Spathoglottis Orchids

spathoglottis orchid
Photo © McGuff/Flickr

Spathoglottis is a genus of about forty orchids with a wide natural distribution; they occur throughout the Pacific, in India, and in many other diverse locales around the world. Sometimes colloquially known as “garden orchids”, many Spathoglottis make great domestic garden plants and are an easy introduction to the world of orchid cultivation for beginners.

They are known for their large, showy flowers, and come in a wide variety of colors and sizes.

They are tropical orchids and will not survive frost; they thrive in a warm, wet environment. All Spathoglottis plants are terrestrial, which means they make an ideal orchid for ground beds in tropical landscape gardens. However, many Spathoglottis species can also be easily cultivated in pots. Their flowers range from purple to white to yellow, with lots of variety.

Consider growing Spathoglottis if you are cultivating a tropical landscape garden, or if you want a seasonally flowering plant in a cooler climate. With enough sun and moisture, most of these orchids can provide a colorful and attractive display without being too difficult for beginning gardeners.

Growing Conditions

  • Light: Full sun to light shade; many grow well in shadehouse conditions. They should receive direct sunlight for at least part of the day.
  • Water: They should be kept moist, especially during the growing season when they need more water. However, make sure not to overwater to avoid root rot.
  • Temperature: Tropical temperatures, and about a minimum of sixty degrees at night. They should generally be kept in the 75-90 degree range. They will not live in frost and should be kept out of freezing temperatures.
  • Soil: They like some organic material – a garden loam with some added peat should do nicely. Make sure their drainage is good, as well.
  • Fertilizer: These orchids are vigorous and need regular fertilization; constant liquid fertilization of nitrogen works well, and many gardeners use a slow-release fertilizer as well. The specific fertilization requirements of your orchid depend on species, light, moisture, and temperature: look into the requirements of your plant.

Propagation

Generally propagated through clump division. Separate plants from the clump and replant in organically rich soil, either in a pot or the ground. Make sure to give the new plants enough space for their roots to fully develop. They require especially high nutrient levels in the time after initial propagation.

Repotting

If you’re growing Spathoglottis terrestrially, repotting isn’t necessary, but potted plants should be repotted in a rich organic potting mixture once the soil has become depleted. Their root systems are fairly extensive for their size, and make sure not to damage them.

Varieties

Though the forty-odd species of Spathoglottis are all terrestrial, tropical orchids, there is some diversity in color and shape. One of the most popular varieties is the S. plicata, or “ground orchid”, which often grows on roadsides in tropical areas and displays bright purple or white flowers.

The S. pubescens grows in yellow and is native to India and southeast Asia, though it is commonly grown elsewhere as well.

Many are used in tropical gardens as ground plants, particularly plicata, the deep purple grapette, and the spiky and attractive S. cabaret; many of these plants are available in tropical nurseries.

Grower’s Tips

Given lots of fertilizer and nutrition, light, and warmth, Spathoglottis orchids will generally reward you with bright flowers about six to seven months after initial planting. Keep them out of frost and plant them in a peat-based, well-drained, organic soil mix. During the growing season in spring, they will need to be watered more heavily. Make sure to remove dead foliage to give the plant space to grow, as well.

But in general Spathoglottis make good beginner orchids because of their ease; new gardeners looking for introductory orchids would do well to start here.