How to Grow Orchids Indoors?

Blooming orchids look so ethereal that it's hard to believe you can grow them inside your home. Provided they have proper growing conditions, it isn’t difficult to learn how to take care of orchid plants

Dendrobium kingianum
Dendrobium kingianum is an Australian species popular among orchid growers. I love the delicate coloring of these flowers, and hybridizers must have too; Dendrobium kingianum has provided either the pollen or the seed to 158 registered crosses!

In its natural environment, Dendrobium kingianum usually grows in or around rocks (as a lithophyte), across much of eastern Australia, covering many habitats and weather patterns. I suspect that this variety of natural growth conditions is why Dendrobium kingianum is reputedly easy to grow in culture.
Closeup of Dendrobium kingianum flowers
Dendrobium kingianum flowers are about 1 inch across.  Lavender varieties like the one I photographed at the Bronx Botanical Garden are the most common.  However, flowers can range from white to deep purple. Australian Native Plants Society has some beautiful photos of purple and white varieties.

Dendrobium kingianum culture notes. (Massachusetts Orchid Society)

Phalaenopsis keikis: Noid Phal keiki on left, Phal Gold Tris keiki on right
Happy 2017 everyone! December/January tend to be a colorful time for orchids in my terrarium.  The shorter, colder days of September provide the perfect signal to induce my Phals to spike.  The flower spikes generally develop over the next two months, and come into full bloom around the turn of the new year.

However, this year, some of my spikes started growing aerial plantlets (or keikis) in addition to flower buds.  The keiki on my noid phal looks like a leaf growing off the side of a new flower spike.  Meanwhile, Phal Gold Tris produced a tiny plantlet at the tip of an old spike that bloomed over the Summer.

I have written about growing and separating phalaenopsis keikis in the past, but this time I was curious about what caused my orchids to produce keikis in the first place.

What causes a phalaenopsis to grow a keiki?

The internet has many claims about what causes an orchid to make a keiki, but offers little evidence in support.  And even in the research literature, I struggled to find a definitive answer.

So what do we know about Phalaenopsis keikis?  I found a common claim that if a phalaenopsis with a...

Rhynvandopsis Memoria Mary Nattrass (aka Opsistylis)
This orchid is absolutely one of my favorite flowers.  I love the sharp contrast of the patterning on these large waxy flowers. Rhynvandopsis Memoria Mary Nattrass is a primary hybrid between Vandopsis gigantea and Rhynchostylis gigantea, registered in 1972.

Parentage of Rhynvandopsis Memoria Mary Nattrass
Image credits:
Vandopsis gigantea , by Malcolm Manners, Wikimedia Commons image
Rhynchostylis gigantea by Elena Gaillard, Wikimedia Commons image
The parent species are themselves large and showy orchids.  Vandopsis gigantea reportedly has leaves that can reach half a meter in length, while Rhynchostylis gigantea can produce as many as 50 flowers on each inflorescence. 

Interestingly, Rhynchostylis gigantea comes in a great number of variants--the flowers can be white, pink, peach or wine colored, with very different amounts of speckling. This variability translates to Rhynvandopsis Memoria Mary Nattrass as well, which can have different hues and color patterns depending on which variant of Rhynchostylis gigantea was used to generate a given hybrid.

More images of the stunning Rhynvandopsis Memoria Mary Nattrass:

Vanda Roslyn Rogers
Vanda Roslyn Rogers is a large pinkish flower, registered in 1990 as a cross between Vanda Fuchs Indigo, and Vanda Yip Sum Wah.  However, unlike the more popular 90's cross Vanda Pachara Delight (which shares 5 out 6 species progenitors in common), this hybrid did not have the same staying power.  Searches for "Vanda Roslyn Rogers" yield few results, most of them referring to people named Roslyn.

The genealogy diagram for Vanda Roslyn Rogers is shown below.  (Link to a larger image view)
Genealogy of Vanda Roslyn Rogers
Just like V. Pachara Delight, the genealogy of V. Roslyn Rogers is dominated by two key Vanda species: Vanda coerulea and Vanda sanderiana. In total, there are 27 crossings depicted in this diagram. V. coerulea provided either the pollen or the seed in 6 of them (22%), and V. sanderiana played a direct part in 13 of the crosses (48%).  

These are the 6 species that contributed to making Vanda Roslyn Rogers.
Species Progenitors of Vanda Roslyn Rogers
Photo credits:
Vanda sanderiana (original image, by Dalton Holland Baptista, Wikimedia commons)
Vanda coerulea (original image, by  Association Auboise d'Orchidophilie Exotique)
Vanda dearei (original...

Tsubotaara Melinda Marie 'Blue Fairy'
I came across this striking blue orchid at the 2018 New York Orchid Show.  The bloom was hidden behind a glass enclosure, labeled with a genus I had never seen before: Tsubotaara.  What kind of orchid could this be?  

According to the International Orchid Register, Tsubotaara Melinda Marie is a cross between Pabanisia Eva's Blue Amazon and Zygonisia Cynosure.  The hybrid was registered in 2010 by Kalapana Tropicals, a Hawaii-based orchid wholesaler.  A relatively miniature plant, this hybrid blooms with beautiful, oversized bluish flowers.
Tsubotaara Melinda Marie = Pabanisia Eva's Blue Amazon x Zygonisia Cynosure
Photo credits:
Pabanisia Eva's Blue Amazon: DementedPimento (Reddit) 
Zygonisia Cynosure: Maria's Orchids, 2016 New York Orchid show

The full genealogy of Tsubotaara Melinda Marie includes contribution from four different orchid genera.
Curiously, I could not find any photos of Zygopetalum graminifolium while researching this genealogy.  The image depicted below is gathered from a print from Jean Linden, a prominent orchid botanist from the 19th century. This is a species that does not appear to be frequently cultivated or photographed by...

Hundreds of orchids hand from a translucent display at the 2018 New York Orchid Show
The New York Orchid Show is my favorite annual event in the city.  This joyous celebration of orchid beauty is a yearly signal that another cold, dark winter is nearly over.  The show opened today, at the New York Botanical garden.
It's possibly one of the most popular events at the New York botanical garden, and by midday the conservatory is packed with crowds.  This year, I woke up early to be one of the first people to enter the show on opening day.
Get to the conservatory before 10 AM to avoid the crowds
The Orchid Show features hundreds of orchid species and hybrids, presented in intricate displays.  This year's production is designed by Belgian floral artist Daniel Ost.
Phalaenopsis King's Caroline and Phalaenopsis Black Pearl
Phalaenopsis Taida Pearl Diamond
Phalaenopsis KV Charmer
Orchid terrarium
Cattleya and Dendrobium display
2018 New York Orchid Show
Each year, the displays follow a different theme.  This year, the recurrent element was these meshes of clear plastic tubing high up in the conservatory canopy.  These clear loops certainly catch and scatter the sunlight onto the orchid blossoms. ...

A 1 year old phalaenopsis keiki
I first wrote about this Phalaenopsis Gold Tris keiki just over a year ago.  Keikis are orchid clones that sometimes grow on a mature orchid plant. Late last summer, when its roots had grown over 3 inches, I cut the keiki from its mother orchid, and planted it in the pot shown above.  The little orchid has more than tripled its roots system since then, but hasn't done much growth with its two leaves.

flower spike on a 1-year old keiki
Today, I noticed a green nub growing to the side of the orchid's base.  Much to my surprise, this wasn't some errant root, but actually a tiny new flower spike!  Although I have heard before that keikis sometimes flower within a year of growth, I never expected it from an orchid this small.  Its flowers would be almost as big as the entire orchid plant!

I'll be watching closely to see how this flower spike develops.

Dendrobium hodgkinsonii
In my final installment featuring orchid photos from the US Botanic Garden in DC, I am exploring the variety of dendrobium species and hybrids that were on display during my visits.  These orchids are some of my favorite genera, though I'll admit that I've had very limited luck growing them myself.  

Dendrobium hodgkinsonii closeup
Dendrobium catenatum
Dendrobium catenatum
Dendrobium ceraula older bloom
Dendrobium ceraula new blossom
This Dendrobium ceraula was one of the bluer orchids I've ever seen in the Dendrobium genus.  The newest blossoms come out with a lovely cerulean hue, which fades to pink as the blossoms age.

Dendrobium Genting Royal
dendrobium haleahi butterfly x00006 x dendrobium jaqueline thomas 
dendrobium haleahi butterfly x00006 x dendrobium jaqueline thomas 
Dendrobium Jaqueline Thomas Uniwai Prince
Dendrobium pseudolamellatum
 Dendrobium pseudolamellatum is a tiny flower.  The species is an epiphyte native to Borneo.
Dendrobium pseudolamellatum whole plant view
Dendrobium spectabile closeup
Dendrobium spectabile is one of my favorite orchid species.  I love its giant twisted flowers, that look like something out of an alien movie, and defy my...

Bulbophyllum Elizabeth Ann Buckleberry
Bulbophyllums are some of the strangest commonly cultivated orchid genera.  To be honest, they are such strange flowers that I don't know how I feel about them.  But they sure do catch the eye!  The US Botanic Garden Conservatory is a great place to go to catch some in bloom.

Closeup of Bulbophyllum Elizabeth Anne Buckleberry
With more than 2,000 species, Bulbophyllum is the largest genus in the orchid family, and one of the largest genera of flowering plants in the world.  You can find native bulbophyllum species in most tropical parts of the world, and with this great geographic spread comes an amazing diversity of flower shapes and attributes.

Bulbophyllum medusae
Bulbophyllum medusase may be one of the coolest orchid species I've come across.  Its flowers look like white cotton balls.  The sepals of the blooms can get as long as 15cm. This orchid grows in Malaysia, Thailand and Borneo.
Closeup of Bulbophyllum medusae bloom
Bulbophyllum longissimum
This is another Bulbophyllum species from southeast Asia.  These flowers can be almost 40cm long!

Bulbophyllum Icicles
Bulbophyllum Icicles is a primary hybrid between Bulbophyllum longissimum and...

I will readily admit my love for the colorful and showy splendor of orchid hybrids.  In the next few months, I think I will dive in to explore the lineages of some of these hybrids, but for today, I wanted to share with you the beautiful Paph collection at the DC Botanic Garden.
Paphiopedilum Devil's Canyon

Paphiopedilum Elphin Charm

Paphiopedilum FC Puddle

Unlabeled Paphiopedilum

Paphiopedilum Mazurka

Paphiopedilum Miller's Daughter

Paphiopedilum Mystically Mood

Paphiopedilum Olivia

Paphiopedilum Olivia

Paphiopedilum Orchilla 'Chilton'

Paphiopedilum Redstart 'Exbury'

Paphiopedilum Redstart 'Exbury'

Paphiopedilum Song of Love

Paphiopedilum Tree of Okazaki

Paphiopedilum Yerba Mate

Paphiopedilum Zycleon

Paphiopedilum Zycleon whole plant view

So many blooming paphiopedilum orchids on display
The DC Botanic Garden has some of the best displays of paphiopedilum orchids that I have ever seen in bloom!  So many species and hybrids, showcasing the amazing variety of blooms found in this genus.  I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.

These were my 7 favorites from the display

The Paphiopedilum species:
7): Paphiopedilum primulinum
Paphiopedilum primulinum
Paphiopedilum primulinum is a modest bloom, but that adds to its charm.  One can easily miss these small yellow flowers, amidst a room of showy hybrid blooms.  But this orchid has a unique super power; known as the "ever-bloom" paph, its spikes can flower continuously for 3 years!

6) Paphiopedilum primulinum var purpurascens
Paphiopedilum primulinum var purpurascens
Paphiopedilum primulinum comes in various hues, and I loved this purple variety. There is something very fairy-tale charming about this orchid.

5) Paphiopedilum insigne
Paphiopedilum insigne
Paphiopedilum insigne is the "type species" for the entire Paphiopedilum genus, meaning that the Paphiopedilum genus description is based on this species.  That makes Paphiopedilum insigne the quintessential Paph!  No matter what...

United States Botanic Garden
In November I traveled to Washington DC for work.  So, of course, on my last day in town, I went to see the Conservatory at the United States Botanic Garden looking for orchids to photograph.  Built in 1867, the Conservatory offers free entrance, and features models of landmarks from around the capital city, amid a lush greenhouse.

Where are the orchids?
I walked around the greenhouse, and explored the elevated walkways looking for orchid flowers.  At first I was worried that I would be leaving empty-handed. But as I walked deeper into the greenhouse, I started finding specimen sized orchids. And then I came to the orchid room.
Orchids blooming at the US Botanic Garden
Although a relatively small space, this room had nearly a 100 different species and hybrids of orchids beautifully blooming on display. I saw more paphs and phrags than ever before.  In fact, there were so many different varieties of certain orchids, that I will be saving them for a future post.  But for now, check out some of these beautiful orchid flowers!

Angraecum eburneum var. giryamae 'Penn Valley' specimen
Angraecum eburneum var. giryamae 'Penn Valley' closeup
Brasiliorchis picta 

Some of the most impressive displays at the DC Botanic Garden were the many dozens of blooming paph and phrag orchids. 

Also known as "Slipper Orchids", phragmipediums are orchids native to the Americas (not to be confused with paphiopedilums which originate from Asia).  There are approximately 20-30 species in this genus. 

Phragmipedium caudatum
Phragmipedium caudatum is a species endemic in Peru and Bolivia. The orchid has flowers which range in hue from green to shades of terracotta orange.  The flowers have long petals, up to 2.5 feet in length!
Phragmipedium longifolium
Phragmipedium Sedenii
Phragmipedium Sedenii is actually a cross between P. longifolium and P schlimii. Registered in 1873, it is one of the first manmade orchid hybrids.
Phragmipedium Grande
Phragmipedium Grande is a cross between P. longifolium and P. humboldtii. This phrag had the longest petals of all the orchids on display.

Phragmipedium Cardinale
Phragmipedium Cardinale is a cross between P. Sedenii, and P. Schlimii.
Phragmipedium Urgandiae 'Duke's Royal'
Another primary hybrid, Phragmipedium Urgandiae is a cross between P. lindleyanum and P. longifolium.
Phragmipedium Appalachian Sunset
Phragmipedium Sorcerer's...

Orchids at work
Hi again! This Summer (and Fall) have been an incredibly busy time for me. I finally finished graduate school (woo-hoo!), and then proceeded to move three times in three months (not recommended).  The blog posts fell by the wayside while that was going on, but now I am ready to start writing and posting again.  This summer I had the great opportunity to meet and speak at the Long Island Orchid Society, who are some incredibly friendly and knowledgeable orchid enthusiasts.  I picked up some new plants, and I look forward to sharing their flowers you.

For the past month, my orchid terrarium went into storage, while my orchids traveled to occupy my workspace. The change in environment worked better for some of my plants than for others.  The orchids get a lot of natural light from the North-facing window.  So much, in fact, that I burned a few of my phals when I had placed them too close to the glass.  Also the air is much drier here than in my terrarium at home-- I'm watering most of my plants multiple times a week.  
Fresh growth on Dendrobium Burana Sundae
Some of my orchids have really thrived with the change.  Dendrobium Burana Sundae is rapidly growing new...

The Rawlings Conservatory of Baltimore
Last week during a visit to Baltimore, I had a chance to see the orchids at the Rawlings Conservatory. This historic conservatory was built in 1888, making it the second oldest public conservatory in the US.  Best of all, they have a room dedicated to showcasing orchids in bloom!

The orchid room at the conservatory
  The  ladies at the front desk said that this was a relatively quiet time for orchid blooms, but the little room was still a riot of color.

Laelia purpurata 'Schuster'

Guarianthe skinneri

Dendrobium Uniwai Pearl

Cymbidiums are colorful and showy orchids native to much of Tropical and Subtropical Asia.  The New York Orchid show often features lush displays of Cymbidium orchids, and this year is no exception.

Cymbidium Purple Haze
Cymbidium Sweetheart 'Sensation'
Cymbidium Sweetheart 'Sensation' closeup

Peloric Cymbidium Vanguard

Closeup of Peloric Cymbidium
Cymbidium Half Moon 'Wonderland'
Cymbidium Via Irish-Elf
Cymbidium Via Nogales 'Louise'
Cymbidium Yellow Submarine

New York may be stuck in winter, but the New York Botanical Gardens are in full bloom with the 2017 Orchid show. The Phalaenopsis is the flower that first comes to my mind when I think 'orchid'.  Phalaenopsis were the first orchids I ever owned, and the first orchids I managed to flower. Often taking center stage at this year's show, the gorgeous displays of phalaenopsis blooms create the quintessentially 'orchid' atmosphere at the Conservatory this month.

Phalaenopsis Surf Song

Phalaenospsis Surf Song

Phalaenopsis Surf Song

Phalaenopsis Fuller's Sunset

Phalaenopsis equestris

Phalaenopsis I-Hsin Spot Leopard

Phalaenopsis I-Hsin Spot Leopard

Phalaenopsis Kimono
Phalaenopsis Reyoung Corona

The "Thailand" themed orchid show features rainbow-colored displays of vandas
Colorful blooming orchids take over the conservatory at the New York Botanical Garden every spring.  I posted about this year's orchid show in February, when I attended the show opening.  There are so many orchids on display, that it is nearly impossible to really take in everything in one trip.  So I went back again next week.  

For this post, I want to take a closer look at the genus of South Asian orchids, which were beautifully featured in this year's show: Vandas.  Although vandas are a small genus (containing only 80 species), their flowers have the widest color range.  The orchid show displayed dazzling arrays of blue, yellow, red, and even brown vanda blossoms.

I only wish I could associate names with more of these gorgeous flowers.
Ascocenda Crownfox Red

Vanda Ben's Delight

Vanda Pachara Delight
Vanda Pachara Delight (different lighting angle)
Vanda Somsri Glory
Vanda Ratchaburi Fuchs-Katsura

Vanda Betty Baderman
Rhynvandopsis Memoria Mary Nattrass

New York Orchid Show 2017: Thailand
My favorite time of year has come around yet again.  The days are getting warmer and lighter, and the orchid show has opened at the New York Botanical Garden.  This year's theme is Thailand.  The show's typical lush displays of color feature many Vanda orchids, which are native to Southeast Asia.

I'll be putting up many more pictures from the show in the coming days, but here is a preview of what is to come:

I got to the garden right as it was opening, avoiding much of the crowds that would descend on the orchid show later in the day.
Phalaenopsis orchids arranged to resemble palm trees

Miniature orchids display
Deep purple variety of Dendrobium kingianum

Zygopetalum flowers
A rainbow of vandas so colorful, they don't even look quite real
Dendrobium hybrid

Many colors of dendrobium hybrids

Morning light shines through Oncostele Wildcat

More Oncostele Wildcat flowers

Vanda Tristar Blue
I visited the New York Botanical Garden a couple weekends ago.  They had just finished their annual Trains Show, which takes over much of the conservatory during the holiday season.  The Orchid Show starts later this month, but until then, the gardens become a quiet and peaceful place to catch a break from the winter outside.  Midwinter is also a great time to see the garden's Vandas at their best.  But the time the Orchid show opens up in a few weeks, many of these flowers will be starting to fade.
Vanda Tristar Blue
Vanda Tristar Blue is a 2004 cross between Vanda Kimigayo and Vanda Manuvadee.  The hybrid has a nice mix of the the blue tones from Vanda Manuvadee, while maintaining the neater petal shape of Vanda Kimigayo.
Parentage of Vanda Tristar Blue (V. Kimigayo x V. Manuvadee)
Image Credits:
Vanda Kimigayo, photo by Диана
Vanda Manuvadee 'Sky',  photo by Cbaile19 (Wikimedia commons image)
Tracing out the genealogy of Vanda Tristar Blue turned out to be somewhat of a challenge.  It's not the biggest genalogy I've trace (Oncidopsis Yellow Parade currently holds that honor, with 70+ crossings in its background).  However, as you can see below, there is a fare...

June has been a great month for new orchid species discoveries.  Check out these cool new flowers!

Odontochilus putaoensis

This terrestrial orchid was discovered in northern Myanmar by a group of botanists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The orchid has greenish-brown flowers that are about 1cm across.
Odontochilus putaoensis
Image credit: Aung et al, Phytokeys 2018
Odontochilus putaoensis closeup
Image credit: Aung et al, Phytokeys 2018
  • Authors: Ye Lwin Aung, Aye Thin Mu, Xiaohua Lin
  • Published in: Phytokeys, 2018
  • Odontochilus putaoensis (Cranichideae, Orchidaceae), a new species from Myanmar

Pleurothallis hawkingii 

This is a epiphytic orchid from Costa Rica blooms with pale yellow to white flowers, which sometimes have a distinctive purplish hue. It was described by a pair of botanists from the Universidad de Costa Rica.
Pleurothallis hawkingii
Image credit: Adam Karremans and Jose Esteban Jimenez Phytotaxa 2018
Pleurothallis hawkingii
Image credit: Adam Karremans and Jose Esteban Jimenez, Phytotaxa 2018
Pleurothallis hawkingii purple variant
Image credit: Adam Karremans and Jose Esteban Jimenez, Phytotaxa 2018

  • Authors: Adam Karremans and Jose Esteban Jimenez
  • Published in: Phytotaxa, 2018

Coelogyne victoria-reginae
Image credit: Zhou et al. PhyotKeys 2018 (
A group of botanists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with HponkanRazi Wildlife Sanctuary in Myanmar and the Forest Department Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry in China have described a new species of Coelogyne which grows in the Nat Ma Taung (Mt.Victoria) National Park.
Coelogyne victoria-reginae
Image credit: Zhou et al. PhytoKeys 2018 (
This epiphytic orchid produces brownish-red flowers that are about 0.5 inches in length (1.2 cm). It blooms in April and May. The species is named after the Mount Victoria region of Myanmar where it was found.
Coelogyne victoria-reginae
Image credit: Zhou et al. PhytoKeys 2018 (
Authors: Shi-Shun Zhou, Yun-Hong Tan, Xiao-Hua Jin, Kyaw Win Maung, Myint Zyaw, Ren Li, Rui-Chang Quan, Qiang Liu
Published in: PhytoKeys (May 18, 2018)
Coelogyne victoria-reginae (Orchidaceae, Epidendroideae, Arethuseae), a new species from Chin State, Myanmar

Phalaenopsis Gold Tris 'Desk Pot' 
About 3 months after I first noticed the start of a spike, my little Phal Gold Tris Keiki is in full bloom!  The flower spike is bigger than the orchid itself, with 4 full-sized yellow flowers. Of course, the mother plant produces larger numbers of flowers and multiple spikes, but this is still one precocious bloomer!

Closeup of Phalaenopsis Gold Tris 'Desk Pot'
The color is less saturated than usual, most likely due to the very warm weather of the last month.

Dendrobium obchantiae
Image Credit: Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University (Image Link)

There are an estimated 30,000 species of orchids, and hundreds of new orchid species are discovered each year. A group from Chulalungkorn University in Thailand and the Department of National Park Wildlife and Plant Conservation published a paper in April describing a new species of dendrobium which grows in the mixed deciduous forests of northern Thailand.

Dendrobium obchantiae full plant view
Photo by W. Buddhawong
Image Credit: Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University (Image Link)
Dendrobium obchantiae closeup
Image Credit: Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University (Image Link)

Authors: Phattaravee Prommanut, Somran Suddee, Manit Kidyoo
Published in Phytotaxa (April 27, 2018)
A narrow endemic new species of Dendrobium sect. Stachyobium from Thailand (Orchidaceae: Malaxideae)

Paph Adam Hausermann x Duncan York (6 years after purchase)
I repotted my two paphiopedilum seedlings today, and was shocked to realize that 6 whole years have passed since I bought these orchid seedlings.  While the growth on seedling #1 has remained rather stunted over (years of dehydration by neglect circa 2013-2015 haven't helped), the plant on the left has managed to establish a healthy root system, and has really grown up to what I think should be flowering size.

Evidence of damage on orchid
However, even this large and healthy plant bears multiple signs of past damage.  One leaf was half chewed off by my mischievous cat, when I had dared to try growing this orchid on a windowsill instead of safely within a glass terrarium.  Several of the longer leaves are bent and broken from being tossed around during multiple moves between apartments over the years.  Another leaf is significantly shorter than it should be--evidence that I had failed to sufficiently water this orchid during that period of time. 
Cat is sizing up opportunity to attack a newly exposed orchid

Even my presence is not a deterrent against attack
I decided to repot the paph because it has been a long while since...