Some of our orchids love bright light and we hang them high in the greenhouse in an attempt to replicate the tropical sun of their native habitats. Ludisia discolor is not one of those orchids – it is an orchid of deep shade, and in its shade it sparkles both in its leaves and its flowers.
Most of the orchids we grow at school are epiphytes (grow on trees) but this Jewel orchid is a terrestrial (grows in the ground) and is quite commonly available. Jewel orchids include a large number of terrestrial orchids prized for their patterned leaves although several, like this species, have attractive flowers too.
Ludisia discolor is native to evergreen lowland forests across South East Asia and is reported from 70-1100m in shaded damp situations in leaf litter (growing in the ground often does not mean growing in soil). As a result plants prefer warm shaded conditions and plenty of water. We have seen advice to grow plants in potting compost but we use our standard bark mix with a little sphagnum moss. The secret to good growth is finding a really dark spot and for our plants this is on a north facing wall where plants get virtually no direct sunlight at all.
Several jewel orchids are threatened by unsustainable collection for horticulture so sources should be checked carefully but Ludisia discolor is very easy from seed in the lab and plants in cultivation in the uk are seed raised.