to keep their environment perfect.
19. Paphiopedilum Orchid
Also called the Lady’s Slipper orchid, this type of flower is easy to grow and is great for the beginner flower-grower. They come in a wide variety of colors, including cheery colors such as 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 host up to 4 different colors.
Also known as the Nun’s Cap orchid, it is a winter bloomer and makes a great addition to anyone’s garden, regardless of what else is planted there.
21. Phalaenopsis Orchid
Also known as the Moth orchid – which is much easier and less cumbersome to pronounce – this orchid is great for beginners because it is easy to grow and maintain. Appearing in lovely colors such as yellow, light pink, and spotted with burgundy, these are delicate and lovely orchid types.
The Moth orchid blooms on and off throughout the year and can tolerate repotting efforts – again, making them a great plant for those who are new to planting flowers in their garden. They have long-lasting flowers and look great as an indoor plant, which are a few of the reasons why they are one of the most popular types of orchids.
22. Phragmipedium Orchid
If you love watering plants, this type of orchid is for you, because it can tolerate a lot of dampness and regular watering. In fact, this orchid loves water so much that it can even tolerate wet feet. 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.
The phragmideum orchid is one of those orchid types that can actually be planted in water! This variety works better as an indoor plant, so pick a window, and get to planting!
23. Psychopsis Orchid
Also called the Butterfly orchid, this flower comes in striking colors such as burgundy and bright gold, and it can even have foliage that is green and speckled. They are known as the butterfly orchid because of their incredible petals that have a butterfly wing-like texture to them. It’s almost as if they are disguising themselves are butterflies!
It blooms for several months, needs only moderate light conditions, and it is very easy to grow and maintain. It is a truly stunning plant that can complement your garden regardless of what else is planted there.
24. Vanda Orchid
With long, thin foliage and beautiful colors that include violet, lavender, and white, the Vanda orchid is better suited for more experienced growers. They need bright light and high humidity, as well as chunkier growing mediums, and because of their elegance and eye-catching beauty, they make a great addition to any type of orchid basket.
Their incredible purple color is almost difficult to comprehend that it is so vibrant. They have interesting patterns and details on them, and make for an exquisite centerpiece plant.
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 12-20 buds, and they are yellow-green in color and reach approximately six inches in length.
Just like their name suggests, you can actually get vanilla from these flowers, and the blooms have a nice vanilla scent as well. They have to be mature in order to flower, which can take two to three years, and they grow up to ten feet in height. They do best in a garden or a greenhouse, but never as an indoor plant, and they need vertical support to grow and thrive.
26. Zygopetalum Orchid
This orchid 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. These multi-colored flowers are beautiful and eye-catching.
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 efforts.
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 by 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 is such thing as an epiphytic orchid. 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 a fungi) where its root system will link up to their root system to share nutrients and what not.
Can I grow orchids in water?
Aerial rooted orchids are able to grow in purely potted water. It is important that it is water is either rain water 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 many 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 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.