Calanthe is the name of a genus of orchids that belongs to the Orchidaceae family. Also called Christmas orchids, this genus has over 200 species and they can be grown outdoors. Now, orchids have a reputation of being fussy plants especially to grow in the garden but keep reading and you will notice how untrue that is.
Types of Calanthe Orchids
How Do You Care For a Calanthe Orchid?
Before you dive into the Calanthe care and propagation guide, here are a couple of things about the plant. The name Calanthe comes from the Greek words ‘kalos’ which means beautiful and ‘anthos’ which means flower. Pretty accurate, to be honest.
And if the weather cooperates, you can actually grow them outdoors and have a rather wonderful variety of flowers in your garden.
Calanthe orchids are mainly divided into evergreen and deciduous groups. They are both known to bloom all through summer and depending on the type of orchid, some of them even bloom in the autumn season.
The two subgenera have different flowering and growth patterns. The evergreen group of orchids are called Eucalanthe and the deciduous Calanthes are called Preptanthe.
Now, the ones that belong to the Eucalanthe subgenus are tropical plants and have leaves in the shape of basal rosettes. They bloom in the autumn and flower in the winter. They are native to Australasia, Asia and Africa.
Most Calanthe plants are meant to be grown in the USDA hardiness zone 7 but if you mulch them well, they can grow in zone 6b and survive the winter.
The first manmade orchid was created in 1853 and it was a hybrid called Calanthe Dominii. These plants have had a very rich history including being a popular choice in the Victorian era hot houses.
These plants need a good amount of ventilation which means you should keep them exposed to bright sunlight. This helps the leaves carry on with photosynthesis continuously that is important if you want the petals to open up brightly.
Some of them, like the Calanthe discolor, grow even in a dark environment. But most of the species need strong light with a good deal of shade so that they don’t get sunburn. You can spot this by looking at the color of the leaves.
The plants respond well to this kind of light in spring and fall which is the season of continuous growth. In these seasons, you should give them a good deal of water. What is that? Well, make sure you give them water every 3-4 days.
In the summer, you must give them more water. That means you need to check on them about once a day. The way you know they need water is to check the soil to make sure it is moist. Not more and not less than that.
In the winter when the temperature falls, you need to give them less water. That is only about once a week to keep them from drying out and dying.
These plants like rich soil that is well-draining. Get a mix of peat, grit and some organic rotting material too. Whether you grow them in the ground or in a container, this is the way to go about it.
Pick a nice spot that has some shade during the day and give them a moderate deal of water initially. This depends on the season and you now know the definition of “moderate”.
In any season, make sure that the soil is always able to retain some water. The peat in the mix will help you do that. But overwatering is a real problem with these plants which is why you keep the soil well draining even when it is grown in a container.
Some of these species grow well in fertile soil but then they need to be fed through fertilizer. That means, in the summer season you will need to add manure once every two weeks. The NPK 20-20-20 is a good choice for this purpose.
A good deal of organic fertilizer in diluted liquid form will help the plant’s growth. This should be given once a month to make sure the growth is continuous. Once the soil is fertilized, you must turn the water and soil over so that the roots can absorb the fertilizer.
You might have to protect the shoots from slugs when they start to come out in the spring. So, keep a weather eye.
For the Preptanthe species, you must give fertilizer on a bi-weekly basis in their growth season. In autumn, when the leaves start dropping, you must stop feeding the plant.
Pests & Diseases
Bacteria and insect pests are known to attack many orchid species including the ones that are categorized as Calanthe orchids. The simple solution to this problem is to prune the plants in a timely manner so that there is a good deal of air circulation. This will keep the pests from breeding and causing diseases.
How to Propagate Calanthe Orchids
These plants are actually not too difficult to care for. All you need to do is plant them in a port that has a diameter of at least one foot with a high humus mix. This gives them room for new growth. But make sure you keep them cool in the summer but never dry out entirely.
If you are dealing with the deciduous variety, you must look for faded leaves in the autumn and cut them. In the winter, the plant naturally goes dormant.