Many novice growers steer clear of orchids, afraid they're demanding and challenging to grow. But orchids are one of the easiest houseplants to care for, requiring minimal knowledge and effort.
There are also nearly 300,000 varieties of orchid plants, making them a collector's dream. When blooming, orchids put on a spectacular display of color and texture. Even dormant, their large, lush green leaves and exposed roots contribute to the vibe of your plant collection.
Orchids belong to the Orchidaceae family, one of the two largest families of flowering plants.
Most orchids are epiphytic, meaning they grow on other plants or trees. Epiphytic plants aren't parasitic. However, they gain nutrients from the air, rain, or debris surrounding them.
Some orchids are terrestrial, growing in soil.
Specific information related to growth will depend upon the species of orchid.
Orchids have a long history. They are noted throughout history and can be found in most areas of the world, except Antarctica. Orchids were prominent in places like Greece, China, and Rome as far back as 500 BC.
Although there are many genera within the orchid family, the name "orchid" is derived from the Greek word orkhis, which translates to "testicle" and refers to the typical shape of the root within the family Orchidaceae.
In addition, the Greek myth of Orchis is associated with the origin of the orchid. It's said that after drinking too much and committing immoral acts, Orchis was sentenced by the gods to live the remainder of his life as a flower. Hence the orchid.
While orchids are readily available anywhere, the largest and most diverse concentrations are in Asia and South and Central America.
Although highly diverse, orchids share some similar characteristics:
Tall, curved flower spikes (stems)
Brightly colored flowers with petals and sepals (interior petals) in sets of three.
Slow growth rate
The flower of an orchid possesses both male and female reproductive organs. The female organ is called the stigma, and the male portion is the anther. These organs are housed in a gynostemium or column found in the flower's center.
Each orchid species will have distinctive traits like size, color, and petal shape outside these common attributes.
Types Of Orchids
To say that there are many types of orchids is an understatement.
Within the Orchidaceae family, there are more than 1,000 genera which is the classification level between family and species. Across the over 1,000 genera, the plants break out into 25,000+ species and can be further broken down into 300,000 varieties.
The overwhelming numbers are part of what can make growing orchids seem like a daunting task. But even with such a wealth of diversity, there are some favorites among seasoned growers and beginners.
The top 10 most common genera of orchids grown are listed below. Each genus listed will contain several orchid species, all with unique features.
Cattleya orchids. Common name corsage orchid or queen of the orchids.
Cymbidium orchid. Common name boat orchid. It can tolerate colder temperatures than many other species.
Dendrobium orchid. Common names include bull orchid and pigeon orchid. This is the largest genus containing more than 2,000 species of orchids.
Miltonia orchid. The common name is the pansy orchid. This orchid doesn't go dormant and will grow all year long.
Oncidium orchid. Common name dancing lady orchid. This orchid can have dozens of flowers blooming at once.
Paphiopedilum orchid. Common name slipper orchid or Venus slipper orchid. This is one of the most popular orchids for beginners due to the ease of care.
Phalaenopsis orchid. Common name moth orchid and one of the most popular.
Vanda orchid. Common name grey orchid or checkered vanda. One of the only orchids to produce blue flowers.
Zygopetalum orchid. Common name zygo orchid. This genus contains the most significant number of orchids grown in households.
Ludisia Orchid. Common name jewel orchid. While the orchid flower is generally the primary attraction, the orchid leaves on the jewel orchid are the main feature in this case.
In their natural habitats, orchids grow in tropical, humid areas, often on trees. This allows them to pull water from the air and take advantage of the nearby nutrients. This makes them ideal for styling in terrariums with moisture-loving plants or grouped with other tropical plants, like Monstera or rubber plants.
When grown indoors, orchids need an appropriate container to thrive. These are usually clear pots with several holes for drainage. It's not uncommon for the roots of the orchids to grow through the holes in the pot and outside of it. While this isn't a problem, it can be unsightly and put the roots in harm's way.
The clear pots can easily be placed in larger, decorative pots and changed as needed. Actual repotting of your orchid into a new container is only necessary every 1.5-2 years.