Orchid Care for Beginners

 - Orchid Names

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What kind of orchid is it?

Identifying orchids by their proper name is one of the the hardest things to learn when it comes to plant care for beginners. Sooner or later you're going to have to confront those tongue twisting orchid names however. How can we possibly discuss these wonderful plants without knowing their names? 

Nature has blessed us with over 30,000 unique orchids! And more are being discovered every year. Classifying all these plants requires a complex naming structure. 

To make things even more interesting, the language of orchid names is Latin, the International Language of identification.

Those two things right there are enough to stop anyone. As a beginner grower, how do you make sense of all those Latin names and abreviations?  Don't panic, this isn't as hard as it looks.

As a beginner growers there are only four groups or families (sometimes called tribes) of plants you'll need to know.  There are hundreds of plants in each group but don't be concerned with that for now. The four families are:

Orchid Name Pronounced as
Cattleya KAT-lee-a
Dendrobium den-DROH-bee-um
Oncidium on-SID-ee-um
Phalaenopsis fal-en-OP-sis

Practice pronouncing these names out loud because you'll want to use them as you talk about your plants. Don't be embarrassed - after a little practice, you'll be glossing over these names like you've been using them all your life.

Now, to help identify your plants, lets learn some visual characteristics of the most common orchid groups (or tribes). These are broad generalizations because we're only identifying the plant's family or group. Specific plant names get more complicated because there are literally hundreds of plants (that vary in shape and size) in each group.
Cattleyas are generally short, stocky plants with thick stems and leaves. Some stems on healthy plants might actually look like they're bulging out of they're skin. Cattleya flowers only last a couple of weeks, but most plants in this group bloom several times a year.



Most dendrobiums grow as canes with new leaves forming at the top. New growth that will mature into a cane. Dendrobiums blooms can have many of flowers.



Most recognized feature of oncidiums is their large psuedo bulbs at the base of the plant. Psuedo bulbs store water for the plant to use later.  Oncidiums have long, slender leaves Oncidium flowers burst out in clusters - sometimes with a hundreds of flowers




Phalaenopsis are characterized by thick, wide leaves. Phals have a "monopodial" growing pattern which means they always grow from a single stem. Phalaenopsis are popular because they're easy to grow and have long lasting flowers

Is Growing Orchids for You?
Your First Orchid
5 Things You Need to Know
FAQ's for Beginner Growers

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