The Dendrobium genus is one of the largest of all orchid groups with nearly 2,000 species. Native to southeast Asia, these plants grow in all manner of climates—from hot, wet lowlands to high-altitude, cool mountains. Dendrobiums are primarily epiphytes, meaning they grow on other plants. In nature, they're often found growing on tree branches. While the species vary in appearance, all of them are known for their profuse blooms that come in a variety of pastel tones. Some species bloom all along the lengths of their stems while others bloom just from the tops of the stems. Some are deciduous and drop their leaves in the fall, and some hold on to their leaves year-round. Most species have a moderate to fast growth rate. The best time to plant is either at the very beginning of the growing season or after the orchid has finished flowering.
|Botanical Name||Dendrobium spp.|
|Common Name||Dendrobium orchid|
|Mature Size||0.5–4 ft. tall and wide|
|Soil Type||Moist but well-drained|
|Flower Color||White, yellow, orange, green, pink, purple, brown|
|Hardiness Zones||9–12 (USDA)|
Watch Now: How to Grow and Care for Dendrobium Orchids
Dendrobium Orchid Care
Dendrobium orchids make good houseplants and are fairly easy to grow, though they can be picky about their environment. Thus, paying close attention to their growing conditions is key for a healthy, well-blooming plant. In general, these orchids like small pots where their roots can be somewhat cramped, and they need to be by a bright window if you're keeping them indoors. Plan to water and feed your orchid often during the growing season but then back off in the winter months.
These plants generally send up at least one new upright cane each year. Don't cut off old canes, as they store nutrients and water to keep the orchid healthy. Old canes also will sometimes flower or produce tiny plants, called keikis (pronounced "kay-keys"), that can be potted on their own after they develop roots. The long-lasting sprays of flowers remain in bloom for roughly six to eight weeks, and they can make excellent cut flowers. In optimal conditions, your plant might bloom multiple times per year. If blooming seems suboptimal, try providing your orchid with more light.
These plants grow well in partial sunlight in nature. But indoors they'll likely need to be by your brightest window—preferably a south-facing window—to bloom well. The appearance of keikis can mean the plant isn't getting enough light. On the other hand, if you see yellow leaves, you might have given the plant too much direct sunlight.
Orchids don't grow in typical potting soil but rather in a special mixture that mimics their environment in the wild. Use a commercial orchid potting medium, which generally contains peat moss, perlite, or fir bark. Or make your own using those ingredients. Make sure the medium has aeration and is well-draining, so the roots aren't left in too much moisture for a lengthy period of time.
During the growing season, these plants like moisture but shouldn't sit in a saturated medium. Overwatering can lead to root rot and ultimately cause the plant to yellow or wilt. To determine when you should water, simply stick your finger in the medium. If it feels wet, wait to water until it has slightly dried out. During the winter months, you can put a few more days in between your regular waterings, but don't let the medium dry out entirely.
Temperature and Humidity
Dendrobium orchids like warm climates and prefer a temperature above 60 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. They might be able to withstand slightly cooler nighttime temperatures down to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but prolonged exposure to cold isn't ideal. Furthermore, they prefer a humidity level between 50% and 70% (with a minimum of 45%). Brown leaf tips can be a sign that the air is too dry for your orchid.
Feed regularly during the growing season with a balanced orchid fertilizer, following label instructions. At the end of the growing season, reduce fertilizer by about half.
Dendrobium Orchid Varieties
Some popular species of these orchids include:
- Dendrobium aphyllum: Muted yellow, lavender, pink, or white flowers
- Dendrobium anosmum: Pink or purple flowers
- Dendrobium crumenatum: White flowers on spindle-like stems
- Dendrobium cucumerinum: White or yellow-green flowers with red-purple stripes
- Dendrobium taurinum: Lavender to purple flowers with petals shaped like horns
Propagating Dendrobium Orchids
If your plant has at least four canes bearing healthy leaves, you can divide it. Use a large stiff knife to cut through the rhizome and root mass, attempting to keep the root mass as intact as possible. Remove all the growing medium from the root mass, and then cut away any long dangling or dead roots. Put the plant in a pot close to the size of its root mass, and cover the roots with orchid potting medium. Press down the potting medium firmly, and wait one week to water it thoroughly.
De, Lakshman Chandra, et al. Commercial Orchids. De Gruyter Open, 2014
Hachadourian, Marc. Orchid Modern: Living and Designing with the World's Most Elegant Houseplants. Timber Press, 2019