The orchid family is called Orchidaceae and is the second largest family of flowering plants with about 20,000 different species. Tropical species were introduced in the 19th century and horticulturists have been able to produce over 100,000 hybrids and cultivars, often creating a much stronger plant, so mixing and matching is a very positive thing.
Most orchids are found in the tropics, Asia, Central America and South America. In Europe you can find the pyramidal orchid and in South Africa, Disa orchids are found which are loved for their beautiful bright colours.
Orchids have become very popular over recent years, mainly because of their beautiful blooms but also because they are easy to look after. They must be planted in either bark or sphagnum moss so that their roots are surrounded by material which allows them to breath. They should be placed in an area where there is lots of light with some shade, but as their natural habitat is tropical they thrive in temperatures between 55ºF and 80ºF. Orchids should be watered every 5 to 10 days, but over watering can be deadly too!
Different species of orchid flowers bloom differently. One type of orchid may bloom only once a year and another may bloom several times a year. Some bloom continuously depending on the species.
Orchids have simple leaves with parallel veins which vary in size. The leaf type depends on the orchid’s habitat. In dry, sunny areas the leaves are often thick and leathery and covered by a waxy cuticle to retain water. Orchids which enjoy the shade have long thin leaves. The leaves of most orchids live for several years making them perennial but some others shed their leaves yearly to grow new leaves.
The most popular orchid for interior spaces is the Phalaenopsis orchid. They are easy to grow and produce beautiful blooms that can last 2-3 months, while a Cattleya orchid plant will last only up to a month after the bud opens.
Another favourite is the Dendrobium orchids. These orchids have smaller blooms and prefer warmer temperatures. The Dendrobium orchid is one of the largest orchid species and is naturally found in places like New Guinea, Thailand, Southern China, Australia, and New Zealand.
Some types of orchids also have a fabulous fragrance, for example some types of Cymbidium orchid, which is another reason for the orchid’s popularity.
A few more facts:
- Orchids were the ’must have’ accessory of the 1800’s.
- The largest amount ever paid for a new orchid species in 1890 was £1500 which today is equivalent to £96,500!
- About 200 to 300 new orchid species are still being discovered each year.
- There may be around 5000 species which haven’t yet been described.
This is just a small insight into the orchid and its family. New species are forever being grown and discovered, creating an excitement and fascination around the orchid family, making them one of the most popular plants to be enjoyed by everyone today. At EMFD, we love using orchids for different occasions in several different ways as they are simply so beautiful and versatile!