Resting orchids at Christmas

After a busy term it will be nice to have a little rest over Christmas and of course some of our orchids are having a rest at this time of year too. We are asked a lot of questions about resting orchids so here are some answers.

Resting means a period when a plant does little growing and is often a precursor to flowering. The Vanda ampulacea in the photo above is a plant we have seen growing in the warm valleys of Sikkim where it gets warm wet summers and cooler dry winters. We replicate this habitat by growing the species in Warm Asia during the summer (minimum 17C) and then moving plants to Cool Asia (min 10C) for December and January. Plants are hung high in the roof where they will get good light and almost no water (perhaps a quick spray once a fortnight). Root tips stop growing and plants do nothing untill moved back into Warm Asia where the temperature rise initiates flowers and growth starts again.

 The same plant flowering in April.

We do the same with Dendrobium densiflorum which grows just a little higher up the mountains in Sikkim.


Resting now and flowering in the late spring.

With some of our resting plants we keep the temperature the same but sign ificantly reduce watering. In some cases the plants are deciduous such as Thunias.

And others such as Odontoglossum pendulum keep their leaves.

We put both species on top of our control boxes – a good place to guarantee no watering.

With all our species the guide as to rest or not to rest comes from the natural habitat of each species. We have been fortunate to visit lots of tropical habitats but of course their is lots of good information available. Enjoy your rest and if you want to know more about how we grow our plants then please check out our Orchid Culture tab.


Stelis congesta – 365 days of orchids – day 1101


The holidays have arrived but life goes on in the Orchid house and yesterday morning I was struck by this little miniature flowering on mounts, in pots and in baskets around Cool Americas.

Most Stelis species have spikes of small flowers but these are smaller than most (the plant is in a 3cm pot) and pinky brown. The plant makes up for the size of the flowers by producing them in splendid abundance. This plant will be in flower for at least six weeks now with multiple spikes appearing from the base of all the leaves.

Stelis congesta is endemic to Ecuador where it grows in cloud forests at around 1900m. Over  time it lives up to its name and produces a mass of upright leaves and flower spikes. the mounted plant is particularly appealing with spikes from evert leaf base.

The flowers are only about 3-4mm across but the mass of flowers give a very attractive display. We find the species vigorous and easy to propagate by division, and a very rewarding little species to brighten up the winter greenhouse.

Happy holidays.



Barkeria skinneri – 365 days of orchids – day 1100


As we have said before, Christmas is very pink in the Orchid Project and for volume of flowers there is none to compare with our old specimen of Barkeria skinneri.

This plant arrived as a seedling twenty years ago and has grown into a terrific specimen. The species is native to Mexico where it grows in open deciduous oak forrest. Each, 1m year long cane like stems grow and produce spikes covered in glorious pink flowers and this year we have more than ever.

We find that barkerias have to grow mounted as roots quickly rot when we pot them. The abundant roots seem to thrive when out in fresh air where they dry quickly after watering. We spray plants heavily during the summer when in active growth but reduce watering in the winter when the plants become semi-deciduous.

This plant has become a monster specimen and is rather difficult to keep tidy as it sprawls around a bit but the species has the great habit of flowering on very young plants and this first flowered two years out of flask with just two flowers. We will be dividing this plant next month as it needs to get its roots to fresh cork bark.

Last year there are 237 flowers and this year we have topped it with 368 flowers.The stems often produce a second flush of flowers after the first flush finishes.


Pleurothallis sp. baeza – 365 days of orchids – day 1099

Today’s prize orchid has to be this remarkable Pleurothallis laden with thousands of golden flowers.

We are massive fans of the diverse genus Pleurothallis and some of the species produce massive amounts of flower. This species is one we have yet to positively identify (i will add a close up of a single flower once students return after christmas) but thanks to Mark Wilson who suggests it is a Crocodeilanthe species. Crocodeilanthe has been a section within Pleurothallis that has been separated to a separate genus or included in Stelis. At the moment we are content to keep all our pleurothallis together and not divide the genus. The plant was donated to us with the name baeza which is a town in Ecuador and we therefore assume that the species is native to the cloud forests around Baeza.

This year the plant has really flourished in our Cool Asia section with lots of water and is growing larger (leaves to 50cm high) with more flower spikes per leaf – usually four – and flowers more spread on the spikes (last year’s flowering below)

We are now ready to divide the plant so that by next Christmas we will have lots of plants available.