The Epidendrum genus of Orchids contains over 1,000 different species. Although there can be considerable differences between each individual species, they do share similar care requirements and have some identifiable generic traits.
Most species of epidendrum orchids are epiphytic. This means they typically grow on trees. This is actually where the inspiration for their name comes from. The greek words epi and dendron translate to "upon trees". Because they then have to collect their nutrients from the air and surfaces around them through exposed roots, it means they can be one of the easiest to maintain orchid types. Some types do grow in the ground but still thrive in low-nutrient environments.
These plants are sometimes also referred to as Crucifix Orchids. This relates to the fact that most of the species have clusters of three-lobed flowers that look similar to this religious symbol. Some forms of Epidendrum have long reed stems, and they make great additions to a vase of cut flowers. Others have pseudobulbs which need to be kept moist while the plant is in bloom. After their flowering stage, they go dormant for several weeks.
The flowering stage can be at varying times of the year, but it's usually over the spring or summer.
The leaves on Epidendrum Orchids are usually leathery and waxy, and the most common shades of flowers are red, yellow, orange, and white. These plants are usually easier to keep indoors. If you live in a suitable warm climate, you could try the trickier task of growing them outdoors. There are several dwarf species of Epidendrum, but some can grow to be as high as six feet tall and won't be great options as houseplants.
We have outlined some general Epidendrum Orchid care guidelines below, but it's important to do your research. As with all orchid species, they can sometimes have rather particular care requirements, depending on the species you have selected.
How to Grow Epidendrum Orchids
These relatively hardy Orchids will often flower more than once in a season. They can handle low nutrient locations and don't need intensive maintenance. Epidendrums can adapt to a wider range of conditions in comparison with many other orchid species, although they do prefer a warm environment.
Depending on the species, most Epidendrums like full sun or partial shade conditions. Getting the light right is one of the trickiest parts of any orchids care. Too little and they may not bloom, too much and their leaves can start to burn and turn brown.
Bright but in-direct light often yields the best results. Preferably they shouldn't be positioned somewhere that means being exposed to extreme direct sun during the most intense summer months.
The main requirement for Epidendrum Orchids is that they're potted in a site with good drainage. If they're being grown outdoors, loamy, sandy soil will be the best option.
Known for thriving in low nutrient planting material, when container-grown, they can cope with a variety of potting mixes. Things like bark mixed with perlite, gravel, moss or coarse sand usually work well. There are even potting mixes available specifically for orchids or cactuses that will do the job.
Epidendrums need regular watering to flourish, but their roots do prefer to dry out properly in-between times. In the warmer months, they'll need watering at least once a week and possibly more frequently.
In the cooler months, you won't need to water so often. Only opting for once a fortnight or every few weeks watering during this time may even help to encourage more healthy bud growth.
As with all orchids, it's all about getting the right balance. They won't appreciate being allowed to get dehydrated or being left waterlogged. It's also important to water in the morning, to prevent stagnation.
Temperature and Humidity
The requirements of the individual Epidendrum species can vary widely, so make sure you do your research.
In general, however, these orchids are pretty tough and resilient. They can cope with a range of temperatures but won't be able to handle freezing conditions.
Their preference is usually for temperatures around the low 70s during the day and nothing below ten degrees Fahrenheit at night.
Ideally, humidity levels will be between 50 and 70%.
Your Epidendrum will likely appreciate being fed a diluted mix of a high-quality and balanced orchid fertilizer once a week or fortnight.
Propagating Epidendrum Orchids
Because Epidendrum Orchids easily form baby clones of the main plant, this means propagation is simple. These keikis, as they're called, can be cut from the orchid and replanted. Moist sphagnum moss is a popular bedding for the transplanted keikis to establish in.
Being Grown in Containers
Although it's possible to grow many Epidendrum species outdoors, they often need very particular temperatures and environments to thrive. Unless you're a dedicated enthusiast, you may find it easier to keep them in containers indoors.
The key is finding a spot that your orchid thrives in and then not being tempted to change it. They don't appreciate being moved, and their health can suffer as a result.
Some of the taller varieties won't be so well suited to being grown indoors. They could become too top-heavy and may need staking or a heavier pot to keep them stable.