The Botanical Orchids


Masdevallia orchids have their origin in the misty mountain forests. These are small plants requiring cool and humid condition together with excellent air circulation. Since the plants occupy very less room, hobbyists residing in areas having favourable conditions for these orchids can build up large collections. In fact, one orchid grower offers about 40 species.

These plants can be grown outdoors in light shade and they require little protection in places where frosts occur rarely and the temperature is moderate during the summer. In places where night time temperatures are constantly low, it is easy to manage these orchids.

Interestingly enough, plants in the orchid genus Masdevallia do not produce pseudo bulbs, while the stems produce a solitary leaf that emerge from the clusters of creeping rhizomes. The leaves of this orchid are slender, dark green hued and have a leathery texture. The flowers may appear singly or in few clusters from the joint between the stem and leaf.

The fundamental form of the bloom is a small tube that broadens out to form a triangle comprising the three sepals. Usually, the sepals have long tails and the blooms are quiet large compared to the plant's size. Both the petals as well as the lip are tiny and are barely visible within the flower tube.

This genus comprises 350 odd species that charm the collectors with their vivid hues and unusual shapes. These orchids were a craze among the collectors during the close of the 19th century. Soon after, the plants later disappeared from view for decades, but in recent times Masdevallia Proud has made a strong reappearance.

A few species (as mentioned below) are capable of enduring a temperature range from intermediate to warm. Masdevallia orchids can be grown in small pots packed with a growing medium that is based on fine bark. Many orchid growers have achieved success by growing these orchids in sphagnum moss.

You need to ensure that the potting medium never becomes completely dry. At the same time, mushy conditions at the root may destroy them. The small size of these orchids and their preference for relatively low intensity light make them excellent plants for growing under lights.

Masdevallia ayabacana

This orchid species produces clusters of leaves, each measuring about 10 inches in length, which give rise to the flowering stems. The flowering stems are about 18 inches tall and they bear a sequence of large yellow flowers having rusty red shades. The plants of Masdevallia ayabacana are capable of enduring warmth.

Masdevallia coccinea

The flower stalks of Masdevallia coccinea grows up to a length of 16 inches, while the leaves are about 9 inches in width. Each flower stalk bears usually red flowers, but sometimes the color of the blooms may vary from white, purple to pink. The individual flowers measure about 6 inches across.

The upper sepal is just a tail, while the two lower sepals bear resemblance to baggy "Dutch boy" trousers that are tight fitting at the ankles. These orchid species has a preference for cool summers. A variety called harryana (M. c. harryana) bears blood red blooms. The plants are in bloom in spring.

Masdevallia floribunda

The plants of Masdevallia floribunda orchid are small, growing up to a height of 4 inches and they produce numerous diminutive short-tailed, bell-shaped flowers. The flowering stems of this orchid species may be sprawling or trailing. The flowers are yellow hued having several dots of crimson. Sometimes, the color of the dots may also be purple.

Masdevallia ignea (M. militaris)

The flower stem of Masdevallia ignea (M. militaris) grows up to a height of 16 inches, while the leaves are 8 inches long. Each flowering stems carries several flowers whose color varies from bright red to deep purple and have a drooping upper sepal. The individual flowers measure about 3 ½ inches across. This orchid species is in bloom many times in a year.

Masdevallia reichenbachiana

The clusters of 6-inch leaves of Masdevallia reichenbachiana orchid produce tall stems to a certain extent. Each stem carries one to three flowers whose outer portions are red, while inside they are white. The individual flowers measure about 2 ½ inches across. The plants are in bloom from spring to autumn. Plants in this species are capable of enduring warm conditions.

Masdevallia rolfeana

Similar to the plants of M. reichenbachiana, Masdevallia rolfeana orchids are also short plants and their flowers are somewhat even smaller. The flowers have a solid red hue and they bloom in summer. The plants of this orchid species can tolerate warmth.

Masdevallia strobelii

The flowering stem of Masdevallia strobelii grows up to a height of 6 inches and they overtop the 5-inch long leaves. Each stem bears one to four fragrant flowers. These plants may repeat blooms for more than a few years. The white flowers have a bright orange center and orange tails. The individual flowers measure about 1 ½ inches across. The plants are capable of enduring warmth.

Masdevallia tovarensis

The flower stalks of Masdevallia tovarensis orchid grows up to a length of 6 inches and each bear anything between one and four white flowers in a series. The plants repeat blooms in later years. The individual flowers measure about 1 ½ inches across. The plants of this orchid species are capable of tolerating warmth.

Masdevallia veitchiana

The flower stem of this orchid species grows up to a height of 18 inches and its leaves are 10 inches tall. Each flower stem bears a solitary orange to vermillion hued flower. The flowers are shiny and have copious tiny purple bristles. The individual flowers measure about 8 inches across. The plants are in bloom at the beginning of summer.


The habit of the orchids in genus Maxillaria is variable, but the plants that are grown commonly have a close resemblance to Lycaste orchids. The pseudo bulbs produce a solitary leaf, while the flowers arise singly from the base of these pseudo bulbs.

The flowers of this orchid genus bear resemblance to those of Lycaste orchids. The sepals are large and they form a triangular flower having small petals and its lip is at the center. Most species in the genus flourish in a temperature range of intermediate to warm. These plants need sufficient shade to grow and flower.

Maxillaria nigrescens

The leaves of Maxillaria nigrescens orchid grow up to a length of 1 foot and they are pleated. The flower stalks are 5 inches tall and each bears dark red spidery-looking blooms with almost a black hued lip. The individual flowers measure about 5 inches across. This orchid is in bloom during the winter.

Maxillaria picta

The flower stalk of this Maxillaria species grows up to a height of anything between 5 inches and 8 inches and each carries tawny yellow blooms with heavy purplish brown markings. The individual flowers measure about 2 ½ inches across. These plants are in bloom in winter.

Maxillaria sanderiana

The flowers of this Maxillaria species are fragrant and each measure about 5 inches to 6 inches in diameter. The flowers are ivory hued with blood red spots. The lip is white with red and yellow markings. The plants are in bloom from summer to fall.

Maxillaria tenuifolia

Maxillaria tenuifolia orchids are a favourite of many growers owing to their extraordinary fragrance, which reminds one of a coconut pie that has been just baked. The leaves of this species are like grass and they emerge from the petite pseudo bulbs attached to a climbing or rambling rhizome.

The stems grow up to a height of 2 inches and they carry thick, fleshy flowers. The individual flowers measure about 2 inches across and their color varies. Usually, the flowers are dark red having yellow markings. The plants are in bloom from summer to autumn.

Maxillaria variabilis

Maxillaria variabilis is almost an ever blooming orchid species, which bears resemblance to M. tenuifolia. However, the color of the flowers of this orchid species varies from pale yellow to dark red. The individual flowers measure less than an inch in diameter. The flowers emit a mild lemony fragrance in the morning.

The Botanical Orchids

Vanilla planifolia (V. fragrans)

The orchid genus Vanilla comprises numerous species, but only Vanilla planifolia (V. fragrans), the vanilla of commerce, is likely to be seen – that too only in large greenhouses. However, this species also grows as well as flowers indoors. This orchid is a climbing vine, which, as per theory, can grow up to any length.

This plant requires enough room, bright light, warm environment and lots of water right through the year. You may begin by planting this orchid in a pot under an upright fern tree or a pole draped with sphagnum. As the plant grows longer, you need to support it with ties to the framework inside the greenhouse.

Even if the stem dies out near the ground level you need not worry because the aerial roots of the orchid will ensure that the vine continues to grow. The stems of this orchid species are slender and they produce thick and fleshy leaves, which live for a brief period. The leaves are about 6 inches long.

The vines bear yellowish green flowers, each of which measure about 5 inches across. In order to produce vanilla beans, you will need to pollinate the flowers by hand.

The Botanical Orchids


Two species, numerous hybrids and named selections of the orchid genus Zygopetalum are becoming increasingly popular, particularly in the coastal regions of California and other places having similar climatic conditions. You can grow these orchids in the same way as you grow cymbidiums.

Like the cymbidiums, these orchids also require same light conditions, planting mix as well as watering and feeding schedule. These plants have a preference for a temperature range between cool to intermediate. However, compared to cymbidiums, they are somewhat more sensitive to cold.

The pseudo bulbs of the orchid genus are tightly clumped and covered by the bases of strap shaped, evergreen leaves, which grow in ranks opposite to one another affecting a fan-like appearance. The flower spikes emerge from the base of the new pseudo bulbs.

The flowers of Zygopetalum plants are large and exceptionally fragrant. The flowers generally have a tiger-striped blend of maroon and green. The lips of the flowers are white hued with fine nets of bluish violet to solid deep purple. The two species, Zygopetalum intermedium and Zygopetalum mackayi, are in bloom from fall to winter.

Zygopetalum intermedium

The inflorescence of Zygopetalum intermedium grows up to a height of about 16 inches and bears 6 flowers. The individual flowers measure about 3 inches across.

Zygopetalum mackayi

Compared to the Z. intermedium, inflorescence of this species is taller, growing up to a height of about 28 inches. While you should never be too inflexible regarding the differences between these two species, many experts are of the opinion that most orchids sold as Zygopetalum mackayi are actually Z. intermedium.


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