30 Types of Bulbophyllum: Care and Propagation Guide

First described in 1822 by the French botanist Louis-Marie Aubert du Petit-Thouars, Bulbophyllum is one of the largest groups of orchids.

This genus is characterized by nodes in the stem and bulbous storage organs known as pseudobulbs from which a single leaf usually grows.

bulbophyllum plant

How Do You Pronounce Bulbophyllum?

To pronounce Bulbophyllum, break up the word into parts, as bulb-o-fill-um. The name is rooted in the Greek language and refers to the bulb and leaf that is the characteristic feature of Bulbophyllum plants.

How Many Species of Bulbophyllum Are There?

When first described in 1822, Bulbophyllum was known to have eighteen species.

Over time, over 2,000 species of Bulbophyllum have been discovered, making it the largest group of orchids and one of the largest groups of flowering plants in general.

Most of the species of Bulbophyllum can be found in tropical areas, with 600 species found in New Guinea, believed to be the origin point for the plant.

Many other species are found in various parts of Asia and Africa. Some species are also found in Central and South America and the Caribbean.

How Do You Grow Bulbophyllum Orchids?

Bulbophyllum orchids are fairly easy plants to grow. Different species of Bulbophyllum orchids have different native habitats and hence may have different requirements.

Bulbophyllum orchids can be lithophytic, meaning that they grow in soil or they could be epiphytic, meaning they grow on other plants and hence depending on the species you are growing, you can plant it in a potting mix or mount it.

Mounting refers to growing the plant on another plant-based surface, such as bark or cork. This helps to replicate the natural growing conditions of the plant for some species of Bulbophyllum.

All species of Bulbophyllum can be grown in shallow pots. What is important to note is that Bulbophyllum orchids have small and delicate root systems and are native to regions that usually receive heavy rainfall.

As a result, Bulbophyllum orchids need to be grown in high levels of moisture. Sphagnum is a popular choice for the potting mix of Bulbophyllum orchids.

Sphagnum is a genus of various species of moss and is commonly known as peat moss. It retains a lot of moisture and hence is an excellent choice for Bulbophyllum orchids. Besides Sphagnum, you can use perlite, coconut fiber and charcoal.

How Do You Take Care of Bulbophyllum?

It is essential to look for specific information on how to take care of the species of Bulbophyllum you are planning to grow.

Researching the native habitat of the plant and the climate conditions prevalent there will help you understand how to take care of it.

However, there are some general guidelines for care that will suit most species of Bulbophyllum.

how do you take care of bulbophyllum

Most Bulbophyllum orchids do well in medium to high amounts of light. They can be grown well indoors as long as they receive enough sunlight.

The optimum level of light will lead to a high amount of flowering in the plant but the plant will continue to survive at lower light levels.

They need to be protected from high amounts of direct sunlight during the middle of the day, which might damage the leaves.

Besides a few exceptions that are native to high-altitude areas, most species of Bulbophyllum orchids are used to warm climates.

They can survive temperatures between 7 and 35 degrees Celsius, though the optimal temperatures can be between 21 to 27 degrees Celsius.

It is important that the temperature drops by seven to eight degrees between the day and the night to encourage flowering in the plant.

If you live in a place that experiences cold winters, you will need to ensure that your Bulbophyllum plant is protected from the frost.

Watering requirements will also differ from species to species of Bulbophyllum orchids but most of the species are native to climates with high amounts of rainfall. Bulbophyllum plants hence usually require high amounts of moisture.

If you have mounted your Bulbophyllum plant on a bark, then you will need to water it extremely frequently since the bark dries up very fast. You might need to water it once or twice every day.

If you have potted the Bulbophyllum plant, you will need to water it every three to four days and you should never allow the soil to dry. You can reduce the amount of water during the months of winter.

Bulbophyllum plants have a very fine root system and hence need ample amounts of moisture, especially during periods of active growth. A few days without sufficient moisture is enough to kill the plant.

If you notice that the new leaves growing are smaller than previous leaves, then it is a sign that the plant is being underwatered and you need to increase the amount of moisture you are giving it.

Some species of Bulbophyllum orchids, which are epiphytic or natively grow on the barks of other plants, have adapted to low levels of water outside of the monsoon. Hence, these species might require a dry period to help with the flowering process.

Due to their native climates, Bulbophyllum orchids are also used to high levels of humidity which can be achieved through sufficient watering or spraying water on the leaves.

However, you must ensure that the leaves do not develop fungus or rotting due to the constant presence of moisture. This can be ensured by promoting air circulation.

Bulbophyllum orchids can be nourished with nitrogen and phosphorus-rich fertilizers about two times every month.

How Do You Repot Bulbophyllum?

Bulbophyllum orchids usually have a very delicate and complex root system that can be easily damaged if the plant is not removed correctly.

Hence, repotting of Bulbophyllum plants is not highly recommended. The ideal time to repot a Bulbophyllum plant is when new growths begin to appear, which is usually between August and January.

Repotting should only be done once every two to three years.

How Do You Propagate Bulbophyllum?

Bulbophyllum orchids can be challenging to propagate at home without access to a greenhouse since they are native to tropical climates. However, some methods can be tried, such as stem cutting.

A part of the stem that is at least ten inches long should be cut off from just above one of the plant’s nodes. The branch can then be divided into multiple pieces, which have two nodes each.

These stems can be laid in a medium made of Sphagnum, which will provide high moisture levels.

Charcoal or cinnamon can be used to prevent fungal growth on the stems and this setup needs to be covered inside a plastic bag and kept in a place where it will receive a lot of sunlight.

It might take a few months for growth to occur from the stems, which can then be potted to grow as a Bulbophyllum plant.

How Do You Pollinate Bulbophyllum?

Bulbophyllum orchids are naturally pollinated by flies or fruit flies. However, they can be artificially pollinated manually to propagate a new plant.

To pollinate the Bulbophyllum plant, one needs to part the petals of the flower open and locate the gynostemium, which is in the center of the flower.

This is a column that houses both the male and female reproductive parts of the flower in a single organ.

In this column, one needs to locate the anther or the part of the flower that produces the pollen. The anther has a covering in Bulbophyllum plants known as the anther cap, which needs to be gently opened to find the pollen particles.

Using a cotton bud, one can pick up some of the sticky fluid found in the stigma, which is the germination site for the pollen. The pollen particles will then stick to the cotton bud and can be removed.

The pollen will have a covering that needs to be manually removed using a toothpick and then the particle must be placed back in the stigma to allow for the germination process.

Pollination will lead to the formation of seed pods which need to be removed before they burst open to take the seeds and plant them yourself.

How Do You Get Bulbophyllum to Flower?

There is no unique process to get the Bulbophyllum plant to flower and one needs to provide adequate care according to the needs of the specific species of Bulbophyllum.

It is essential to provide the plant with the optimal level of light. Many Bulbophyllum orchids may be surviving in low amounts of light but if they are not blooming, that may signal the fact that they are not getting enough light.

Similarly, Bulbophyllum orchids usually require high amounts of moisture and humidity and warm temperatures to bloom.

Certain species of Bulbophyllum, especially those that grow on other plants, might require a period without moisture to bloom.

Bulbophyllum is a highly diverse group of orchids that are beautiful and unique plants to grow and take care of. They have simple requirements that can be met easily as long as you stay informed about what your species of Bulbophyllum requires.