Orchids are one of the most beloved families of flowering plants. However, there are a lot of misperceptions about how fragile and difficult growing orchids can be. For the average plant lover, this may make them dismissive of orchids as something they can grow indoors. Of course, an orchid may require special needs such as humidity levels, growing medium and other factors, but they may not be as difficult or fragile as you have been led to believe.

Ambius installs and maintains orchid displays for businesses and interior spaces as part of our living floral service, which provides live flowers and plants to brighten workspaces. As the experts in interior landscapes, we created the Ultimate Guide to Orchids and Orchid Care to answer the most common questions asked about orchids. Just click on one of the questions below and you will be taken directly to your answer.

If you would like orchids or any living floral arrangement for your office, just contact Ambius today and discuss what our designers can do for you.

Orchid basics

What is an orchid?

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An orchid is a type of flowering plant that is part of the Orchidaceae family. They are in one of the largest families of flowering plants. Today, there is approximately 28,000 accepted and acknowledged species of orchid. They come in a variety of colors and shades and that has made them very, very popular among gardeners and those who like to breed new species of plants and have colorful indoor plants.

Orchids share some similar features. The flowering blooms are bilateral and symmetrical, which means that both sides of the flower are mirror reflections of each other. Many of the flowers bloom upside down (resupinate). The petals, or labellum, are usually very modified and orchids have fused stamens and carpels. Orchids also have very tiny seeds housed within a dry capsule. Those capsules hold thousands of the tiny seeds and they lack endosperm.

Are orchids perennials?

This, like so many questions related to orchids, depends on the species you are growing. However, the majority of orchids are perennial epiphytes and they grow anchored to trees and shrubs. The majority of them prefer tropical and subtropical climates.

Where do orchids grow naturally?

One of the more interesting things about orchids is that they do not grow in soil. In fact, if you grow orchids and try to put them in the soil, you will likely kill them.

Orchid roots are covered with a white, moisture-absorbing substance that must be exposed to air. They grow on tree branches, for example, in many cases or they attach to other portions of other plants. Orchids that grow on the ground are usually grown in humus-rich soil, which means the portion of the soil that is composed mostly of organic matter that is without structure.

Orchids grow in a variety of places and in different sources of light. They tend to need a good amount of light, but not too much intense direct light. They have a reputation of needing to grow in humid areas, but that is not the case for all species.

A large number of orchids grow horizontally. They sent out shoots along their growing medium from the original rhizome, which is the stem of a plant that is usually found underground. These new shoots rise up and flower at that point.

Orchids grow pseudobulbs, which are actually swollen shoots that the plants use to absorb moisture and store it. They get their nutrients from the stored water so that they can survive long periods of drought.

What kinds of orchids grow in the wild?

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There are a wide variety of orchids and they are spread across the globe. Although orchids are very popular to grow indoors and among private gardeners, they do grow in the wild, too, but the number and variety of species is vast.

Some of the orchids that grow in the wild include (but are not limited to):

  • Lady slipper orchids (Cypripedium)
  • Cymbidiums (boat orchids)
  • Dendrobiums
  • Cattleya
  • Oncidiums (dancing-lady orchids)

There are some wild orchids in North America, but some of the larger numbers of orchids found in the wild are in South America, in areas such as Costa Rica. Costa Rica is famous for being the origin of more than 1,400 species of orchid.

The problem is that wild orchids are often endangered due to the fact that changes in their growing medium and climate can kill them quite easily.

What orchids are endangered?

Although orchids thrive pretty well in tropical climates, the areas where they are the most endangered are in North America. There are a variety of reasons why these orchids have become endangered, but a good example is the slow vanishing of Isotria medeoloides. At one time, they were all over North America and common to people across the country. These days, however, it is now considered the rarest orchid found east of the Mississippi.

The reason so many North American orchids are endangered is because the orchid requires specific fungi to thrive. This fungus is known as mycorrhizal fungi which work with the roots of the orchid to help provide them with nutrients since orchids have a special root system that does not allow them to draw nutrients from the soil like other plants. The hitch here is that not every form of mycorrhizal fungi will work with every kind of orchid.

In a true demonstration of how an ecosystem works, the mycorrhizal fungi require trees upon which to grow. Mycorrhizal fungi generally survive and grow in older forests. Of course, due to deforestation and urban growth, these older forests and trees are not as plentiful and this has put the mycorrhizal fungi in danger which then makes the orchids endangered.

Where do orchids come from?

There are species of orchid all over the world these days, but they had to start somewhere before they were carried and planted all of those places. Orchids are actually native to regions in Asia, Australia, the Himalayas and the Philippines.

Where are orchids found naturally?

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Orchids can be found growing naturally all over the world, although their natural habitats have been dying off slowly for years. They can be found in a lot of places growing in the wild in warmer and tropical climates like Hawaii. Some areas where orchids grow naturally include:

  • Brazil
  • Ecuador
  • Hawaii
  • India
  • Japan
  • Mexico
  • Philippines
  • Peru
  • Thailand
  • Indonesia

There are also some species of orchid that grow naturally in North America, but they are very rare and many are considered endangered these days.

How do orchids grow?