Orchid Types: Complete Guide

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Complete Guide to Orchid Types  – So much beauty resides in the world, but nothing compares to the beauty of a fully bloomed flower.

There are so many varieties of flowers in the world that it may be hard to choose just one as your favorite.

Though in our mind, there is one that stands above the rest for both its beauty and mystery and that is the orchid.

Even within this flower family, there are so many types that once you have developed a love for this gorgeous bloom, you may struggle choosing between the different orchid types without a little information.

So, in this guide, we will be looking at some of the multiple varieties of orchid that are strewn across the globe.

But first, what is an orchid? And why is it so infatuating?

Orchid Types

What is an Orchid?

These simple, elegant flowers have been held in regard for centuries and have many captivating qualities that make them a great choice for any garden.

For centuries this marvelous plant has been used in medicinal practices by civilizations like the Chinese, the Greeks and even the Aztecs (they liked to put vanilla in their cocoa and vanilla comes from an orchid plant).

So, as you see, the orchid is not only beautiful but helpful as well.

The orchid comes from the family Orchidaceae which has 80 genera, 25,000+ species, and hybrids that get into the 100,000+ area.

They exist in every corner of the world that can sustain life.

These different types will vary in everything from size to color to weight.

Many of these have become popular with horticulturists the world over for the ease of care and long-lasting blooms.

They are also easy to find, and that makes them perfect for building your garden or simply add a flare in your living room.

With all those different varieties, it would be a long article if we tried to cover them all so below, we will look at just some of the most common.

17 Orchid Types

These beautiful flowers have been around longer than humans and as we said, they have served (and still do) many purposes.

Used in food and medicine as well as for their beauty, the orchid family is diverse, and each branch has its own unique features.

Here are some of the 800 genera and a little look at their unique beauty.

Angraecum

Within this type of orchid, you will find over 200 different species.

They will all bear the same star shape and are sometimes called the Comet Orchid.

One of the most well-known members of this family is the Christmas Orchid.

This type of orchid and most of its sub-species comes from Madagascar or Africa.

It is a monopodial plant (that means it has one stem that grows from the ground with alternating leaves).

These orchids tend to have a small to medium flower and come in a few different colors.

Most of these orchids are white, but you can also find them in yellow or even light green.

The Angraecum is pollinated by moths, which is why they often tend to be white for better visibility at night.

The nighttime fragrance of these orchids is quite enchanting.

Their care is easy as well.

It needs to be watered regularly and likes the middle of the road temps (60-80 degrees Fahrenheit).

They look good either potted or hanging.

Brassavola

This orchid also goes by the name the Lady-of-the-Night Orchid and for a good reason.

The scent it produces at night smells of a citrus base and is quite fragrant.

This is important as the scent is meant to attract the moths needed to pollinate the flower.

For the humans that cultivate it is just a lovely scent that you can smell from anywhere in your garden.

This orchid type is one that is primarily found in the wild in Central and South America.

They are prominent in places like Mexico, Peru, and even grow wild in the Caribbean.

They bloom regularly and often so you will never have to worry about not being able to take in their beauty no matter what time of year.

Their beautiful flower is small but stunning.

They are easy to care for as are most of the orchid species.

They like warmer temps and good exposure to light.

Watering frequently is a must, but so is ensuring the soil they are set in, gets dry in between watering.

They grow quite quickly and are best suited in humid climates.

Catasetum

This genus is one that offers a unisex flower.

Depending on what light you grow this orchid under, you will either get a female (Cattleya) or a male (Phalaenopsis) plant.

These two flowers look very different, so we are going to look at both under this orchid type title.

But first, let us look at the overall flower of this orchid.

The Catasetum in its unisex form usually has a white flower with a yellowish center.

It is one of the orchids that lay dormant during the cold months.

So, with a basic overview of the main orchid, let’s look at what happens when you get the female and male versions.

Cattleya

The flower of this orchid is a multi-colored beauty.

Its flowers will have a vibrant pinkish-red mixed with white and may have freckles and such as well as other colors if you have a hybrid version.

The Cattleya orchid is one of the most popular flowers in corsages as they look stunning and smell amazing.

The blooms can measure up to 8” when in full bloom and does well with indoor growing.

Phalaenopsis

The male form of the Catasetum is also called the Moth Orchid.

This variation comes in a wide range of vibrantly stunning colors.

You can have versions of this orchid that range from yellow to a spotted burgundy.

This orchid will bloom periodically throughout the year.

The flowers live long, and due to the easy care and growing this orchid is one of the favorites in the orchid growing world.

Cymbidium

One of the colder climate breeds of orchid, the Cymbidium is native to the Himalayas.

Unlike many of the other varieties of orchid, these have smaller and more petals.

That may be why they have won so many awards.

There are multiple colors available. You have a yellow/red, a lime green, and a bright pink version of these beautiful flowers.

Usually, these flowers grow in clusters of up to 25 flowers and can be as tall as 6”.

They are relatively long-lasting flowers and are easy to grow and maintain.

They really work well indoors and have a spectacular fragrance.

Dendrobium

In this variety of orchid, there are 1,000+ members.

These orchids have a more consolidated flower that resides at the top of the stem.

In this type of orchid, the species will be divided into two subcategories: hard-caned and soft caned.

Before we go into the details about each, let us finish our general overview.

This orchid can come in many colors, from white to lavender.

This is an orchid that can survive anywhere, depending on the variety you get.

In fact, there are varieties of this orchid that keep their growth year-round.

When in bloom you may notice that one single bloom may yield multiple colors and that is why gardeners love this breed so much.

Hard-Caned

These Dendrobiums are tall and have pseudobulbs that are thinner than the others.

The leaves of this orchid also are a bit darker green than the soft-caned version.

The hard caned keep their leaves for a year and have spiked tops that yield a flower spray like no other.

Soft-Caned

The soft-cane variety still has the thin and long pseudobulbs, but their leaves are a lighter green.

The blooms of this orchid bloom from the individual offshoot stems that line the cane.

They lose their leaves yearly making them a deciduous plant.

Each style of Dendrobium will need special care and a wholly different maintenance schedule.

Epidendrum

This genus has over 1,000 different varieties and is often called the Crucifix Orchids.

The Epidendrum orchid produces a large group of flowers each with three lobes and an adnate which resembles a crucifix, hence the name.

The flowers vary in color and overall shape to some degree.

You can get these orchids in colors ranging from pink/dark orange with yellow throats to purples and white.

Native to Mexico these orchids are great for beginning horticulturists.

They live for the light and, therefore, need a lot of good bright light to grow.

These orchids are used quite frequently in hybridization; they take a little care, but if done the right way will last for years.

Ludisia

There are a lot of unique things about this orchid.

The Ludisia, also is known as a Jewel Orchid, grows in the soil and not the air, has a unique feel and leaves to go along with it.

The leaves are reddish-green, and they have an almost velvet feeling.

Because they are native to the floor of the rain forest, they do well in shaded areas and tend to bloom in the winter and early spring.

This makes them a great indoor house plant.

The flowers when they bloom are small and beautiful.

The petals are usually white with a yellow center.

If you do want to grow them indoors, you will want to pick a place where the temp stays regular and has a nice humidity level.

They will need to be in the soil, as we stated, since they grow in it unlike other varieties of orchid that grow in the air.

Masdevallia

These orchids have a unique flower and even colors, which make them an interesting orchid to grow.

Though they require a little more attention and specialty environments so they may be suitable for gardeners with a bit more experience.

The Masdevallia orchid grows in the mountain regions of Central and South America.

They enjoy cool temps, which is why the high elevations of the mountainous regions are perfect.

The cool temps mixed with the higher humidity is ideal for most varieties of this orchid.

There are a few that prefer less humidity than those mentioned above.

The flower of the orchid is not like most with a long petal, but rather is sort of a triangular shape and compact that end in whisker-like tips.

They are summer bloomers and can be found in colors like a beautiful orange/yellow combo with very vibrant green leaves.

Maxillaria

This type of orchid houses within its family more than 300 different species.

Though only a handful are known to the populace because only that handful produces flowers of any beauty.

They can come in colors like white, yellow, brown and darker shades like reds and purples that are so dark you may think they are black.

They also come in color varieties as well, which will have multiple colors present and may resemble flames.

This variety also has petals that range in sizes and height.

The shape of the flower itself is consistent and has a triangular dynamic to them.

The flowers themselves bloom from the short spike that grows along the stem, and each one will yield one bloom.

The versatility of this variety is shown even more when you look at where they can grow.

Ranging from sea level regions, well into the high mountains, there are members of this family that find their homes in these places.

This may make them a little harder to cultivate, but once you find the right variety of Maxillaria for your environment, it will be easy to grow and maintain them.

Odontoglossum

This member of the orchid family has 100 different varieties as well as some hybridizations as well.

These various members can vary in size, color, and even patterns.

The orchid itself gets its name from two Greek words meaning tooth and tongue.

This is because, at the base of the stem, you will find a small protrusion that looks like both these things.

They can get up to a foot high, and the flowers can bloom to be 6” wide.

They will usually bloom anywhere from 20 -100+ flowers from each stem and once a year.

These flowers will last for about a month and a half before dying.

The flowers are fragrant and ruffled at the edges.

They grow well in cool environments.

Oncidium

This member of the orchid family is large and has multiple variations of flowers.

The most common Oncidium orchid is called the Dancing Lady.

This variety is easy to maintain and grow, so it makes it perfect for novice growers.

There are many variations in color and fragrance, including one that smells like chocolate.

The plant itself grows well in high humidity climates.

If you notice deformed leaves, then you may need to add humidity to its growing location.

These orchids, no matter which variety you choose, offer beautiful sprays of blooms that will brighten up any garden.

Phaius

This orchid is also known as the Nun’s Cap Orchid.

This is an orchid that is perfect for the garden as the stems can reach up to four feet high before ending in unique blooms.

These orchids have large leaves, and the flowers are usually either yellow, white, or purple.

This orchid is a winter flower and adds a lot to any garden.

The flowers will last a long time well into spring.

This orchid is one of the varieties that grow in soil and not the air.

You will want a good amount of lights and very moist soil.

Phragmipedium

You may know these as Lady Slippers, but they are called Phragmipedium orchids.

Dominant in Central and South America they grow well in rocky soil rich in nutrients like a volcano bed.

They tend to bloom in spring and may vary in color from green to mahogany.

This is one of the orchids used the most in the creation of new strains.

They require a lot of water, and some varieties have even been known to survive submersion underwater for short periods.

The center petal of the bloom looks like a little shoe, hence the name.

The other three petals are long and pointed with fluctuations in color throughout.

These blooms like mild temps and high humidity.

Psychopsis

A member of the Oncidium family this subspecies house five branches from it.

These orchids are pseudobulbs, which means that the blooms come from individual bulbs produced from the stalks.

The Psychopsis, or Butterfly Orchid, comes in a beautiful variety of vibrant colors.

Unlike many others, these vibrant colors are more autumnal colors like burgundy and bright gold.

These orchids can also have green leaves and speckles.

The form of the orchid has evolved to help the pollination process.

Mimicking a butterfly as the wind begins to blow it looks like a butterfly is aggressively flapping its wings.

This, in turn, instigates the bees of the area to attack, and through this action, the orchid is pollinated.

The orchid itself frequently blooms throughout the year and is quite easy to maintain.

Vanda

The Vanda orchid finds its native home in the humid climate of Southeast Asia.

That is why this orchid flourishes with lots of light and heat and a good amount of humidity.

This plant, for all of these reasons, takes a higher level of care than others and therefore should only be grown by an experienced gardener.

The plant itself comprises a long thin stock and stunningly vibrant blooms that can be produced in white, violet or lavender.

The plant should be grown in a sturdy and larger growing space than many other orchid types.

These blooms are simply elegant and great to add to bouquets and centerpieces.

Vanilla

This orchid is exceptionally unique in that it only blooms for one day.

This plant, unlike many of its cousins, grows more like a vine and will need some sort of support to grow properly.

To get to this point, it can take up to 3 years to achieve maturity enough to bloom.

These flowers are great in gardens and greenhouses and take a little extra care so maybe better for experienced gardeners.

It opens in the morning and closes in the evening and will not bloom again for another 365 days.

When they do bloom, they grow large groups of flowers (10-20) and are usually a yellow-green color.

The flowers grow to 6” but the plant itself can grow to 30’) and smell like vanilla.

In fact, vanilla can be procured from these flowers.

This happens after pollination, where the orchids pod begins to develop.

This pod is the vanilla bean, so not only is this orchid beautiful, you can cultivate your own vanilla beans too.

Though this may take some patience as some varieties of Vanilla orchids will not bloom until they have reached at least 20’ in length.

The biggest location in the world where these plants are grown commercially in Madagascar and Mexico.

Zygopetalum

This subset of the orchid family is relatively small and only encompasses 15 species.

The Zygopetalum are year-round bloomers and when fully bloomed herald spectacular colors like burgundy, pink and purple.

The leaves are a deep purple in the center with green trim and may have darker lines running through the petal itself.

The flower is a bit waxy and can grow to be almost 2’ tall.

They require special care so they may not be great for newer gardeners.

This orchid works better with strong indirect light and mild temps.

Humidity-wise you will be okay with mild to heavy, and they will need to be watered regularly, especially during the summer months.

Complete Guide to Orchid Types

As we said in the opening section, there are over 25,000 species of orchid, and we looked at not even a quarter of the varieties known to man (and that doesn’t include hybrids), but now you have a good base of knowledge you can use to begin your ultimate final decision on what orchid you want to grow.

And if you are not looking to get into horticulture and were just interested in learning more about orchids, we certainly hope we have helped you as well.

With this list of some of the most popular varieties, you are armed with a good wealth of knowledge to get you started on whichever path you are on.

Understanding the different varieties of orchids is the first step in starting your journey into their cultivation.

Each of the above orchids and the many not mentioned have their own basic requirements when it comes to their care.

This stems from the plant’s native habitat and can help you narrow down which orchid is right for you.

These flowers are also great for hybridization and can lead to unique variations that will stun the world.

No matter what level of gardening experience you have, there is an orchid that will be the right choice for you.

Coupling your climate with your experience, you will be able to narrow down the field.

Hopefully, our guide helps you a little and makes it a much easier goal to find the right orchid type for you and your garden.

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