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The Many Types of Orchids
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’re growing.Continue to 2 of 21 below.
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If your Catasetum orchid leaves begin to yellow and drop off, don’t 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 bear an anatomical trigger that forcefully ejects pollen onto visiting bees.Continue to 4 of 21 below.
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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.Continue to 5 of 21 below.
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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.Continue to 6 of 21 below.
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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,’ all recipients of the American Orchid Society’s Highly Commended Certificate.Continue to 7 of 21 below.
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The top-heavy blooms of the Dendrobium orchid often require staking. With more than 1000 species included in this large orchid genus, the Dendrobium orchid defies easy categorization. The most common varieties you’ll find in the trade feature white, yellow, or lavender blooms.Continue to 8 of 21 below.
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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 the Encyclia orchid looks an octopus because of its dangling petals and sepals. Although not fragrant, the Encyclia orchid can bloom for several consecutive months.Continue to 9 of 21 below.
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The epidendrum genus is large, containing more than 1000 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 grow lights when growing these orchids indoors.Continue to 10 of 21 below.
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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.Continue to 11 of 21 below.
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The Lycaste orchid, like the ‘Sandra Dayan’ variety pictured here, 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.Continue to 12 of 21 below.
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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.Continue to 13 of 21 below.
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It’s 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.Continue to 14 of 21 below.
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If your orchid resembles a dancing lady, chances are you’re 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.Continue to 15 of 21 below.
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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.Continue to 16 of 21 below.
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If you have a Phaius orchid in your collection, you’ll quickly find out that the four-foot specimens don’t 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.”Continue to 17 of 21 below.
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I’m always relieved when orchids have common names like this Moth orchid, so I don’t make a fool of myself at the nursery trying to pronounce “phalaenopsis.” This orchid is ideal for beginners, tolerating clumsy repotting efforts and blooming on and off throughout the year.Continue to 18 of 21 below.
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If you can’t stop yourself from watering your orchids (to death), Phragmipedium is the type for you. It’s different from other orchids in that in thrives in wet conditions, even preferring wet feet. You can recognize these flowers by the little pouch flanked by Fu Manchu mustache petals, begging the gardener to anthropomorphize each and every blossom.Continue to 19 of 21 below.
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I’m not sure why the Butterfly Orchid isn’t more popular in the trade: it’s easy to grow, has fascinating flowers, and showy burgundy and green speckled foliage. Grow these in moderate light for months of blooms.Continue to 20 of 21 below.
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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 conditions.Continue to 21 of 21 below.
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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.