The Aerangis genus comprises many tropical orchids which can be distinguished by their lovely white, star-shaped flowers. The genus contains about fifty plants, and though they mostly originate in tropical regions of Africa a few are also native to the islands of the Indian ocean. Aerangis orchids, though uncommon in cultivation, are not overly difficult to grow and many novice gardeners would benefit from them.
Typically, these orchids are epiphytes, and they’re often grown in hanging baskets, but a few varieties also grow terrestrially. The best and most distinctive feature of an Aerangis plant is its flowers, which are usually white or yellow and shaped like five-pointed stars. Not only do these flowers give off a pleasant aroma, but they also bloom with regularity.
A single Aerangis specimen can bear many flowers at once. Their leaves are evergreen, and their spurs contain nectar that is pleasing to birds. Despite their relative rarity, several species of Aerangis plants, like A. citrata, are sometimes grown by hobbyists, and there also exist a few hybrids available to orchid aficionados and botanical experts. Gardeners who can mimic the tropical conditions in which the Aerangis orchid thrives would be advised to consider plants of this understated and pleasant genus.
- Light: These tropical orchids need lots and lots of bright, direct sunlight in order to thrive.
- Water: Aerangis orchids need a very moist environment, especially when grown epiphytically. Keep them well-watered.
- Temperature: Warm tropical temperatures above about fifty degrees. These plants are not frost tolerant.
- Soil: A well-draining epiphyte mix is best, like chopped sphagnum moss with Styrofoam. Good drainage is essential: standing water will kill these plants.
- Fertilizer: Feed regularly with a balanced, diluted fertilizer during the growing season in spring and summer. Their fertilizer can be scaled back during the dormant season in fall and winter.
These epiphytes can be propagated by division. Cut away a large section from the stem and replant it in warm, moist conditions. Many gardeners cover new divisions with bags in order to seal in moisture, and you can also treat the cuttings with rooting hormone. Be patient: it can take a little while for tropical orchids to root in a new environment.
Many people mount Aerangis plants on a sheer, vertical surface, like cork or hardwood. If you choose to grow your plants this way, repotting them won’t be necessary. However, they can also be grown in hanging baskets, in which case it’s a good idea to change out their container once every few years or so. Lift the plant as a whole and try not to damage its root systems, which are fairly fragile.
One relatively popular Aerangis is A. citrata, a variant from Madagascar with yellowish flowers. It’s from those flowers that it derives its name, which means “lemon-colored”. Also popular with collectors are the several hybrids of Aerangis with other orchid genera: the Aerangis genus hybridizes easily with Angraecum, Aeranthes, and several other orchid variants.
As is true of the majority of tropical orchids, successfully growing Aerangis plants depends on maintaining a proper balance of the various elements on which they depend. They need a well-aerated environment, lots of sunlight, and lots of moisture in the air. Remember to feed them regularly, and if their blooms are insufficient you can always up their fertilizer levels. Aerangis plants are especially well-suited to grow vertically on a hard surface, so certainly consider mounting your plant if you grow one. These are fairly simple orchids that beginners should be able to grow with a little effort; just watch out for common orchid pests, like scale and aphids, that may prey on your plants.