Orchidaceae, or the Orchid family to you and I, is the second largest family of flowering plants. When you read a little about the huge number of different orchid types it can be quite daunting to try to find information relevant to your plants.
When you search online for orchid types you will often be bombarded with the technical horticultural terms describing the different species and cultivars or the epiphytic and terrestrial orchids. Have a search for orchids on Wikipedia to see some wonderful words!
There may be 25,000+ species and 100,000 plus varieties but most people just want to know – what is mine and how do I look after it!
Why it’s important to know your Orchid Types.
The basis for your complete care program for your orchid will depend on knowing what type of orchid you have and so what conditions it will enjoy. This is the key for easy orchid care, if you know the conditions your plant enjoys in nature then you can try to replicate those conditions at home.
The vast range of orchids available is the very reason some people fail with orchids. These orchid types originate from very different climates across the world and so a one size fits all approach may not be successful.
The most common orchid types you are likely to find in commercial nurseries and garden centers are :
Phalaenopsis Orchids… sometimes called Moth Orchids. These are quite easy to grow and have long lasting flowers. The most likely orchid flower seen used at weddings. If you have seen a picture in a magazine of a delicate single stemmed orchid flower, its most likely a phalaenopsis orchid. Also very common as a pot plant. They originate from south east Asia to the Philippines and northern Australia.
Cymbidium…sometimes called Cyms or Boat Orchids. Cymbidium orchids are very popular because they are easy to grow and are therefore a perfect choice for beginners. Plus, with the proper care, they will provide beautiful flowers every year. They originate from India, China, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Borneo and Australia.
Dendrobium…Although they are easy to grow, they require slightly more care than Cymbidiums and do not flower as easily. They can be found mainly in tropical conditions of Northern India, South East Asia, Australia and Polynesia. Because they are found in tropical conditions, most Dendrobiums thrive in warm, humid growing conditions and should be kept moist.
Oncidium Orchids… sometimes called Spray Orchids. These are probably the most popular indoor orchids due to the fact that they produce dozens of beautiful flowers. They are found across a large part of the world including Mexico, Florida, the Caribbean and South America.
Here are a few more to look out for:
Catteleya, Epidendrum, Masdevilla, Miltonia, Odontoglossum, Paphiopedilum and Vanda Orchids.
Its a good idea not to get too hung up on the botanical names, as long as you are aware of them they will make sense when you see them on your plant labels or tags. After all your main goal is to use the name to research the growing conditions best suited to your chosen orchid types.
There are some great reference manuals that can help you to identify and learn a lot more about your type of orchid. Check out my post looking at a few good orchid books both for beginners and the more dedicated orchid enthusiast.