Stanhopea orchids are from South and Central America. They are totally unlike most peoples’ conception of how an orchid should look. Their attraction lies in their exotic appearance, depth of colour and heavy almost waxy texture. Instead of sending the shafts of flowers up, they come down from the pseudobulbs of the plants and emerge from the bottom of the containers. Two to three flowers are borne on each raceme, with flowers up to 15 cm across. Their major drawback is that the flowers only last a few days but this must be balanced against the fragrances emitted from the flowers. On a still summer’s night the back yard can be alive with sweet vanilla.
These orchids need minimum care. What they do need is to be potted in an open wire container lined with coconut fibre and filled with loose bark. If they are potted into a standard plastic pot, the flower racemes will be trapped and rot away. Once in their container, hang them from your favourite tree where they will receive broken sunlight. They can be fertilised with half strength fertiliser as the rest of your collection to stimulate growth but they will catch the falling leaves as they do in the wild and grow in these.
The flowering season is December/January. The colours range from white to orange with varying degrees of red spotting on the flowers. For some years these orchids were relatively hard to obtain. With breeding programmes they are now readily available through specialist orchid nurseries or from orchid societies.
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.