The Dendrobium orchid is an ideal choice for beginners. It is fast-growing and thrives in myriad climates. This lanky epiphyte can be found in both hot, humid valleys and atop crisp, cool mountains.
Do not let its easy nature fool you, though. Retailers choose this Southeast Asian native for good reasons.
The Dendrobium displays elegant sprays of color. It makes a delightful bouquet of cut flowers. Delicate and uniquely shaped petals explode in clusters of yellow, orange, green, pink, purple, brown, and white. The sturdy, stiff, and deep green leaves provide a striking background for the flowers’ artistry.
Dendrobium is also used in traditional Chinese Medicines to treat a variety of age-related maladies. In Asian cultures, it is also known as “the orchid that gives long life to men,” according to the National Institutes of Health.
Let’s dive right into what you need to know to take care of this orchid!
Dendrobium is pronounced den-DROH-bee-um. Its name has Greek origins. “Dendros” means tree, and “bios” means life. These ornamental beauties are often found growing on other trees.
The bamboo-like pseudobulb is a sturdy, thick cane. It supports multiple flower stakes that produce plentiful blossoms. The stakes most often are found at the top of the stem.
In some instances, though, the flower stakes appear along the entire length of the stem. Because of its tall stature, growers often stake this soaring sympodial.
Expect your flowers to bloom brilliantly once a year for approximately a month. These flowers will have little to no scent.
Once the bloom is complete, caretakers should snip the flower stake close to the cane. Do not trim the pseudobulb. New flower stems will grow from this main stalk. In addition, these old pseudobulbs store nutrients and water to keep the orchid healthy.
These previously active canes may also produce flowers or small seedlings. If you see this growth from “last year’s pseudobulb,” watch for a root system to develop. With a developed root system, these off-shoots can be potted anew.
Do not be surprised if your charmer drops its leaves. Some, but not all, are deciduous.
While you are caring for it, watch closely for insect infestations. Too many plants in a tight and poorly ventilated area – crowding – can instigate insect infestations and fungus growth.
Help your plants breathe. Leave room for the air to circulate from all directions. A small fan can help to provide good air circulation around your plants.
The potting medium you choose is one of the deciding factors in how quickly this princess drinks. Dendrobiums like to use most of the water they have been given before receiving more. This popular orchid’s pseudobulb is a well-developed water storage organ.
During active growth, plan on twice-a-week waterings. Test the soil with your finger. Once the soil is almost dry, place the pot in a watering basin and add barely warm water.
When you notice a terminal leaf, active growth has stopped. Change your watering strategy to accommodate this change of life. Allow the medium to become dry before rehydrating.
Continue watering and fertilizing even after growth stops. Within a year, new growth will appear, and the blooming cycle will begin again.
Regardless of the growing stage, do not use treated or distilled water. Add water until the plant cannot hold anymore. Leave the plant in the sink to drain completely. Do not let your plant sit in pooled water while it is draining. It is best to do this early in the day so that the leaves are dry before nightfall.
Although they can be grown in natural or artificial light, they thrive in veiled southerly windows.
They do, however, require a lot of light for healthy growth and show-worthy blossoms. If blooms are not producing as you would like, consider adding additional light. Direct sun, however, should be avoided and may yellow your usually hearty leaves. They will accommodate east- and west-facing windows.
They will also grow in greenhouses. Should you choose this option, aim for approximately 30 to 50 percent full sun. If artificial light is preferred, place four 40-watt fluorescent tubes and two 40-watt incandescent bulbs directly over the Dendrobiums.
As mentioned, Dendrobiums are chameleon-like when it comes to climate. With sufficient ventilation and controlled humidity, they can tolerate hot weather. Similarly, if other cultural factors are adjusted, these adapters can handle colder conditions.
Ideally, growing plants enjoy temperatures between 65°F and 75°F in the day. Once night falls, reduce the dial to between 55°F to 60°. If temperatures drop below 50°F, expect to lose leaves.
As this orchid matures, temperatures will need to be adjusted. During the day, aim for between 80°F and 90°F, with overnight temperatures coming in around 15°F to 20°F cooler.
To manage the temperature with certainty, measure the actual temperature right where your pot sits. Room temperatures vary. They will certainly be influenced by light and heat moving through windows.
The sweet spot for humidity is between 50 and 60 percent. Brown tips on your Dendrobium’s leaves mean that the humidity is too low.
At home, place your pots on trays over moistened pebbles. Do not let the pot rest directly in the water, though. You may need to run a humidifier to pump water into the air if you see the tell-tale brown tips.
If you are raising your orchid in a greenhouse, using a humidifier will be a given. Humidifiers are necessary to ensure the humidity level remains on point. They also prevent the environment from becoming excessively dry.
Hungry plants are unhappy plants. Use a balanced fertilizer specially formulated for orchids and the potting medium. Develop a regular schedule and stick to it.
Consider feeding weekly at one-quarter strength. You can go as high as half-strength but should monitor carefully for signs that the leaves and roots have been burned.
Once a month, it is also a good idea to flush the potting mix with clear water. This will rid the environment of salts and other toxins.
Dendrobiums like relatively small pots, considering their height. When a Dendrobium finds itself in a large pot, it responds with slowed growth and reduced flower creation. They are happiest when their roots are cramped.
These perennials also like an acidic medium that imitates what they would find naturally in the wild. Because they have evolved to grow on other lifeforms, Dendrobiums do not actually grow in soil.
Choose a commercial orchid potting medium that contains peat moss, perlite, or fir bark. Some orchid enthusiasts opt to make their own medium, using a combination of those elements. Ultimately, the medium needs to provide suitable ventilation and encourage proper draining.
When repotting, choose a pot that is just a little bigger than the last one. Dendrobiums should be repotted every two to three years.
As you situate the Dendrobium in its new pot, work the medium into and around the root structure. Be careful not to suffocate the roots. Plastic and clay pots work just fine.
The Dendrobium category is among the largest of the orchid groups. More than 1,500 species have been recorded.