Orchids are a diverse family consisting of more than 27,000 species of elegant blooming plants found in nearly every country and climate around the world. Many are relatively easy to get along with, rewarding the grower with colorful, exotic blooms. Here are 5 of our favorite, must-have orchids.
1. Lady’s Slippers orchids – Lady’s slippers orchids produce colorful, waxy flowers in winter and spring. Some varieties have several flowers per stem; others may have interesting, variegated or speckled leaves. Native to North America, parts of Europe and Southeast Asia, lady’s slippers prefer less light and a little more water than most orchids.
2. Odontoglossum orchids – “Odonts” are valued for the large, long-lasting flowers in spectacular shades of white, yellow, orange, red or pink, sometimes splotched with other, contrasting colors. Odontoglossums like cooler temperatures than most orchids, generally between 65 and 75 F. (18-24 C.) during the day, and 50 to 55 F. (10-13 C.) at night. There are about 100 species of Odontoglossums; read the label carefully because some cultivars are trickier than others.
3. Moth orchids – One of the most popular and accommodating of all orchids, moth orchids, named for the butterfly-like shape of the flowers, are great for beginning orchid aficionados. The exotic blooms are available in shades of pink, green, white, red, purple, orange and yellow, frequently lasting for months during winter and late spring. Some cultivars have interesting patterns and splotches on the leaves.
4. Dendrobium orchids – Dendrobiums are a great choice, but read up before you jump in because this is a huge genus of plants boasting at least 1,200 species with a wide a range of growing requirements. However, most are readily available and relatively easy to get along with. The sweetly scented flowers of purple, white, pink or green can appear throughout fall, winter and spring.
5. Encyclia orchids – Familiarly known as cockleshell or clamshell orchids, encyclia orchids are a relatively common species with blooms that resemble clamshells, although many people think the flowers are more akin to tiny octopuses. Either way, the distinctive purple, burgundy or brownish blooms, each with showy lime-green sepals, have a unique, tropical appearance.