The Epidendrum genus of orchids contains over 1,000 different species. Their name comes from the Greek words "epi" and "dendron," meaning "upon trees." Most epidendrum orchids are epiphytic species, so they typically grow on trees. They collect their nutrients from the air and surfaces around them through exposed roots and are one of the easiest orchids to maintain. Epidendrum can also take full sun.
The leaves on Epidendrum orchids are leathery and waxy; the most common shades of flowers are red, purple, yellow, orange, and white. These plants are easier to keep indoors. But, if you live in a 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.
Flowering varies, occurring several times of the year, usually over the spring or summer. Some, like long reed stem epidendrums, grow in the ground and thrive in low-nutrient environments. The species with clusters of three-lobed flowers are called crucifix orchids since they look similar to the religious symbol. Others have pseudobulbs, which must be kept moist while the plant is in bloom. After flowering, they go dormant for several weeks.
|Common Name||Epidendrum orchid, crucifix orchid|
|Botanical Name||Epidendrum spp.|
|Plant Type||Tropical and subtropical evergreen, epiphytes|
|Mature Size||Varies by species|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil Type||Loamy, sandy, well-drained|
|Bloom Time||Spring, summer|
|Flower Color||Yellow, purple, pink, red, and white|
|Hardiness Zones||10-11 (USDA)|
|Native Areas||North America, South America|
Epidendrum Orchid Care
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 broader range of conditions compared to many other orchid species, although they 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 orchid 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, they can cope with a variety of potting mixes when container-grown. 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 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 watering once every two or three weeks may even help 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
Different Epidendrum species vary widely in temperature requirements. 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.
They usually prefer temperatures around the low 70s during the day and nothing below 10 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Ideally, humidity levels are good 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 14 days.
Propagating Epidendrum Orchids
Propagation is simple; cuttings are not needed. Epidendrum orchids easily form baby clones of the main plant. These keikis or baby sprouts can be cut from the orchid and replanted. Moist sphagnum moss is popular bedding for transplanted keikis.
Being Grown in Containers
Although growing many Epidendrum species outdoors is possible, 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. Orchids don't acclimate well to change, so only repot Epidendrums every three years, only if the soil looks crusty and needs refreshing.
The key is finding a spot your orchid thrives in and not being tempted to change it. They don't appreciate being moved, and their health can suffer.
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.