Popular Types of Orchids

The orchid family is the largest of the flowering plants, with over 25,000 members. Although they vary in natural habitat, size and care requirements, all orchids have three sepals and three petals. Rare and endangered orchids can be quite expensive, so orchid smuggling is a common occurrence, according to researchers with the American University in Washington D.C. The lady’s slipper orchid is the most commonly smuggled and sold to collectors. Commercial greenhouse orchids are by far the most popular with the non-collecting public, and some are more popular than others.

Phalaenopsis

Phalaenopsis orchids are the most popular orchids in the United States, according to a study performed by the American Orchid Society. The reason is that they are readily available and easy to grow, even for the beginner. Phals, as they are commonly known, bloom in a variety of colors on tall stalks that contain several flowers. Best of all: phals stay in bloom for up to three months, sometimes longer. For something different, consider the Kaleidoscope phalaenopsis hybrid, with its interesting purple markings against a white or pale yellow background.

Odontoglossum

Odontoglossum is the ideal example of the diversity of the orchid family. Although tropical in nature, it hails from higher altitudes and prefers the cooler temperatures found there. Odontoglossum orchid plants produce small but fragrant flowers. Frequently hybridized, odontoglossums are popular for their easy-care nature and the vast array of orchid colors. Although the plant typically blooms once a year, the flowers are long-lasting. Odontoglossum orchids thrive when temperatures remain below 85 degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime and between 55 and 58 degrees F at night. Most prefer filtered sunlight and a period of drying out between waterings.

Cattleya

Cattleya orchids, according to the American Orchid Society, are among the most popular orchids. They bloom in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Cattleyas are epiphytes, meaning that although they live on trees or rocks, they take their nutrients from rain, the air and debris. Providing the appropriate amount of light is the key to being successful with the cattleya. It requires bright light -- even some sun, as long as it’s shaded by mid-day. The experts at the American Orchid Society suggest placing the cattleya in an east window or behind a sheer curtain in a south- or west-facing window.

Cymbidium

Cymbidium gains its popularity by providing a profusion of flowers that may last for months. You can expect to see at least 20 waxy flowers per spike. Experts with the American Orchid Society suggest that cymbidium growers in warm regions choose a miniature variety since these are much more tolerant of nighttime temperatures above 70 degrees F. The standard-sized cymbidiums hail from cool areas of Asia, so give them lots of light and cool temperatures – 75 to 85 degrees F on summer days and between 50 and 60 degrees F at night in late summer and fall. In the winter, keep the cymbidium in an area that remains between 65 and 75 degrees F during the day and 45 to 55 degrees F at night.

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