The Wonderful World of Orchids

By Dotty Woodson, Ed.D., Horticulturist
February 19, 2023

The orchid plant family, Orchidaceae, is the most prominent in the world, with 30,000+ species in 600+ genera, 274 species in North America, 54 in Texas, and four in undisturbed areas in north Texas. Orchid species occur naturally worldwide, and millions of hybrids grow in greenhouses and homes. The diversity of orchids and their habitats makes growing orchids an exciting never-ending pleasure and challenge.

Cymbidium orchids

Orchids grow from the edge of the Arctic Circle to the islands that rim the Antarctic. In temperate regions, orchids are perennial, terrestrial plants. Orchids in the tropics are epiphytes growing on trees, rocks, or leaf litter. Epiphytic orchid roots have spongy tissue that absorbs water and nitrogen from the air and helps the orchids cling to tree trunks, branches, or rocks.

Perennial epiphytic orchid hybrid

Most beautiful orchids sold in bloom are showy tropical perennial epiphytic orchid hybrids. These orchids are hybridized for long-lasting, colorful flowers grown in containers or mounted on cork, tree fern, or durable branches. The diversity of orchid flowers, color, size, fragrance, growth, and habitat provide keys to growing many different genera. Providing the required light, water, and temperature keep orchids growing and flowering for many years.

Phalaenopsis Orchids

Phalaenopsis, the moth orchid, is the most popular because the graceful arching flower spikes last several months. The three-to-four-inch flowers are white, pink, yellow, striped, and spotted. These orchids are easy to grow and freely flower every year under normal conditions in a home at a south window, under lights, or outdoors in an area with shade during the summer or in a shaded greenhouse—Phalaenopsis flowers from March through June in the northern hemisphere.

A showy Pink Lady Slipper orchid

North America has many different types of orchids. For example, Minnesota’s state flower is the showy pink lady slipper, Cypripedium reginae. These showy indigenous orchids flower in the summer.

Many species’ habitats are disappearing due to development and food production. I recommend buying nursery-grown plants for the best quality orchid to enjoy in your home.

A beautiful tropical orchid specimen on display at the World of Orchids event

The Fort Worth Botanic Garden is hosting ‘World of Orchids,’ a spectacular event in the FWBG Rainforest Conservatory to display thousands of orchids from around the world from Friday, February 24 to Sunday, April 9. The orchids exhibited at the show are tropical orchids with large colorful, exquisite flowers. This exciting event includes lectures, demonstrations, educational displays, and an FWISD Art Show. Volunteers are available to answer questions at the entrance and in the conservatory. For information, visit FWBG.org/orchids.

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