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.
Watch Now: Caring for and Repotting Your New Orchid
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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.
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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 5 of 20 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," which were all recipients of the American Orchid Society’s Highly Commended Certificate.
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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.
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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 this orchid looks like an octopus because of its dangling petals and sepals. Although not fragrant, it can bloom for several consecutive months.
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Epidendrum OrchidContinue to 9 of 20 below.
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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.
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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.
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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.Continue to 13 of 20 below.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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. You also don't necessarily need to worry about yellowing leaves if they start to appear on this plant.Continue to 17 of 20 below.
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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.
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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.
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