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What’s Blooming in Paradise: Reed orchids are showstoppers

By Staff | Jul 20, 2016

Most orchids are epiphytes, which means they sit on top of their selected companion. PHOTO BY Anita Force Marshall

Plant Subject: Reed orchid (Epidendrum ibaguense)

First impression: Striking, exotic, five petals with a sixth larger iconic orchid-lobed lip in yellows, oranges and reds. Wow, such dramatic fade in-and-outs of colorations adorn the frilly lipped petal. The elliptic leaves are soft green and all along the reed like stem, which is in the shape of caned bamboo. These gorgeous orchids are growing as ground covers in the garden soil. I am drawn to the many tiny dancing flowers on slender extra long stalks. You can grow these multitudes of tiny orchids fluttering in full bloom in your tropical gardens.

Upon further investigation: Reed aka sun orchids, hail from the Epidendrum genus of which you can easily be confused with the more than 800 plus species that are terrestrial or epiphytic. It is a show stopper, with umbrella like clusters of tiny glowing flowers suspended by super long slender stalks, which gives them an excuse to dance at any chance they get.

The five quinacridone orange, petals are tiny, soft, and oblong, with the sixth petal as the preverbal orchid nectar guide for pollinators. It is drop dead gorgeous, marked with a yellow landing pad and varying shades of brilliant orange dotted with crimson freckles. Each flower stalk is laden with 10 to 15 flowers and if you’re lucky, you can smell that faint sweet scent, which I find strongest early morning and dusk.

After blooming, remove spent blooms to be ready for the next profusion of blossoms. The dark green leaves are linear, long cane like and remind me of bamboo and attached by the roots. A healthy strong orchid will have numerous silvery colored roots encircling and securing itself in the soil. Most orchids are epiphytes, which means they sit on top of their selected companion.

Our orchid is a very hearty terrestrial orchid which obtains most of its moisture and run off nutrients from the garden soil and plants around it. Our stars parents were naturally occurring in the tropics but non-native to our region. Orchid, just the name and your mind can conjure up a flower picture that’s fanciful and magical.

I have had success with our reed orchids in full-sun and drought like conditions. Once they establish themselves, they are non-stop bloomers. They form babies at the ends of its roots and keeps growing wider and wider. I easily separate the larger clumps and transplant them all over the garden. There are three varieties in colors of yellows, purples and oranges. Add some to your garden oasis and you can discover another way of enjoying orchids at ground level.

Pros:

Likes filtered sun to full

Flowers are unique, exotic and fanciful

Is great for oooh’s and ahhs

Long lived blooming period

Everyone needs at least one

No care needed

Lovely soft fragrance

Cons:

Non-native plant

Has a sprawling manner

It’s hard to say no to any orchid!

Conclusion: Bring your camera or your paintbrushes to record the bounty of your beauties. You don’t have to look up to admire these exploding with orchid uniqueness land lover who is just waiting for you to admire. So many flowers so little time in your eye catching tropical garden. Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!

Remember: We have a yearly fertilizer restriction during July 1 thru Oct. 2. This is a very important mandatory restriction to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus runoff into our precious waterways. Any fertilizing during our rainy season only ends up in our water resources as unwanted algae blooms.