The world outside is covered in snow, but the Jewel Orchid has come into bloom inside on the window sill. Once again, it has covered itself with sprays of delicate white flowers.
This beautiful orchid, Ludisia discolor, first came home as a casual impulse purchase soon after we had moved to this home. The long window sill in the living room was not yet home to a colony of plants, and I thought the little orchid, with such beautiful burgundy leaves, would brighten this window.
I had not yet seen Jewel Orchid in bloom, but fell in love with the foliage. If memory serves, the little 4″ pot was among the display of flowers right inside the door at Trader Joes. I chose it, tucked it into the shopping cart, and headed off to the banana display.
And this plant would be a welcome member of the houseplant family if it never bloomed.
Much like a Coleus or a Rex Begonia, it is colorful enough when not in bloom to hold interest. Large striped leaves and burgundy stems grow luxuriantly all year round.
The flower scapes begin growing in late November or December, promising bloom in the weeks ahead. It takes a long time for them to grow, and then for the individual flowers to finally begin to open.
There is a long season of bloom, with new scapes forming along the way, before the flowers dry and wither in early summer. Even dried, the flowers hold their form. It is a sad day when we must begin to cut the faded flower scapes away.
For at least the first year, I simply allowed this little orchid to grow in the nursery pot in which it came. It gives the impression, as do many orchids, of enjoying a snug fit in the pot. The following Thanksgiving weekend, we had an unusually warm day. We had opened the window behind this window sill a crack before heading out for the day. Later, in closing the window that evening, our beautiful Jewel Orchid somehow jumped from the sill and landed in the floor- hopelessly broken to bits.
I was upset, but bit my tongue and headed to the garage for a fresh nursery pot and fresh potting soil. I gathered up all of the broken bits, dipped them in a bit of rooting hormone, and gently buried them in fresh soil. After watering both pots, and expressing our deep apologies, we left both pots in the windowsill, side by side, and hoped for the best. Within a day or so we brought home the larger, oval pot you see in the photos, and plunked both 4″ nursery pots into this larger one to improve appearances.
This orchid appreciates a humid environment. I believe it was actually happiest while growing in the nursery pots on a layer of gravel in this larger pot. It lasted that way for another two years, without skipping a beat.
The “cuttings” rooted, and both pots of Jewel orchid bloomed that winter, effectively doubling our display from the previous year. I’ve learned this orchid roots easily and is far more hardy than one might expect.
Although traditional culture directions indicate that it likes warmth and doesn’t respond well to drafts, it has managed just fine on this northwest facing window sill for a little more than 4 years now.
Finally, both little nursery pots were bursting with roots when I finally turned the orchids out and repotted both plants into the larger oval planter in early summer. At the same time, I trimmed back some of the longer stems and stuck them into the soil as cuttings. All rooted, and the plant continues to grow. I almost expect to find cracks in the pot now that the orchid has grown so large, and know it is time to pot up once again.
I’m reluctant because the orchid loves this spot, and the windowsill won’t support a larger pot. I will have to find another good spot for the parent orchid,and start a new plant in the old pot from cuttings, to continue on in this corner of the window.
A terrestrial orchid, Ludisia, grows on the forest floor in its native Burma, Indonesia and Malaysia. Although they prefer high humidity, Ludisia are not particularly thirsty. There is no drainage hole in this pot, so I water infrequently and lightly. I begin giving a dilute feeding or orchid fertilizer in early autumn, and continue giving that once or twice a month until the bloom is past its peak.
Since I have a grouping of orchids in this area of the room humidity is perhaps a little higher than it might be.
This has turned out to be an excellent impulse purchase, and has allowed me to learn to love a new genus of plant. Rooted cuttings can be found from time to time wherever orchids and houseplants are sold. The cuttings are unassuming, and might be overlooked, except for the beautiful leaf.
Should you see one, I would encourage you to take a chance and purchase a Jewel Orchid. For a very small investment, this very tough and easy to grow orchid will fill your home with winter flowers for many years to come.
All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014
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