Photo Tease

If you’re searching for a bloom pic to go with this morning’s garden column in the Greenville News, look no further…

February bloom of jewel orchid (Ludisia discolor)

February bloom of jewel orchid (Ludisia discolor)

Part of the fun of writing for publication is never knowing exactly what will be included and what might be put aside.  In the case of the winter-blooming jewel orchid, however, I felt certain you would want a chance to admire its flowers.

For those outside the Upstate, here is a brief synopsis of the plant story…

Jewel orchid (Ludisia discolor), a terrestrial plant native to the forest floors of Indonesia and Malaysia, is prized for its foliage as well as flowers.  In fact, some say there’s no such thing as an “out of bloom” jewel orchid, because the eye-catching leaves create interest throughout the year.

White, winter-blooming flowers are held aloft on foot-long spikes which emerge from tips of the orchid’s creeping stems.  Though small, more than a dozen blooms ornament each spike, and many spikes can flower in tandem for an impressive display.

Unlike some of its finicky kin, Ludisia discolor is a compliant plant with a tough disposition; with the right growing conditions, it can be cultivated with moderate maintenance and care.  Typically grown as a houseplant that may be moved outdoors in summer, bright indirect light is preferred.

The orchid is surprisingly tolerant of indoor heat in winter, but requires careful watering.  Add moisture when the soil mix has begun to dry, but before it’s completely dehydrated.  If kept consistently wet, however, the plant will suffer.

Fertilizer can be applied sparingly or more often, as long as a dilute mixture is utilized.  A balanced liquid fertilizer, such as 20-20-20, is recommended by experts.

Propagation is easy.  New plants can be made by rooting cuttings in water.  The orchid can also be started by firming a snip directly into a moist, well-draining potting mix.  Older plants can be divided to increase plant vigor by simply splitting the root ball in two or three pieces and then replanting each section in fresh potting soil.

Ornamental foliage of jewel orchid (Ludisia discolor)

Ornamental foliage of jewel orchid (Ludisia discolor)


11 thoughts on “Photo Tease

  1. Carolyn Moseley

    I had this plant for several years and then it died off. It was so lovely and thank you for reminding me. Carolyn

  2. annamadeit

    I saw my first Ludisia discolor at the Seattle garden show the other week. I completely and totally fell in love with its leaves. Like velvet, and absolutely stunning. Have been constantly on the lookout ever since. If I ever come across one, it will have to come home with me.


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