The Angraecums and their relatives are amongst the most unusual and spectacular flowers in the world. Coming from Madagascar, Africa and adjacent islands, they are now grown world-wide. It was an angraecum which led Darwin to surmise a moth with a 30cm tongue to reach the nectar at the base of the long spur existed. It was several decades later that such a moth was finally identified. While generally available only through the specialist orchid nurseries at the moment, the popularity of these plants is rising. Some are large, pristine glistening white to green, while others are small gems. The flowers of some of these orchids are non-resupinate which means they appear upside down compared to what we normally see.
Do not be put off by the thought of tropical rainforest orchids growing in our temperate climate. The majority of the commonly grown angreacum orchids tolerate our temperate climate well and flower freely. They are epiphytes, living on trees, where they have good air movement and completely free drainage of their roots. These are the conditions we need to emulate to successfully grow them. A few are almost desert dwellers while others need constant moisture, though these are less commonly available. Generally they need at least moderate light but will need protection from harsh afternoon summer sun.
A medium to large bark orchid mix, changed before it breaks down, is ideal. The plants may also be grown mounted provided they receive sufficient moisture. Plants in such conditions will dry much more rapidly. Do not worry about roots trailing out the bottom of the pot; this is a sign of good growing conditions. Regular weak fertiliser is a must during active growth with watering every few days in warmer weather. In our winter the plants’ growth rate slows. They should have a rest and be kept relatively dry for several months until they take off again.
It is recommended to begin with hybrid plants rather than species as they are easier to grow and flower.
The Eastern Suburbs Orchid Society has an orchid show on the third Monday of every month at 8pm, St Luke’s Church Hall, Varna Street, Clovelly. Visitors are always welcome.