Also known as
Orchid Family, Orchid Plants
More images of Orchids
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 individual species are known to science. However, estimates vary and new species are discovered or bred every year. This means care instructions depend on the genera and species. When you buy an orchid, research what the species' natural environment is like and try to replicate that at home. Some like it warm and wet, some cool and dry(ish), so a little homework is needed! The one thing common to all however, is that spent flowers should be deadheaded! Orchids may be terrestrial and thus grow in or on the soil, these are usually rhizomatous, cormous or tuberous. Most are epiphytic and able to grow without the need for soil substrate, instead gleaning nutrition from their immediate surroundings. Some are lithophytes, these plants grow without soil on or in rocks. Orchid plants also vary hugely in their appearance - they are perennial herbaceous plants that 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. As this family is massive and diverse however, it contains some species which have very attractive foliage and some flowers could even be considered ugly, with hairs and wart-like structures! Scent varies across different plants – some produce strongly scented blooms, others only slightly fragrant flowers, and some species do not have a scent at all. 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.
Common problems with Orchids
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.
How to propagate Orchids
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 of Orchids
Attracts useful insects
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.