Orchids have long been a symbol of beautifully flowering indoor plants. Luxurious and irresistible, they demand special attention and offer to admire the magnificent flowers that simply cannot be found. And for the sake of their beauty, most flower growers are ready to endure the difficulties of care, and create special growing conditions, and come to terms with the fact that the leaves of all orchids are by no means remarkable. But there are exceptions to all the rules: in the huge family of orchids there are also such plants in which the most prominent part is not flowers at all, but leaves. For their beauty, reminiscent of either precious stones or various metals, filled with almost jewelry details, such orchids have received the nickname “precious”.
Macodes petola. Farmer Burea-Uinsurance.com 2.5JIGEN
They are not easy to find, but each plant is completely irresistible. While they cannot be categorized as non-hassle and undemanding indoor pets, the rare beauty of these species deserves to be put on a par with the finest flowering orchids.
Precious foliage patterns of variegated orchids
Orchids have no more advantages than disadvantages. These plants boast both a rare palette of colors and patterns, and graceful flower shapes. But they are no less characterized by love for specific growing conditions, high demands on care. One of the main disadvantages of all orchids is considered a limited decorative period. When the beautiful flowering ends, the plants are instantly lost in the collection and do not stand out from other crops in the wintering mode. But there is a surprising exception to this rule. Precious or variegated orchids retain their attractiveness throughout the year and look fresh at all times.
But still, the main advantage of these rare, but not the most capricious orchids is much more spectacular foliage, which is in no way inferior in beauty to the flowers of more popular species. The nondescript greenery of precious orchids cannot be precisely named. Variegated, spectacular, it immediately attracts attention with the play of textures and unusual reflections of veins that literally glow on the leaves. Such orchids are called precious because the texture of the leaves is reminiscent of gems and veins of precious metals. The second name of this group of decorative miniature orchids is the more modest name “variegated orchids”.
What are Precious Orchids?
Jewel orchids are compact terrestrial species of the Orchid family. Without exception, all plants belonging to this group of orchids are miniature and collectible. In nature, deciduous orchids can be found in Madagascar, Australia, South and East Asia. These are varieties with velvety leaves, decorated with luxurious edging, silvery or gold veins, nets and cobwebs of patterns.
They have a basic cherry, gray, dark green or light green color combined with contrasting luminous patterns. But what variegated orchids definitely cannot boast of is the beauty of flowering. It is inferior to absolutely all representatives of the orchid family, but at the same time it is still capable of surprising with unusual details. Precious orchids produce simple small flowers, most often white in color, collected in loose clusters of inflorescences.
Against the backdrop of velvety-metallic green, the flowers seem radiant and surprisingly simple, but the contrast enhances their modest beauty and draws attention to the main advantages of the plant. The undoubted advantage of these species is also a strong aroma.
Types of precious orchids
Despite the fact that about 220 species of variegated beauties can be found in nature, only a few species have spread in room culture. The group of indoor precious orchids unites 6 types of plants, of which not all are popular. The three undisputed leaders among precious orchids are ludizia (Ludisia), Macodes (macodes) and anectohyl (anoectochilus). Less commonly in collections you can find dossinia (dossinia), zeuksine (zeuxcine) and гудайеру (goodyera), although interesting colors are typical for them.
Makodes (macodes) – sympodial epiphytes or terrestrial orchids with creeping shoots, reaching a height of 7-8 cm and densely branching. One of the most popular types of precious orchids makodes petola (macodes petola) – variegated plants that produce perfect oval leaves up to 7,5 cm long with a graceful pointed edge and velvety pubescence. The dark green, light green, emerald or grayish base of wide leaf blades is crossed by longitudinal veins, between which various patterns diverge with a thin cobweb.
Due to the special combination of color shades, it seems as if the leaves of the makodes are decorated with golden lace or craquelure effect. This orchid is capable of producing up to 20 white-brown, in many ways nondescript flowers, towering on tall peduncles in autumn. After flowering, the old rosette dies off, forming lateral processes.
If the makodes petola in height does not exceed 7-8 cm, then a larger and more spectacular view makodes Sandera (Macodes sanderiana) boasts a greater height (from 15 cm), and leaves exceeding 15 cm in length, and the copper effect of shining veins.
Dossinia (dossinia) looks very similar to makodes. But it has larger leaves and less showy veins. In room culture, only one species is found – dossinia marble (dossinia marmorata).
Formerly known as hemaria (haemaria), and today it has acquired its legal name лудизии, or ludizia (Ludisia) the precious orchid is presented for sale in one and only species – ludisia multicolored (ludisia discolor), we have variations of the name Ludisia multicolored and two-colored.
Gemaria or ludisia is a more powerful plant than makodes. She has creeping shoots with oval leaves with beautiful pointed edges, which also flaunt with contrasting patterns. Against the background of very dark leaf blades, longitudinally arranged, symmetrical and asymmetrical white-silver veins appear. Light lines flicker against a background of amazingly beautiful shades of olive or purple plate. The reverse side of the leaves is colored bright purple, contrasting beautifully with the precious patterns on the upper side. This plant produces creamy flowers that form very beautiful lace inflorescences.
Ludisia herself always seems to be a noble, graceful, real aristocrat. Ludisia has many varieties and forms: from the most famous red-brown with pink veins form ‘Dawsoniana’ to snow-white ‘Alba ‘, black and silver ‘Odina ‘ and a series of varieties’Velvet’ – dark green with light streaks of ludisia ‘Green Velvet’, emerald ‘Emerald Velvet’, bluish ‘Jade Velvet’, bluish ‘Sapphire Velvet’, purplish pink ‘Red Velvet’, silvery ‘Silver Velvet’, swampy ‘Jasper Velvet’.
Anectochilus, or Anektokhilus (anektokhilus, anoectochilus) will not exceed 15 cm in height and is also decorated with silvery or golden veins. The patterns on its green or greenish-brown leaves appear to be cracks, perfectly highlighting the glossy texture and flawless shape of the ovoid leaves with a sharp tip. Sometimes the veins cover the leaf in such an amount that the base color is practically invisible. The foliage is larger than that of the makodes, and the orchid itself forms a denser rosette. But what is most surprising in this orchid is the very tall inflorescences that seem disproportionate to the plant itself, bearing a lush brush of nondescript flowers.
Particularly decorative are such types as beautiful anectochilus (anoectochilus formosanus), anectochilus to Roxburgh (anoectochilus roxburghii, some forms in our country are still distributed under the name royal anectochilus (royal Anoectochilus) and anechochylus striped (anoectochilus vittata). Less common anektokhilus Sikkim (anoectochilus sikkimensis, today retrained in short-lipped anectochilus (anoectochilus brevilabris).
Noteworthy and anectomy (anoectomaria) – a hybrid that is devoid of all the disadvantages of anectochiluses for care, does not require a rest period.
Goodayera or goodiera (goodyera) flaunts more fleshy, very beautiful precious leaves, painted in a variety of shades of green. The rosettes are massive and last for several years. The veins of these orchids are not metallic, but pink or white, less often almost blue. Goodayera bristly, or hispida (goodyera hispida) Is the most famous species. Less common creeping goodayer (goodyera repens), goodayer net (goodyera reticulata) and goodayer furry (goodyera pubescens).
Home care for precious orchids
Because of their rarity and precious plant status, variegated orchids are often considered one of the most difficult orchid groups to grow. But this opinion is completely unfair. It’s just that for these species it is necessary to create quite specific conditions and maintain stable humidity and air temperature. For the rest, it is not at all difficult to grow them even in indoor conditions. If you collect orchids, then you can use precious species to replenish the assortment of plants in florariums, flower showcases, mini-greenhouses. But it is quite possible to grow variegated orchids in greenhouses and in ordinary living quarters.
Lighting for variegated orchids
The easiest way is to choose comfortable lighting for precious orchids. These species are photophilous, but need diffused lighting, cannot stand direct sunlight and do not react too well even to light partial shade. Only makodes and goodiera are well tolerated with shading, which looks more spectacular when grown in the depths of rooms. But at the same time, they grow equally well under completely artificial lighting and in natural conditions. Due to the fact that supplementary lighting can completely replace the usual maintenance regime, precious orchids can be placed not only on window sills, but also in the darkest rooms of the house (for example, in the bathroom) or in the back of the interior.
When grown naturally, precious orchids are best placed on eastern and western windowsills. With artificial supplementary lighting, it is enough to work supplementary lighting for 12 hours a day when the phytolamp is located at a distance of 30 cm from the plant.
The fact that the plants themselves signal the need to either make the lighting more intense, or, conversely, to shade the culture, only simplifies the cultivation of “jewels”. In too bright light, variegated orchids release leaves that are too densely spaced, upright or, conversely, atypically lowered. But in the shade, the leaves become smaller, are located too rarely on the shoots, the internodes lengthen, indicating that the precious orchid needs to be provided with brighter lighting.
Temperature range for variegated orchids
Temperature requirements are often associated with myths about the capriciousness of precious orchids. In fact, it is quite simple to provide them with comfortable conditions. Variegated orchids thrive in the normal room temperature range. They can not stand cold snaps, temperatures dropping below 18 degrees. But on the other hand, they are not afraid of heat and recovers well even with sharp temperature fluctuations above the minimum range. A drop in indicators below 18 degrees will invariably lead to a loss of decorative leaves and a premature start of the flowering period.
There are specific requirements for certain species: ludisia loves when the temperature at night is 4-5 degrees lower than daytime (and makodes and other variegated orchids grow better in such conditions).
The rest period after flowering is needed only for the anectochilus: for it, at least slightly, by 2-4 degrees, the temperature is lowered for the wintering period.
Air humidity and irrigation
Providing comfortable air humidity for variegated orchids is indeed the most difficult moment in growing them. It is because of this parameter that such orchids are ranked among the plants that are best grown in indoor greenhouses or flower showcases. But there is a lot of false information in the status of moisture-loving crops attributed to these plants. Precious orchids feel great even in ordinary living rooms; they do not have to be displayed only in the florarium, since the optimum air humidity can be achieved by simply installing a humidifier. The least demanding is ludisia, which also tolerates relatively average moisture levels. The rest need humidity of at least 70%.
Plants belonging to the group of precious orchids require fairly intensive watering, and the procedures should be carried out at short intervals. Complete drought, drying of the substrate, even in the middle part, should not be allowed. Precious orchids grow well only when a stable medium-high soil moisture is maintained and only the top layer of the soil dries out. The irrigation method is either classical or by immersion in water to saturate the substrate. For the cold season, watering is adjusted according to the rate of soil drying. Only for anectochilus during the winter the humidity is approximately halved.
Particular attention should be paid to the quality of the water. For variegated orchids, use exclusively thawed, rain, distilled or boiled water.
Fertilizers for “precious stones”
Fertilizers for precious orchids are applied in the traditional way, in liquid form together with water for irrigation. For these plants, it is advisable to use the full dose recommended by the manufacturer, performing procedures with a frequency of 1 time in 3 weeks in spring and summer and 1 time in 5 weeks in autumn and winter. But it is better to apply fertilizers not at one time, but to divide into 2-3 parts and add a little during each watering. Low-intensity, maximally frequent procedures allow to achieve optimal absorption of nutrients, active growth of the most spectacular greenery.
For variegated orchids, only special fertilizer mixtures intended for members of the orchid family can be used.
Containers, substrate and transplant
The pots in which the precious orchid is grown should be given special attention. Like ordinary orchids, variegated species should be grown in special orchid containers with holes not only on the bottom, but also on the walls. For these crops, air access to the substrate is very important. For makodes petola, you need to select tight containers with a diameter of about 6 cm (but for other orchids from the precious group, you should also not choose too bulky pots).
The soil for variegated orchids is also easy to find. It is best to purchase a special substrate for orchids for these beauties. But you can also make your own soil mixture from leafy soil, coarse sand, crushed pine bark or moss (or from leafy soil with moss, pine needles, vermiculite and wood ash). For ludisia, a peat-based substrate is suitable, to which half the proportion of semi-decomposed leaves and crushed bark have been added. Whichever option you choose, be sure to make sure that there is indeed an increase in sphagnum in the substrate.
A precious orchid needs not only a rough substrate capable of effectively retaining moisture, but also an ornamental soil that does not spoil the attractive greenery. With proper care, moss actively develops rapidly, grows, and forms a green background for luxurious leaves. The acidity of the substrate for variegated orchids should not go beyond 6,5-7 pH.
No less important than the selection of the correct substrate is the laying of a high, powerful drainage. Drainage material, especially if vermiculite or perlite is used, can be added to the substrate itself. The transplant is carried out as needed, according to the same principles as for ordinary orchids.
Pests and diseases of precious orchids
These plants do not boast great disease resistance. With excessive development of sphagnum, lack of control over moss, stem rot threatens precious orchids. You can only fight it with an emergency transplant with the obligatory scalding of the substrate. When fungal infections spread among precious orchids, at the first signs of damage, it is necessary to immediately remove the damaged leaves and process the sections with crushed coal.
Threatening precious orchids and pests. If the comfortable indicators of air humidity are violated, spider mites quickly appear on the greens. When using self-prepared substrates, variegated orchids can suffer from slugs and snails, as well as nematode contamination of the substrate. They usually result in severe stem damage. It is best to deal with this problem by pruning shoots and processing sections, followed by an emergency transplant.
Reproduction of variegated orchids
Precious orchids are considered one of the easiest species to reproduce. All plants belonging to the variegated group are distinguished by their ability to root shoots. As soon as the shoots release more than five leaves (four full-fledged internodes are formed on them), a high-quality root is formed under one of the first leaves.
Cutting off the shoot for rooting is possible only if there are two leaves under the root release site, and at least two internodes above it (the cut must be carried out a few centimeters below the root, but not reaching the first lower leaf). Such a stalk takes root very simply. After sprinkling the cut with charcoal and planting in a substrate suitable for the orchid, it takes root very quickly and starts growing.
You can also divide adult, powerful plants, provided that in each division there will be 2-3 full-fledged shoots with several leaves.