Jewel Orchid Culture

by Kelly McCracken

With the recent surge in popularity of houseplants, Jewel orchids have once again become a very popular addition to the home-growers collection. The beautiful foliage on these plants is unparalleled in the plant kingdom, fantastically sparkly as if they are made of molten metal. Pictures simply cannot do them justice, and they will make you gasp the first time you see one in person. 

Jewels have become somewhat of a specialty item at HDO. Therefore, I have decided to write up a culture guide for how we grow them; to help home growers such as yourself grow them best. Please feel free to reach out to me, Kelly (owner, grower) at kelly@highdesertorchids.com if you have any further questions. 

We grow our jewels in a mixture of 3 Parts Pro-mix (peat, perlite and mycorrhizal fungi), 1 part added perlite, 1 part small orchid bark and ½ part charcoal. The plant is housed in a plastic parfait cup, usually with a domed lid. There are drainage holes drilled into the bottom of each cup.

 These parfait cups make for an excellent personal terrarium for jewel orchids. They can stay in these cups for another 6 months after purchase, we usually recommend leaving them in the cups until they have produced a second “pup” or plantlet. The plants do just fine enclosed with no added airflow. If you spot any mold on your plant or media, a spritz with Physan 20 usually does the trick. Avoid using alcohol and copper. 

Potting:

Plants should be potted in a way that the rhizome (the fleshy stem) is left to crawl ABOVE the potting media. We find that many people are tempted to bury the plants all the way up to the leaves. This is incorrect and will lead to stem rot and death of the plant. The plant will crawl along the top of the media and produce new plants at each node. If the nodes are buried, the plant cannot grow. If your plant’s rhizome isn’t yet touching the media, don’t worry. The roots will pull the plant down as it grows.

Jewel orchid potting rhizome

New roots look like very fuzzy balls of pale hair, emerging from the nodes. They can easily be mistaken for mold. Stem rot mold has shorter hairs, is pure white, and will usually be found concurrent with a brown, mushy infection on the stem node.

Peat or fine orchid bark is the recommended potting media. Avoid sphagnum if possible. Sphagnum moss quickly becomes boggy and acidic, leading to a short life for the jewel.

Watering:

Jewels should be watered when the top inch of the soil is dry to the touch. Ideally, jewels should be watered from the bottom. They like the bottom of the soil to be wetter than the top. Do not keep the soil soggy; damp and cool is ideal.

Humidity:

Ludisia discolor is more tolerant of low humidity and can be grown as a houseplant when larger and established. Most Anoectochilus will need humidity at or above 65% to grow best. Macodes species can grow in household humidity when mature, but like Anoectochilus, will need more humidity while smaller. Keep plants humid, but avoid keeping the leaves wet. 

Water and fertilizer:

Jewels will grow best when watered with pure water (rain, RO, or distilled). A dilute ¼ strength orchid fertilizer should be applied with every watering. Do not use softened water. 

Light:

Jewels are very low-light plants, especially while young. Ludisia discolor and some of the Macodes can tolerate brighter light when mature. We grow them at 40umol/m2/s under artificial light. For reference, if you are using a 42Watt LED bar light, you will want to place your jewels about 20” from the light. They can grow on a north window, or at the bottom of a terrarium. Signs of too much light are: bleaching, slow growth, loss of luster in the veins.  

Temperature:

Ludisia, Macodes, and their hybrids are warmer growing. Anoectochilus tend to be more intermediate. All of the jewels grown at HDO are grown intermediate and experience temperatures of 55-65f during the winter and 65-80f during the summer. They should all grow fine in household temperatures. 

Winter dormancy:

Jewels, especially Anoectochilus and Ludisia may lose their leaves in winter and go entirely dormant, especially if grown cooler (usually below 65 as a winter nighttime low). This is not concerning and is a normal part of the plant’s growth habit. The water should be reduced, plants should be kept mostly dry but humid, until growth resumes in the spring. You do not need to fertilize during this period. 

Common issues:

Really there is just one: stem rot. All jewels are prone to it. Keeping your jewel in a clean environment, free from old leaves, in good humidity and watered properly will really help reduce instances of stem rot. Purchasing a well-established plant instead of an unrooted cutting will also help reduce stem rot. If you do spot any rot, remove the plant and cut it immediately. You will want to cut into the healthy tissue of the plant, so you have negative margins. Soak the plant in Physan 20 for 15 minutes and return to fresh, clean potting media. This infection can quickly kill a jewel and should be managed as soon as it is identified.

 

Happy Jewel Growing!

 


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.