Gem of a Winter Flowering Houseplant
The down to earth jewel orchid is the beginner’s best choice for growing orchids inside the home.
In winter as poinsettias and amaryllis begin to fade and only the tips of forced bulbs are emerging indoors, a sun-shy houseplant, the jewel orchid, Ludisia discolor, is in full bloom. Velvety dark burgundy leaves are etched in striking red and gold veins. Rosettes of leaves surround foot high spikes of white, fragrant flowers dripping beads of sticky honey-like nectar. For an IMAX image slowly scan the plant with a magnifier.
Cultural Practices for Jewel Orchids
Jewel orchids require attention to the same cultural elements as most plants: light, air circulation, temperature, humidity, water, potting medium, and feeding.
The jewel orchid is easy to grow indoors in a plastic pot or terrarium. This terrestrial orchid, native to the tropical forest floor in Malaysia and Indonesia, can be potted in the same indoor soilless potting mix used for other houseplants. Ludisia prefers low to medium light near a window and warm room temperatures of 65-75ºF. Locate plants away from cool drafts.
Humidity is important to orchids. Household activities which add humidity to the indoor air like showering, washing dishes and clothes, and cooking should suffice. But taking orchids into the shower or Jacuzzi occasionally provides a tropical atmosphere for a brief time. Placing pots over trays of rocks filled with water or clustering plants together gives the benefit of collective transpiration.
Fertilize orchids on a regular monthly schedule using a dose of specially formulated liquid orchid fertilizer like Peter’s. Fish emulsion and liquid seaweed may be used as alternatives.
Water regularly checking to make sure the soil is dry before adding water. Boggy or soggy conditions are not tolerated.
Jewel orchids grown indoors in winter will respond well to summering outdoors in a protected area.
Propagation of Jewel Orchids
The jewel orchid is easy to propagate from stem cuttings any time of the year. Place cuttings in water or directly in potting mix. New plants do well solo or in clusters similar to the colonies in their native habitat. Local orchid lovers and orchid society members are always willing to assist the novice.
Single starter plants are relatively inexpensive and should be obtained from well-respected orchid nurseries like Carter and Holmes in South Carolina and Hausermann in Illinois. Local orchid society shows usually include terrestrial orchids at their sales booth.
Don’t let fears of failure prevent jewel orchids from becoming an integral part of your family and your home’s decor. The sensory delight of foliage and flowers and the satisfaction experienced in raising Ludisia will convince you that anyone can grow winter jewel orchids.