We just love Orchids. They are beautiful and mysterious-looking—and April 16 is their national holiday!
Orchids are one of the biggest plant families, comprising more than 25,000 species and over 100,000 manmade hybrids and cultivars. Orchids grow on all continents except Antarctica, with most concentrated in the tropics.
One of the cool things about orchids is that they grow on all kinds of surfaces, also called substrates. Here are the 3 types:
Oncidium verrucosum | image via: plantsrescue
Most commercial orchids are epiphytes, which means they grow on other plants in a non-parasitic way. They derive their nutrients from the air and water, not from their hosts which merely provide nooks and crannies for support above the ground. Common epiphytes are phalaenopsis, oncidium, cattleya, and vanda, which are often used in floral arrangements.
Cymbidium madidum | image via: wikicommons
These orchids grow at the ground level but are not necessarily in the soil. Their hair-covered roots are usually burrowed into the top layer of moss and leaves on the forest floor. Terrestrial orchids tolerate low levels of sunlight, as they are most often shaded by the tree canopy. Examples of terrestrial orchids include cymbidiums, phragmipediums, and paphiopedilums.
Pleione formosana | image via: Hirt's Garden
These orchids grow in the crevices between rocks, deriving nutrients from natural debris. Lithophytes will usually require frequent drenching and high humidity since their roots can dry out quickly among the rocks. Examples include some dendrobium and laelia species, as well as the Pleione formosana.
To celebrate National Orchid Day, make a trip up to the New York Botanical Garden through April 28 for their 17th Annual Orchid Show. You can also check out PlantShed’s Phalaenopsis collection and our floral arrangements that feature beautiful orchids.