Types of Orchids and Identification Photos

types of orchids

Illustration: Nusha Ashjaee © The Spruce, 2018

Once you develop more than a passing interest in orchids, you will quickly notice how diverse this exotic plant family is. Encompassing genera that yield both the vanilla you love to bake with and fragrances you love to wear, each flower has unique characteristics and care requirements. Compare your plants to some of the most commonly cultivated orchids to help you determine what type of orchid you are growing.

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Watch Now: Caring for and Repotting Your New Orchid

  • 01 of 20

    Brassavola Orchid

    Brassavola subulifolia
    Orchi/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

    If you have a brassavola orchid like this one in your home or garden, you may smell it before you see it. The perfume releases only in the evening and the white color is indicative of many flowers that depend on moths for pollination.

  • 02 of 20

    Catasetum Orchid

    Catasetum Orchid
    Quinn Dombrow

    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.

  • 03 of 20

    Cattleya Orchid

    Cattleya Orchid
    Lisle Boomer

    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 Cattleya orchids are quite fragrant, and they are the most popular corsage orchid.

  • 04 of 20

    Cycnoches Orchid

    Cycnoches Orchid
    Elena Gaillard

    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.

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  • 05 of 20

    Cymbidium Orchid

    Cymbidium Orchid
    Juan Barrios

    Cymbidium 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.

  • 06 of 20

    Dendrobium Orchid

    Dendrobium Orchid
    Richard Bitting

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

  • 07 of 20

    Encyclia Orchid

    Encyclia Orchid
    Benson Kua

    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.

  • 08 of 20

    Epidendrum Orchid

    Epidendrum Orchid
    Christine Cimala

    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. Epidendrum growers usually need supplemental growlights when growing these orchids indoors.

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  • 09 of 20

    Ludisia Orchid

    Ludisia Orchid
    cliff1066//Flickr

    Growing a ​Ludisia orchid, 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.

  • 10 of 20

    Lycaste Orchid

    Lycaste Orchid
    Elena Gaillard

    The ​Lycaste orchid, like the "Sandra Dayan" variety pictured, 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 flowers are usually white, pink, red, or lavender.

  • 11 of 20

    Masdevallia Orchid

    Masdevallia Orchid
    flickr user rduta

    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 for advanced orchid growers.

  • 12 of 20

    Miltonia Orchid

    Miltonia Orchid
    highlimitzz//Flickr

    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 orchid continues blooming from late spring into summer.

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  • 13 of 20

    Oncidium Orchid

    Oncidium Orchid
    Luis Perez

    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.

  • 14 of 20

    Paphiopedlium Orchid

    Lady's Slipper Orchid
    David Eickhoff

    The lady’s slipper orchid 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.

  • 15 of 20

    Phaius Orchid

    Phaius Orchid
    Nico Nelson

    If you have a phaius orchid in your collection, you will quickly find out that the four-foot 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.

  • 16 of 20

    Phalaenopsis Orchid

    Moth Orchid
    flickr user Tracie7779

    Some orchids can be tough to pronounce, like phalaenopsis, which fortunately goes by the common name, moth orchid. This orchid is ideal for beginners, tolerates clumsy repotting efforts, and blooms on and off throughout the year.

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  • 17 of 20

    Phragmipedium Orchid

    Phragmipedium Orchid
    Rosita Choque

    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.

  • 18 of 20

    Psychopsis Orchid

    Butterfly Orchid
    Christine Cimala

    Psychopsis or butterfly orchid should be more popular than it is. It is easy to grow, has fascinating flowers, and showy burgundy and green speckled foliage. Grow these in moderate light for months of blooms.

  • 19 of 20

    Vanda Orchid

    Vanda Orchid
    Maja Dumat

    Vanda orchids are as exotic as their name. 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.

  • 20 of 20

    Zygopetalum Orchid

    Zygopetalum Orchid
    Rictor Norton and David Allen

    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.