Orchid Family, Orchid Plants

profile iconOrchid Phalaenopsis hybrid
by Arad (CC-BY-SA-3.0)
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A close up of a pink orchid flower
profile iconOrchid Phalaenopsis hybrid
by Arad (CC-BY-SA-3.0)
1 of 18
The orchid family, Orchidaceae, is one of the two largest families of flowering plants, containing approximately 738 genera (groups of species) of the plants commonly known as Orchids. Around 24, 500 species are known to science. However estimates vary and new species are discovered or bred every year. Orchid plants vary hugely in their appearance - they are perennial herbaceous plants which can flower every year, many producing colourful, patterned stripy or spotty flowers, which often have a strong scent. Most orchids are grown for their flowers, rather than their leaves. However as this family is massive and diverse, it contains some species which have very attractive foliage and some flowers could even be considered ugly, with hairs and wart-like structures! Some notable genera from this family include Bulbophyllum, with around 2059 species, Epidendrum with approximately 1630 species, Dendrobium with roughly 1547 species and Pleurothallis with around 539 species. The family Orchidaceae also contains Vanilla plants, from which vanilla flavouring is produced. You can find out more in-depth care information for many species and cultivars on their individual plant profiles.
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Flowering time

Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter



Stem cuttings can be taken from many Dendrobium species.


Requires specialist equipment. Germination of many orchid seeds requires the establishment of a fungal association known as mycorrhiza fungi.

Special features

Attractive leaves

Attracts useful insects

Attracts butterflies

Attracts bees

Attracts birds

Pot plant

Attractive flowers

The universally agreed, defining feature of an Orchid, the thing that sets them apart from all other flowering plants, is the fusion of the reproductive structures. The male stamen and the female pistil are joined in the flower into a single structure termed the column.



Full Sun, Partial Sun, Full Shade

Soil moisture


Soil type

Air, Bark, Water

Soil PH preference

Acid, Alkaline, Neutral




Flower colour

Multicoloured, Green, White, Orange, Pink, Cream, Yellow, Purple, Red, Blue


Strong - Varies across different plants, some produce strongly scented blooms, others only slightly fragrant flowers and some species do not have scents.


Orchids can be harmed by various viruses, often developing patterns of pale green-yellow or brown-black discolourment. Many are incurable and the best course of action is to destroy the affected plants to prevent spread.
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Knowledge and advice

Search our ever-growing knowledge base to find plants and information. Find out about pests and diseases you should be keeping an eye out for. Watch How to videos or follow step by step guides for tasks in the garden. Free download for your phone or tablet.,
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