Anguloa is a genus of tropical orchids, native to South America and distinguishable by their waxy, bright flowers. Commonly referred to as tulip orchids, these plants are high-elevation growers found in the forests of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru; in fact, the name of the genus derives from the director-general of the Peruvian mines. The flowers of tulip orchids are quite lovely—though typically white, some also come in yellow or red, and a single plant can sustain many flowers while in bloom.
They also grow long, deciduous leaves from their pseudobulbs.
Anguloas require tropical conditions to live and should only be grown by gardeners who can mimic the high-humidity, high-temperature conditions of the rainforest. Though some varieties can grow as epiphytes, typically these plants are terrestrial. They hybridize well with other orchids and are quite similar to Lycaste orchids in growth habit and appearance. These plants can also be identified by the distinctive smell of their flowers, which somewhat resembles cinnamon.
Though tulip orchids are not common in domestic cultivation, they’re a good option for gardeners with the resources and conditions to grow tropical orchids. Most nurseries won’t have them, though; you’ll likely need to consult a specialty source to obtain these plants.
- Light: Dappled sunlight or partial shade is best, similar to sunlight filtered through the rainforest canopy.
- Water: These plants need lots and lots of humidity to thrive and should often be moistened.
- Temperature: Warm tropical temperatures above fifty degrees. They’re not tolerant to frost.
- Soil: Grow in a typical orchid mix that drains very well like chopped sphagnum moss. For some species, soil isn’t necessary.
- Fertilizer: Feed regularly with a balanced, diluted fertilizer like a 20-20-20 to spur growth.
Propagation Anguloas can be accomplished by severing the stems. Take cuttings using a sterilized tool and consider treating the cuttings with rooting hormone to facilitate the process. Then replant in moist, well-drained soil. Many gardeners bag the cuttings to seal in heat and moisture. Remember to be patient: orchid propagation is an inexact science.
If grown terrestrially, Anguloas will benefit from sporadic repotting to keep their medium fresh. Simply lift the plant as a whole and replace in a hanging basket, then backfill it with soil. Make sure not to hurt their roots in the process; the less contact you have with them, the better.
The type species of Anguloa is A. uniflora, which is native to Peru and grows the waxy flowers characteristic of the genus. Also notable is A. clowesii, which blooms yellow flowers. Tulip orchids also make good hybrids with other species of tropical orchids: for instance, acostae, rolfei, and speciosa. Many of these hybrids are themselves found in the tropical forest, though most of the others are specific to horticulture.
As with all tropical orchids, growing Anguloas successfully is largely a matter of balance.
All elements necessary to their survival must interplay; the level of sunlight they’re exposed to is weighted against the amount of water needed to keep them fresh, and the amount of new air that circulates must be sufficient to prevent the plants from suffocating in humidity. Fertilizing them is a good idea, and watch out for common orchid pests like scale and spider mites. These types of pests can often be dealt with simply by wiping them away, but more serious infestations could necessitate the use of a good, eco-friendly pesticide. For most gardeners, it’ll probably be easier to grow these plants terrestrially than as epiphytes, although as stated tulip orchids are not particularly common and are considered exotic by the botanical world.