Types of Orchids

Despite their exotic looks, phalaenopsis orchids are easier to care for than most people think.
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Orchid

Orchid

Despite their exotic looks, phalaenopsis orchids are easier to care for than most people think.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Costa Farms

Image courtesy of Costa Farms

Despite their exotic looks, phalaenopsis orchids are easier to care for than most people think.

Explore different types of orchids to learn if these graceful, exotic bloomers are plants you’d like to grow. Various orchid types hail from all kinds of diverse environs around the world. Some, like phalaenopsis orchids, are tropical beauties, while others, like cymbidium orchids, are native to cool mountainous regions. Some orchid species are hardy wildflowers, like the enchanting lady slipper orchids.  

The indoor types of orchids, including cattleya and phalaenopsis orchids, produce flowers that last months at a time. When these houseplants start blooming, the flower show continues for a long window—from four to 16 weeks. Cymbidium orchids produce up to 35 flowers per blossom spike, and each spike lasts up to eight weeks. Phalaenopsis orchid flowers can linger from 80 to 120 days.  

With the different orchid types, it’s important to master the watering schedule. If orchids have pseudobulbs, enlarged stem structures that store water, the orchid potting mix can dry out a little between waterings. Orchid species that are epiphytes and grow on tree branches in tropical rainforests are adapted to receiving water from daily rain, so they need more frequent watering.  

Cattleya orchids, the orchid that’s widely recognized as a traditional corsage orchid, and moth orchids are epiphytes, so their orchid potting mix needs to be kept consistently moist. Cymbidium orchids grow from pseudobulbs, so they need less water on an ongoing basis.  

One of the most interesting things about growing any type of orchid is how they grow. Most of the houseplant orchids and even lady slipper orchids need good air flow around their roots. With indoor orchids, use an orchid potting mix that features some kind of blend of composted bark, expanded clay pellets, hardwood charcoal and peat moss or sand. The mix should create many air pockets for orchid roots to breathe.  

With lady slipper orchids, it’s important at planting time to place roots on top of soil, so they’re exposed to air. Top them with a layer of compost followed by a layer of mulch to help prevent roots from drying out. Keep these layers moist until plants are well established.  

As you explore the different types of orchids, you can find a flower in nearly any color. Modern plant hybridizers have created a host of blossom hues. If this is your first time growing orchids, narrow the field by starting with phalaenopsis orchids, which are so easy that they almost grow themselves.  

Most orchid types cannot tolerate direct sun, but need some light shade during the hottest part of the day when the sun is most intense. Place indoor orchids near bright east- or south-facing windows. Lack of light can cause orchids not to flower.