This wonderful orchid is one of our veteran plants and possibly our largest of member of the Pleurothallidinae (the subtribe of more than 4000 species including our Masdevallia, Stelis, Pleurothallis and Restrepia species).
The species is native to Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela and Guyana at altitudes of 1300 to 3500 meters and I have seen it described as a miniature and although the flowers are small grows into a very large plant over time. Our large plant again has over a hundred flower spikes constantly flowering and a froth of flowers surrounding the plant which grows in a basket. Each flower spike lasts three years and slowly gets longer and longer. The flowers themselves are well worth a close inspection – we particularly like the ‘fangs at the tip of the synsepal (fused lateral sepals) that happens to be at the top of these non-resupinate (upside down) flowers.
We have had the species since 1999 when it was donated by a grower in Devon and it has been in flower every day since – 22 years without a break in flowering is not bad. This plant won an RHS Cultural Certificate at the London Show in 2016 and is always a thing of beauty.
It enjoys being watered well and doesn’t seem to enjoy hot summers which usually result in a bit of leaf drop. It looks its best in the spring with this winters fresh green growth and a fresh crop of flower spikes just starting to flower. We grow the plant in a hanging mushroom crate that allows it to spread.
The dramatic, and dare I say mysterious, flowers of Pleurothallis schweinfurthii have won the species “Orchid of the week’ for last week – as a result it will represent February in the orchid of the Year vote next Christmas (is it too early to think about Christmas?). Thanks to all who voted. The next ‘orchid of the week’ vote from will open this Sunday.
This lovely little cool growing orchid from China and Taiwan spends its time in our Temperate section with a minimum of 6C although it would happily go colder during its dry winter rest.
In nature Pleione formosana is often found as a lithophyte in moss over bed rock where plants experience constant damp during the summer and an almost completely dry winter. We have seen the related species Pleione humilis, hookeriana and praecox growing in Sikkim as epiphytes in moss (see below in dry season dry moss)
To replicate these conditions we repot bulbs into fresh compost in January and keep them just damp until growth starts (watering around the edge of the pots). Flowers are appearing now and these will be followed by single leaves in the spring. We water very heavily from the end of April onwards to grow good sized bulbs for next years flowers. From November onwards the plants are left completely dry until repotting time. Plants would be very happy outside during the summer in a shady spot – but kept really well watered.
Pleione formosana comes in pinks and whites (like Avalanche), and is one of the main species behind the many hybrids available.
Thanks to those who have already voted for last week’s orchid of the week. I will announce the winner tomorrow afternoon but there is still time to vote here
Mother Day is just over a week away and in normal times we would have a mini open day. This year of course it has to be online – so check our shop for orchids in spike for mothers day – they will all be sent in spike/bud to avoid damage this week and will flower later in the month.