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What is a Laelia Orchid and How to Care for It?

Amazingly beautiful orange and pink laelia orchid flowers growing in the garden

Genus Laelia

Now HOLD ON! Before you click the back tab because you know how difficult orchids can be to try and keep happy, just read a little bit of this article. Most orchids are extremely tricky to maintain if you’re not an expert, but have you ever heard of laelia orchids?

The genus laelia is home to a mere 25 orchid species, all part of the Orchidaceae botanical family. This type of orchid has been called the “workhorse” orchid because it is so popularly crossed with other orchid species, like cattelya, sohpronitis, and brassavola.

Horticulturists do this because they desire to combine the easy care and resilience of the laelia orchid with the intense beauty of other orchid types. They are also commonly known as the mayflower orchid, the Mexican laelia, or the Brazilian laelia.

We promise, laelia orchids are those rare type of exotic flowering plants that won’t make you lose your mind because of how complicated they are to grow. They are known for their moderately low maintenance growing requirements, their beautiful flowers of bold colors, and overall classic orchid beauty.

Related: Types of Orchids | Sun-Loving Flowers | Water-Loving Flowers | Shade-Loving Flowers | Types of Flowers | Types of Flowers by Color | Types of Flowers by Alphabet | Types of Flower Colors

What do Laelia Plants Look Like?

Beautiful light pink laelia orchids in bloom against dark green leaves

Growth Habit

Laelia orchids are epiphytic plants. If you’ve never heard of this before, let me break it down for you: an epiphyte is a type of plant that grows anchored to other plants, and 10% of all plant life is epiphytic!

This is very common among bromeliads, ferns, and of course, orchid species. However, this is not a parasitic relationship. Epiphytes have learned to get everything they need to survive from rain water, air, and debris that collects around the plant.

Something else that helps them grow is their think and spongy roots that grow into the bark of the tree canopy they exist in. These roots absorb water and store it for later, making laelia orchids super drought tolerant.

There are some epiphytes that also develop a pseudobulb, which is basically an extra storage organ that grows between the stem and leaf node. This is an extra survival tool that the laelia orchid has as well!

Flowers

I don’t need to tell you that an orchid flower is gorgeous. They are known as being some of the most gorgeous and wonderfully complex flower shapes on the planet. They are also perennial, meaning that they will continue to blossom year after year as long as the plant is kept happy.

Laelia orchid flowers commonly grow as an inflorescence or a terminal raceme. Each inflorescence will have anywhere from 3 to 10 flowers made up of thin petals and sepals.

Each laelia orchid flower is usually star shaped, with 3 upper petals and 2 lower petals. The color will vary depending on the species, and most will have extravagant accent colors as well.

The laelia flower will commonly blossom in the winter! This is quite odd for flowering plants. But in this case, the laelia orchid flower buds will bloom after the growing season has ended. Depending on the species, this can start anywhere from early winter and last to late spring.

Leaves

A wonderful way to compliment an orchid flower is with long and elegant leaves. The laelia orchid is evergreen, meaning that its leaves will persist all year long and remain green the whole time.

Each plant will grow 1-4 long, leathery and fleshy leaves that are a deep glossy green. They are usually broadly ovate to oblong in shape, though that will vary slightly from species to species.

Where is the Laelia Orchid a Native Plant?

Amazing and tall hot pink laelia orchids growing in a tall tree in the tropics

Laelia orchids are home to subtropical and temperate regions in South America. They grow most profusely in the wild in western Mexico, and southward to Bolivia. Their growing ranges are why they are named Mexican laelia and Brazilian laelia, because they can be found grow all throughout the tree canopies there.

When growing wild they can be found growing in a dizzying array of sites. They can grow down at sea level and prosper in mountainous forests up to 2,400 metres above sea level. It is handy to know which laelia species you have, because by knowing their native growing range, you can determine what growing conditions they will need. But just know that they can only exist outside in USDA growing zones 7 through 10.

Depending on the orchid genera, they can originate at high elevations where conditions are cool, dry, and receive plenty of sunshine, or at low elevations where conditions are at a warm temperature and moist with less sunshine. They can originate in rainforests where conditions are warm and moist but with cool winters.

What are Some Laelia Orchid Species?

Stunning hot pink laelia orchids growing in a large garden in the shade

Laelia Anceps

Laelia Anceps is a species of orchid that grows profusely in Mexico and Guatemala. This is a highly valued ornamental plant for its hot pink flowers, tolerance to cold, and overall ease of growth.

L anceps is an orchid that is perfect for beginner gardeners because it is not picky about anything and it has a wonderfully long blooming period.

Laelia Purpurata

Either known as the laelia purpurata or the cattelya purpurata, this species of orchid is native to Brazil and can be found growing with enthusiasm throughout the tree canopy in coastal areas.

L purpurata is an awesome orchid species for its light pink flowers with yellow throats that prefer bright light and cooler conditions. They have flowers that are fragrant and long lasting, blooming all the way through fall to spring.

Laelia Rubescens

Laelia rubescens also goes by the common name of rose tinted laelia. It is native all over Central America and grows happily at high altitudes in dry and rocky areas.

L rubescens can be identified by its huge, dark green glossy leaves and flowers that are (you guessed it) rose tinted with gorgeous and delicate yellow accents.

Laelia Speciosa

Laelia Speciosa is more commonly known as the mayflower orchid. It can found growing in tall trees at super high elevations. They are drought resistant, bloom throughout the summer and fall, and produce lovely light pink flowers that are highly fragrant.

Laelia Albida

L albida is an orchid species that though native to central America, is the most northerly growing orchid that can grow up into northern Mexico and sometimes even into South Florida! They are cold tolerant and grow on dry sites.

L albida is a great orchid to attempt to grow if you are a beginner. They can survive happily on a windowsill and grace your home with many small pink flowers that will last throughout the winter to early spring.

Laelia Autumnalis

Laelia autumnalis is native to Mexico, all throughout the central and southern parts at super high elevations — we’re talking 1,500-2,600 metres above sea level!

L autumnalis grows happily on scrub oaks and on mossy rocks. They can be identified by their huge leathery leaves and variable flower colors, though the most common combination is hot pink petals that fade into white with yellow accents.

What are the Growing Conditions of the Laelia Orchid?

Lovely little laelia orchid growing in a pot on a terrace

Okay, assuming you have made it to this paragraph, it seems as though we haven’t lost you along the way of all the complexities that are orchids. Orchid care is kind of like a culture all on its own, and now we come to the most intimidating portion of this feature: orchid care.

Now, don’t freak out just yet. Laelia orchids are one of the easiest orchid types to care for, and we’ve prepared some tips and tricks to keep them happy. There are some things to remember, but it’ll take up the same amount of space in your brain as remembering to taking your Vitamin D in the winter.

Soil Type

Luckily for us gardeners, folks have actually created something called “orchid potting mix” because they know how difficult it is to actually imitate the effect of growing on top of another plant..

Orchid mix is usually made from a mixture of pine bark, charcoal, and clay pellets. If you don’t want to plant your orchid in a pot you can always try growing one mounted on a slab of fern bark. And no, that’s not a joke.

The main thing to remember is that whatever medium you attempt to use, it MUST be well draining. Proper drainage is the best way to keep those fleshy roots happy. Remember, these selected plant families literally grow in the air, so extremely well aerated mix is essential.

Sun Exposure

Now, the sun exposure level that a laelia orchid prefers will vary slightly from species to species. Like we mentioned when detailing the native growing ranges, different species receive different amounts of sunlight and moisture.

A general rule of thumb with orchids is that they prefer bright sunlight and do not like direct sunlight at all. This is apparent by the fact that they grow in tree canopies, where the sunlight is ample but filtered through the leaves of the trees.

Just research the native growing range of your orchid type first. If it is used to high elevations, it can handle direct sunlight exposure. If it is used to lower elevations or rainforests, bright sunlight that is indirect is a better choice.

Various laelia orchid types growing in a garden nursery

Water Level

Alright get your notepad out. Maintaining water level is probably the most complicated part of laelia orchid care, as the water level doesn’t remain the same the whole year through.

Watering should occur during the active growing season of your plant. They should be at about 50% moisture during this time. Though they are drought tolerant thanks to those pseudobulbs, they do prefer some type of moisture. Remember, they get the majority of their survival tools from rainwater!

Now, once the active growing season ends (this will also vary from species to species) all watering should stop. This will quickly result in root rot and the decay of your beautiful plant. The cool thing is that this is the period in which your plant will bloom!

Temperature

Even though they are native to Central America and South America, which are thought of as being very warm and tropical places, laelia orchids are totally tolerant of cooler temperatures.

These cooler temperatures occur in subtropical and temperate regions, and you know where they also occur? Inside your home!

Folks don’t usually try to grow orchids outdoors anyway because they know delicate and sensitive they can be, so they are mainly grown indoors as potted plants.

Pruning

Orchids really don’t need to be pruned. There isn’t all that much too them other than their long and sturdy stems and glossy leaves. Simply snip away any part of the plant that doesn’t seem to be performing too well.

Fertilizer

Orchids respond very well to fertilizer, but this has to been applied in a very specific way as well. Laelia orchids can be given a high nitrogen fertilizer starting in the early spring and through late spring into the summer. In the late summer, it can be switched to a high phosphate fertilizer until the fall. Desist using fertilizer at the same time as you stop watering your plant.

Intolerances

As you can see, growing laelia orchids is far less complicated and intimidating than most people think! They can actually tolerate a great many things, but the main things that they will not tolerate are direct sunlight and poor draining medium.

Amazing light pink laelia orchid flowers growing in the setting sun

FAQs

Are laelia orchids deer resistant?

Though laelia orchids are moderately deer resistant, it won’t matter all too much as they tend to live and grow in areas that don’t experience much deer grazing, ie; in your living room windowsill or high up in the tree canopy.

What are the damaging agents to the laelia orchid?

The most common issue that a laelia orchid will experience is with fungal diseases and infections. Keep in mind that all of those can be avoided as long as it exists in extremely well drained potting medium.

What USDA growing zone can a laelia plant grow in?

It is handy to know which laelia species you have, because by knowing their native growing range, you can determine what growing conditions they will need. But just know that they can only exist outside in USDA growing zones 7 through 10.

Depending on the orchid genera, they can originate at high elevations where conditions are cool, dry, and receive plenty of sunshine, or at low elevations where conditions are at a warm temperature and moist with less sunshine. They can originate in rainforests where conditions are warm and moist but with cool winters.

What colors does a laelia orchid come in?

The laelia flower is known for having bold and intense colors, and they can be anything from dark to light pink, bronze, yellow, dark purple, and sometimes even green, which is incredibly rare for any flowering plant.

Do laelia orchids need humidity?

Laelia orchids are completely tolerant to humidity, but can be sensitive to high humidity if it occurs outside of their growing season. This can result in root rot and can also result in no flower blooms!

When do laelia flowers bloom?

The laelia flower will commonly blossom in the winter! This is quite odd for flowering plants. But in this case, the laelia orchid flower buds will bloom after the growing season has ended. Depending on the species, this can start anywhere from early winter and last to late spring.

Can a laelia orchid grow in a pot?

A laelia orchid can easily be grown in a pot as long as it is growing in a potting medium that is extremely well drained, and in a pot that has drainage holes at the bottom. If you remember anything about orchid care, it is that they need proper aeration.

Are laelia orchids easy to care for?

The genus laelia is home to a mere 25 orchid species, all part of the orchidaceae botanical family. This type of orchid has been called the “workhorse” orchid because it is so popularly crossed with other orchid species, like cattelya, sohpronitis, and brassavola.

Horticulturists do this because they desire to combine the easy care and resilience of the laelia orchid with the intense beauty of other orchid types. They are also commonly known as the mayflower orchid, the Mexican laelia, or the Brazilian laelia.

We promise, laelia orchids are those rare type of exotic flowering plants that won’t make you lose your mind because of how complicated they are to grow. They are known for their moderately low maintenance growing requirements, their beautiful flowers of bold colors, and overall classic orchid beauty.

Do laelia plants prefer full sun or full shade?

Now, the sun exposure level that a laelia orchid prefers will vary slightly from species to species. Like we mentioned when detailing the native growing ranges, different species receive different amounts of sunlight and moisture.

A general rule of thumb with orchids is that they prefer bright sunlight and do not like direct sunlight at all. This is apparent by the fact that they grow in tree canopies, where the sunlight is ample but filtered through the leaves of the trees.

Just research the native growing range of your orchid type first. If it is used to high elevations, it can handle direct sunlight exposure. If it is used to lower elevations or rainforests, bright sunlight that is indirect is a better choice.

What is an epiphytic plant?

Laelia orchids are epiphytic plants. If you’ve never heard of this before, let me break it down for you: an epiphyte is a type of plant that grows anchored to other plants, and 10% of all plant life is epiphytic!

This is very common among bromeliads, ferns, and of course, orchid species. However, this is not a parasitic relationship. Epiphytes have learned to get everything they need to survive from rain water, air, and debris that collects around the plant.

Something else that helps them grow is their think and spongy roots that grow into the bark of the tree canopy they exist in. These roots absorb water and store it for later, making laelia orchids super drought tolerant.

There are some epiphytes that also develop a pseudobulb, which is basically an extra storage organ that grows between the stem and leaf node. This is an extra survival tool that the laelia orchid has as well!

Do laelia orchids need fertilizer?

Orchids respond very well to fertilizer, but this has to been applied in a very specific way as well. Laelia orchids can be given a high nitrogen fertilizer starting in the early spring and through late spring into the summer. In the late summer, it can be switched to a high phosphate fertilizer until the fall. Desist using fertilizer at the same time as you stop watering your plant.

How often should a laelia plant be watered?

Alright get your notepad out. Maintaining water level is probably the most complicated part of laelia orchid care, as the water level doesn’t remain the same the whole year through.

Watering should occur during the active growing season of your plant. They should be at about 50% moisture during this time. Though they are drought tolerant thanks to those pseudobulbs, they do prefer some type of moisture. Remember, they get the majority of their survival tools from rainwater!

Now, once the active growing season ends (this will also vary from species to species) all watering should stop. This will quickly result in root rot and the decay of your beautiful plant. The cool thing is that this is the period in which your plant will bloom!

What is the ideal soil type for a laelia orchid?

Luckily for us gardeners, folks have actually created something called “orchid potting mix” because they know how difficult it is to actually imitate the effect of growing ontop of another plant..

Orchid mix is usually made from a mixture of pine bark, charcoal, and clay pellets. If you don’t want to plant your orchid in a pot you can always try growing one mounted on a slab of fern bark. And no, that’s not a joke.

The main thing to remember is that whatever medium you attempt to use, it MUST be well draining. Proper drainage is the best way to keep those fleshy roots happy. Remember, these selected plant families literally grow in the air, so extremely well aerated mix is essential.

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