With all the snow we’ve been having, I thought i would post a photo of Phalaenopsis amabilis, an orchid species from Southeast Asia that is in bloom now! It has pristine snowy white flowers, and has been used to breed the standard large flowered white phalaenopsis orchids that have become so ubiquitous. Nevertheless, there is something charming about this species, with its small delicate flowers that are produced in great abundance.
Those of you who’ve grown flames lillies (gloriosa superba) will notice that the flowers set pods very easily… The pods are actually quite large and bulbous, and will weigh down the vines seemingly to breaking point. Usually, by the time the plants die down for fall, the seed pods are still very green. Last fall, I saved one of he seed pods but never really expected it to ripen.
To my surprise, after coming back from two weeks vacation in Dec-Jan, I saw that the pod had turned black, and had shriveled and split open as if to release its seeds. The seeds themselves were large and round and also a beautiful orange-red color! Next year, I plan to save all the seed pods and enjoy them over the winter. They can be placed decoratively in a small bowl; a nice reminder in the middle of winter that warmer flower-filled days lie ahead… You can see a photo of the seed pod on the plant here in an earlier post.
Thailand has long been synonymous with orchids and for a good reason. Not only do orchids abound naturally, but there is a long history of orchid cultivation. Now, cattleyas, and other non-native orchids, are grown alongside local varieties. Wherever you go in Bangkok, you see orchids, whether in a fancy arrangements in a hotel lobby, hanging outside in front of a modest home, or simply growing epiphytically on trees for the pleasure of all who pass them.
These photos were taken in Thailand last fall, mostly at the weekend Chatachuk market where people converge to buy orchids, from cheap dendrobiums to highly sought rarities. (Also see our earlier post, Tropical Houseplants in Bangkok)
I’ve seen more cattleyas in Thailand then anywhere else in south-East Asia. Granted I haven’t been to Malaysia, but even in Indonesia or Singapore, they are not as common. Thai growers will have many different types for sale-they are so ubiquitous that they often do not have name tags attached!
Vandas are native to south-east Asia, but are slow growing plants. They demand bright light, heat and humidity and are grown to perfection in Thailand and other south-east Asian countries.
Below are some more unusual orchids. Paphiopedilums, phalaenopsis, bulbophyllums and many other unusual orchids can also be found at the weekend market.
(Below)This type of Vanda hybrid, probably a Mokara, is very common through south-east Asia. They are the equivalent of carnations (though much more exotic) and you will seem them widely used as cut flowers often in huge bunches. They come in a variety of colors from the yellow through red part of the spectrum, often in rich oranges and sunset shades with darker spots on the blooms.
Well, a few weeks ago, I dug up my gloriosa superba(flame lilly) tubers and it seemed they had multiplied in their pot! I wrapped them in a kitchen towel with some dampish peat and then in one of those plastic mesh bags that you buy avocados or clementines in. Remember, these tubers are living things so you don’t want to wrap them up in an airtight or plastic bag, as chances are they will get mouldy and even rot.
They’re tucked away in storage closet, hibernating until temperatures warm up again in the spring when I’ll be able to pot them up again. In the meantime, here is an earlier post of gloriosa superba in bloom from this summer. If you want to grow these, you’re sure to find them listed in a garden or bulb catalog this spring.
Doriataenopsis Sogo Gotris is a very compact growing phalaenopsis hybrid that produces several short statured flowering spikes with miniature blooms. These types are phalaenopsis orchids are generally known as multiflorals and make great houseplants. Some growers market them as ‘sweetheart’ type phalaenopsis.
No matter what you call them, these charming hybrid have been developed for small spaces and will thrive on a bright windowsill or under lights. A plant in a 3.5″ inch pot, as shown to the left, can easy produce one or two spikes with 15 or more flowers in less space than an African violet!
Some multifloral phalenopsis can actually get quite large as plants, but many, depending on the parentage, will remain on the more compact side. Chances are, they will never outgrow a 5 inch pot and if you can get them that big, you should have a specimen plants capable of producing multiple spikes covered in blooms for a good part of the year. This particular plants consists of two growths which are joined like Siamese twins. This is fairly typical of some species, such as phalaenopsis equestris, that is used in this kind of breeding. Eventually, you can get several growths in a pot each producing one or two spikes resulting in a cloud of blooms.
This particular hybrid bring art shade colors into genre that has been dominated by white with red lips, or dark pink flowers. The flowers, also tend to be very long-lasting and the plants will be in bloom for months!
These orchids are quite robust and do not need special care making them good houseplants. Since they tend to need smaller pots, the only thing you have to be especially careful about is that they do not dry out during warmer weather. They tend to produce their flowering spikes in the fall bringing much needed color during the cooler winter and early spring months.
Oncidium Sweet Earsis ‘dancing doll’ type Oncidium that is not difficult to grow if you follow our tips. It is a cross between two Oncidium hybrids: Sweet Sugar x Cloud Ears, hence the name. The flower is a fairly typical for a ‘dancing doll’ type Oncidium: bright yellow flowers with variable darker brown markings and a large lip, but, nevertheless, its an improvement over other similar Oncidiums. There are several clones of this hybrid available, and most should be easy to grow.
The plant shown to the left is a young plant blooming on a single mature growth in a 3.5″ pot. It exhibits a compact ‘Christmas tree’ or candelabra flower arrangement that breeders are striving for when it comes to orchids for the houseplant market. Oncidiums have been bred for many years and the goal is now to produce plants that are more compact than the species which can grow to be very large and often have very long unwieldy flower spikes.
Read on to find out how to grow these oncidiums as houseplants on your windowsill.
You can grow dancing doll onicidiums in bright light in a slightly shaded southern,west or east facing window. Allow them to dry out slightly between waterings, and fertilize regularly during the growing season. They will bloom on a mature spike, generally in the cooler months. the flowers last several weeks each, and flowers on the branched spikes will open sequentially resulting in a long lasting display of blooms. After flowering, restrict watering and fertilizer slightly, until you see new growth emerge at the base of the mature bulbs.
The clone photographed is Oncidium Sweet Ears ‘The OrchidWorks’ which was patented by James McCully a grower in Hawaii. Apparently, this clone was selected for its superior qualities from 120 plants. There are many ways that breeders can benefit from discovering, or breeding, a superior plant. I do not believe that patents should be granted for such orchid ‘inventions,’ unless there is a mechanism to share the economic benefits resulting from such a patent with the breeders who bred the parents used to create the patented plants, not to mention the countries from which the parent species were first removed from, without permission and without any compensation; an impossible task once you think about it. Nevertheless, tissue cultured plants like these are often widely available for reasonable prices. This plant, for example, was purchased at Trader Joe’s.
See the close-up of the flower on a second blooming (above right) of the same plant, the year after the main photo and the close-up (below left) were taken! The flowers are significantly larger(some of them almost twice the size as the year before) , especially the lip. The coloring is also more intense though that is affected by growing conditions, especially temperature and light. This year, our plant had three branches, but apparently more than five branches are possible. The lesson here, is that it takes several years for orchid plants to bloom to their full potential. Grow the strongest, most robust plants you can and you’d be amazed at the quality and quantity of flowers that you will get!
The weekend Chatchuk Market in Bangkok is famous, attracting locals and tourists alike. There are thousands of stalls selling virtually anything you could want, from antiques, to t-shirts; musical instruments to…tropical garden plants and orchids! So on a recent trip to Bangkok, I made the trek to the market. ‘Trek’ is an overstatement-all you have to do is hop on the sleek modern skytrain and it delivers you right to the market! This is the first of a few posts where I’ll share photos of all things green that I enjoyed seeing at Chatachuk. Among the most impressive were the nepenthes, caladiums, and orchids!
These are the ‘sprouting seeds’ of a tropical tree that grows in Thailand. Leaves on more mature growths look like avocado leaf. If anyone know what this plant is please let me know. I’ve looked for seed pods like this in the US, but have only seen the fibrous seed in dry decorative arrangements. Of course I was unable to bring any of these back to the US.
(left) I loved all the compact growing bromeliads, mostly neoregalias, showing perfect color. There are also some Thai caladiums in this photo, that are garnering attention by horticulturists in other parts of the world. We’ll post more photos of these in a later post.
(Below) buckets of water lillies for sale–both flowers and plants were available.
Exotic and unsual whiskered blooms on handsome plants! I’ve seen different types of tacca for sale in US garden catalogs but suspect they would do best in more humid southern climates, or a conservatory/greenhouse up north.
Here are a few pictures from the 2009 National Capital Orchid Show and Sale. This event takes place every year at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington D.C. on Columbus Day weekend and admission is free! Most of these photos are from the Carter and Holmes display as there was sufficient natural light to get good photos. However, there are a large number of displays with hundreds of orchids in bloom. Orchid societies from surrounding states also put on displays which are enjoyed by several thousand people over the course of the weekend. For more information visit www.ncos.us
Glorisoa superba also know as a flame lily is an exotic lily from Africa that grows like a vine! I remember the flowers from my childhood in Africa–despite the abundance and diversity of blooms the gloriosa flowers with their upturned serrated petals always stood out. The fresh green vines grow all season, and will grab anything nearby-this makes them very easy to train up a trellis. In late summer, the vines mature and produce several blooms at the tip.
While not a typical houseplant, they can be grown in a bright sunny window in a loamy rich soil. I plant the tubers quite deep and scatter a timed-release fertilizer for flowering plants to encourage blooming. Then I keep the plant well watered when the vines emerge and let the plant do the rest. After blooming the vines will die down and not bloom again. In warmer climates they can be left to produce new vines. Otherwise, its best to dig them up and store them away for the winter.
While typically brilliant crimson and yellow, our turned out to be a cultivar with attractive salmon pink and yellow flowers. There are several other cultivars available including a yellow one. The tubers are inexpensive and generally available through bulb or garden catalogs in the spring
Its best to grow several tubers in a pot so that you have a nice cluster of blooms over several weeks as the plants mature, as show in the photo below; otherwise they can end up look quite spare. Be sure to use a large 10-12″ pot when you have several tubers planted up to give room for the roots to grow.
While I trained mine up several bamboo spikes, they would also make an architectural statement trained round a large hoop. The flowers change color as they mature providing visual interest along with the large dangling seed pods that form easily.
Smithianthas also known as temple bells, are related to african violets. The giveaway, is their fuzzy velvety leaves, but that’s where the resemblance ends. People often confuse the intricately patterned and mottled leaves for begonias. In some species, such as the Smithiantha zebrina pictured here, the leaves can be up to 6 inches wide and equally long! Most houseplants will probably be on the smaller side but still be equally dramatic as the one photographed.
We found that growing ours in moderately bright light resulted in larger, more luxuriant, foliage. These plants also appreciate warm humid conditions and adequate moisture, but allow them to dry just a little bit in between waterings. The root systems quite shallow and mine seems to be doing very well in a hal-pot. A standard African violet mix suits these plants fine.
While for many, the beautiful foliage would be enough, Smithianthas is also produce spikes of brightly colored flowers, that dangle like temple bells, in the winter months. If ours blooms, which it should, we’ll post a photograph!