20 Types of Orchids to Use as Houseplants

types of orchids

The Spruce / Nusha Ashjaee 

Orchids are a diverse plant family (Orchidaceae) that includes more than 700 genera and some 28,000 individual species. It is one of the largest of all plant families, and its members are identified by a characteristic bilateral symmetry of the flowers, with upward-facing petals. While there are many native orchids in all regions of the work, those commonly grown by home gardeners tend to be tropical orchids kept as houseplants. Many species of orchids are epiphytic plants—they grow on the surface of other plants and absorb moisture and nutrients from the air. Potted orchids are often moved outdoors during the appropriate months, and many will thrive in bright shade until its time to bring them back indoors.

There are two dozen or so genera of orchids commonly used as houseplants, and many dozens of species and hundreds of cultivars within those groups. Here are 20 recommended groups of orchids you might want to try.

Growing Tip

Orchids have somewhat unique light needs. Although most are categorized as "part shade" plants in their natural environment, orchids grown indoors as houseplant typically need quite a lot of light—either in the form of supplemental lighting or by being placed in a location where there is lots of diffused natural light. When potted orchids are moved outdoors—as can easily be done during suitable months—these "part shade" plants often react badly to even a few hours of direct sun. Outdoors, potted orchids should ideally be placed in a location that is shady but still relatively bright.

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Watch Now: Caring for and Repotting Your New Orchid

  • 01 of 20

    Brassavola Orchids (Brassavola spp.)

    Brassavola subulifolia

    sunoochi / Flickr / CC By 2.0 

    Brassavola orchids have white or greenish flowers with narrow petals, and are exceptionally fragrant, especially in the evening when the perfume is released. The white color is indicative of many flowers that depend on moths for pollination. There are at least 20 species within the Brassavola genus, of which B. nodosa is one of the easiest to grow, especially for beginners.

    • Native Area: Central and South America, West Indies
    • USDA Growing Zones: NA; normally grown as a house plant
    • Height: Depends on species
    • Sun Exposure: Bright indoor lighting or bright outdoor shade
  • 02 of 20

    Catasetum Orchid (Catasetum spp.)

    Catasetum Orchid

     Arne and Bent Larsen​ / Wikimedia Commons / CC By 2.5

    The large number of species within the Catasetum genus are known for their unusual waxy flowers. If your Catasetum orchid leaves begin to yellow and drop off, do not despair; this deciduous orchid loses its leaves naturally during winter dormancy. There is much variation in appearance between Catasetum species, but one feature they all have in common is the trait of producing male or female flowers, which bear little resemblance to each other. The male flowers have an anatomical trigger that forcefully ejects pollen onto visiting bees.

    • Native Area: Central America and northern South America
    • USDA Growing Zones: NA; normally grown as a house plant
    • Height: Depends on species
    • Sun Exposure: Bright diffused indoor lighting or part-shade outdoor location
  • 03 of 20

    Cattleya Orchid (Cattleya spp.)

    Cattleya Orchid


    DebraLee Wiseberg / Getty Images

    Cattleya orchids have been widely hybridized, leading to a large variety of colors and forms. Many Cattleya orchids have appealing freckles, streaks, or other bicolor features. Some varieties are quite fragrant, and they are the most popular corsage orchid.

    • Native Area: Central and South America
    • USDA Growing Zones: NA; normally grown as a house plant
    • Height: 3 inches to 2 feet, depending on species
    • Sun Exposure: Bright indoor lighting, or bright but shady outdoor location
  • 04 of 20

    Cycnoches Orchid (Cycnoches spp.)

    Cycnoches Orchid


    LagunaticPhoto / Getty Images

    This relative of the Cattleya orchid is also known as the swan orchid, as the elegant inflorescence of male flowers resembles a swan’s neck. As many as 30 spicily scented flowers may grow on one long-lived stem. There are nearly 40 accepted species within the genus. These plants must be allowed a dry period after flowering is completed.

    • Native Area: Mexico, Central and South America
    • USDA Growing Zones: NA; normally grown as a house plant
    • Height: Depends on species
    • Sun Exposure: Bright diffused indoor lighting, or bright shady outdoor location
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  • 05 of 20

    Cymbidium Orchid (Cymbidium spp.)

    Cymbidium Orchid

     

    cunfek / Getty Images

    Cymbidium orchids, commonly known as boat orchids, may have small flowers compared to some orchid varieties, but their multiple flower spikes ensure a satisfying display. Good choices for beginners include the lime green 'Chica', the yellow and red 'Showoff', or the bright pink 'Frae', which were all recipients of the American Orchid Society’s Highly Commended Certificate.

    • Native Area: Tropical and subtropical Asia and Australia
    • USDA Growing Zones: NA; normally grown as a house plant
    • Height: 1 to 4 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Bright diffused indoor lighting or bright shade outdoors
  • 06 of 20

    Dendrobium Orchids (Dendrobrium spp.)

    Dendrobium Orchid

     

    Goddard_Photography / Getty Images 

    The top-heavy blooms of Dendrobium orchids often require staking. With more than 1,000 species included in this large orchid genus, the Dendrobium orchids defy easy categorization. The most common varieties you will find in the trade feature white, yellow, or lavender blooms.

    • Native Area: Asia, Australia, Pacific islands
    • USDA Growing Zones: NA; normally grown as a house plant
    • Height: 6 inches to 4 feet (depending on species)
    • Sun Exposure: Bright diffused indoor lighting or part shade outdoor location
  • 07 of 20

    Encyclia Orchids (Encyclia spp.)

    Encyclia Orchid

    tommyhong / Getty Images

    Encyclia orchids, also called cockleshell orchids, thrive when planted on an orchid mount to simulate the epiphytic growing conditions of the wild. Some horticulturists say this orchid looks like an octopus because of its dangling petals and sepals. Although not fragrant, it can bloom for several consecutive months.

    • Native Area: Florida, Mexico, Caribbean
    • USDA Growing Zones: NA; normally grown as a house plant
    • Height: 3 inches to 2 feet, depending on species
    • Sun Exposure: Bright diffused indoor lighting or Bright shade outdoor location
  • 08 of 20

    Epidendrum Orchids (Epidendrum spp.)

    Epidendrum Orchid

    Praiwun / Getty Images

    The Epidendrum genus is large, containing more than 1,000 pure species and many more hybrids. The flowers are petite, and the plants need very bright light to bloom and thrive. Growers of Epidendrum orchids usually need supplemental grow lights when growing these plants indoors.

    • Native Area: Tropical and subtropical North and South America
    • USDA Growing Zones: NA; normally grown as a house plant
    • Height: 6 inches to 6 feet, depending on species
    • Sun Exposure: Bright diffused indoor lighting or part shade outdoor location
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  • 09 of 20

    Ludisia Orchids (Ludisia discolor)

    Ludisia Orchid

     

    Carmen Hauser / Getty Images

    Growing the ​Ludisia orchid, commonly known as the jewel orchid, is rewarding in that the plants look attractive in or out of bloom. The plants bear many stems of tiny white flowers in the fall and winter, and its velvety dark green leaves are equally attractive. This is a rare orchid genus that contains only one species, and it is quite easy to grow.

    • Native Area: Southern and Southeast Asia
    • USDA Growing Zones: NA; normally grown as a house plant
    • Height: 3 to 18 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Bright diffused indoor lighting or bright shade outdoor location
  • 10 of 20

    Lycaste Orchids (Lycaste spp.)

    Lycaste Orchid

     

    Maria Mosolova / Getty Images

    The ​Lycaste orchids, like this 'Sandra Dayan' cultivar, is a deciduous orchid that naturally sheds its leaves during winter dormancy. This reveals spines on the tips of the pseudobulbs, which are sharp enough to draw blood from unsuspecting admirers. The medium-size, long-lasting flowers are usually white, pink, red, or lavender. There are about 30 species within this genus.

    • Native Area: Tropical Central and South America
    • USDA Growing Zones: NA; normally grown as a house plant
    • Height: Up to 18 inches, depending on species
    • Sun Exposure: Strong filtered indoor light or bright shade outdoor location
  • 11 of 20

    Masdevallia Orchids (Masdevalia spp.)

    Masdevallia Orchid

     

    Peter_Murphy / Getty Images 

    The summer-blooming Masdevallia orchid has an atypical flower shape compared to other orchid genera. The flowers are triangular, and while some are blocky and compact, others are thin, elongated, and whiskery. This orchid is very particular about temperature and humidity conditions and is best suited for advanced orchid growers. There are nearly 500 species in this genus, though only a few are typically grown as houseplants.

    • Native Area: Mountainous regions from Mexico to southern Brazil
    • USDA Growing Zones: NA; normally grown as a house plant
    • Height: 1 to 12 inches, depending on species
    • Sun Exposure: Bright filtered indoor light or part shade outdoor location
  • 12 of 20

    Miltonia Orchids (Miltonia spp.)

    Miltonia Orchid

     

    Nakano Masahiro/amanaimagesRF / Getty Images

    It is easy to see how the pansy orchid got its nickname. The blossoms sport the same face-like features that give our favorite cold-weather annual so much personality. However, unlike pansies, the Miltonia orchids continue blooming from late spring into summer. There are 12 twelve epiphytic species within this genus, as well as several naturally occurring hybrids.

    • Native Area: Brazil
    • USDA Growing Zones: NA; normally grown as a house plant
    • Height: Depends on species
    • Sun Exposure: Bright diffused indoor light or part shade outdoor location
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  • 13 of 20

    Oncidium Orchids (Oncidium spp.)

    Oncidium Orchid

    OGphoto / Getty Images

    If your orchid resembles a dancing lady, chances are you are tending an Oncidium orchid. This low-care orchid includes the popular 'Sharry Baby', which emits a sweet cocoa fragrance. These orchids need consistent moisture and humidity. Failure to meet this requirement results in leaf deformities. There are more than 300 species in this genus, most of which are epiphytic, growing on the surface of other plants and absorbing moisture and nutrients from the air.

    • Native Area: Mexico, Central and South America, West Indies 
    • USDA Growing Zones: NA; normally grown as a house plant
    • Height: 6 inches to 10 feet, depending on species
    • Sun Exposure: Bright indoor light or a shady but bright outdoor location
  • 14 of 20

    Paphiopedlium Orchids (Paphiopedum spp.)

    Lady’s slipper orchid

     

    Jobrestful / Getty Images 

    Also known as the lady’s slipper orchid, this is an easy houseplant for the beginning orchid enthusiast. Flowers range from cheerful yellow, pink, or white shades to moody burgundies, browns, and near-black shades. Freckles, stripes, and bristly hairs are common features on these unusual flowers. As a bonus, some plants have speckled foliage as well.

    • Native Area: Southern China, Southeast Asia, New Guinea
    • USDA Growing Zones: NA; normally grown as a house plant
    • Height: 3 to 24 inches, depending on species
    • Sun Exposure: Diffused indoor light or shady outdoor location
  • 15 of 20

    Phaius Orchids (Phaius spp.)

    Phaius orchid

     

    NonChanon / Getty Images

    If you have a Phaius orchid in your collection, you will quickly find out that these 4-foot-tall specimens do not belong on a windowsill. The leaves are large and strappy, and the many flower spikes may produce purple, white, or yellow flowers. This winter bloomer also goes by the common name nun’s cap orchid. There are about 45 species within this genus; the one most commonly grown is Phaius tancarvilleae (the nun’s orchid).

    • Native Area: Tropical Africa, Asia, Australia, and Pacific islands
    • USDA Growing Zones: NA; normally grown as a house plant
    • Height: 1 to 4 feet, depending on species
    • Sun Exposure: Bright indoor light or part shade outdoor location
  • 16 of 20

    Phalaenopsis Orchids (Phalaenopsis spp.)

    Phalaenopsis Orchid

     

    borchee / Getty Images 

    Commonly known as moth orchids, the species in the Phalaenopsis genus are ideal orchids for beginners, since they tolerate clumsy repotting efforts, and bloom on and off throughout the year. These orchids prefer diffused lighting conditions but are otherwise very easy to grow. There are about 75 recognized species within the genus and many dozens of readily available cultivars.

    • Native Area: India, China, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and Australia 
    • USDA Growing Zones: NA; normally grown as a house plant
    • Height: 1 to 3 feet, depending on species
    • Sun Exposure: Indirect indoor lighting or shady outdoor location
    Continue to 17 of 20 below.
  • 17 of 20

    Phragmipedium Orchids (Phragmipedium spp.)

    Phragmipedium Orchid

     

    Marek Stefunko / Getty Images

    If you cannot stop yourself from watering your orchids (to death), Phragmipedium is the type for you. It is different from other orchids in that it thrives in wet conditions, even preferring wet feet. You can recognize these flowers by the little pouch flanked by Fu Manchu mustache petals. There are about 20 recognized species within this genus.

    • Native Area: Southwest Mexico, tropical Central and South America
    • USDA Growing Zones: NA; normally grown as a house plant
    • Height: Up to 3 feet, depending on species
    • Sun Exposure: Bright indoor light or bright outdoor shade
  • 18 of 20

    Psychopsis Orchids (Psychopsis spp.)

    Psychopsis Orchid

     

    danielzgombic / Getty Images 

    Psychopsis (butterfly orchids) should be more popular than they are. They are easy to grow, and have fascinating flowers and showy burgundy and green speckled foliage. Grow these in moderate light for months of blooms. They have a good tolerance for a wide temperature range. This is a relatively small genus, with only five recognized species.

    • Native Area: Central and South America, Trinidad
    • USDA Growing Zones: NA; normally grown as a house plant
    • Height: Depends on species
    • Sun Exposure: Diffused indoor light or shady outdoor location
  • 19 of 20

    Vanda Orchids (Vanda spp.)

    Vanda Orchid

     Nisoh Salaeh / Getty Images

    The Vanda genus includes about 80 recognized species known for their show, fragrant, long-lasting flowers. You will often see them growing in special orchid baskets; otherwise, you must use a very chunky growing medium for these plants. These orchids are picky about their environment and demand high light and humidity.

    • Native Area: East and Southeast Asia, New Guinea,
    • USDA Growing Zones: NA; normally grown as a house plant
    • Height: 3 inches to 3 feet, depending on species
    • Sun Exposure: Varies depending on species
  • 20 of 20

    Zygopetalum Orchids (Zygopetalum spp.)

    Zygopetalum Orchid

     

    pisces2386 / Getty Images 

    Happy Zygopetalum orchids produce fragrant blooms almost constantly from fall to spring, making gardeners feel like they are cheating winter. The flowers often sport handsome veining and spotting of chartreuse, purple, and maroon. There are currently 14 recognized species within this genus.

    • Native Area: South America (mostly Brazil)
    • USDA Growing Zones: NA; normally grown as a house plant
    • Height: Up to 2 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Bright diffused indoor light, or bright outdoor shade