3 Types Of Red Orchids

Written by Cammi Morgan
Updated: March 16, 2023
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When you think of red flowers, roses or chrysanthemums likely come to mind. But the orchid family also produces breathtakingly beautiful red flowers that make for excellent cut flowers or ornamental garden plants.

In this guide, we’ll discuss three of our favorite red orchids and go into detail on how to care for them. Before we dive into our list, we’ll also give a brief intro into the wonderfully variable, complex world of orchids.

Let’s get to it!

Orchids: Botanical Family and a Brief History

Emerging on our planet 112 million years ago, orchids have since evolved an enormous diversity of forms and growing habits. You can find these species clinging to rocks, growing in the soil, or attaching themselves to the bark of trees. From arid regions in Australia to temperate North American hardwood forests to tropical rainforests in South America, native species of orchids grow on every continent except Antarctica.

The orchid family (Orchidaceae) currently represents the second-largest botanical family, containing 880 genera and almost 30,000 species. This enormous diversity in species is only rivaled by the Asteraceae family (sunflower family).

Red Orchids: Three Gorgeous Varieties

Featuring a range of hues from classic lipstick red to whimsical orange-red to elegant burgundy red, you’re bound to find orchids flowers in the red shade you’re looking for. Red orchids are a product of natural variation and manmade cultivars and hybrids.

In our list, we’ve included both naturally-occurring and manmade varieties. Both terrestrial and epiphytic orchids are included on our list, one even being considered semi-terrestrial. Below you’ll find information about each orchid’s native growing range and natural growing environment, the morphology of the leaves and flowers, and detailed plant care tips.

1. Ruby mokara orchid (Arachnis sp. x Vanda sp.)

Created in Singapore in 1969 as a result of crossing two genera, mokara orchids are perennial, manmade hybrids that don’t occur in nature. While the species of the parent genera are unknown, we know that two genera crossed to make mokara orchids are Arachnis and Vanda. Previously, mokara orchids were presented as the result of crossing three distinct genera, the third being Ascocentrum. However, the species belonging to Ascocentrum are now grouped into the Vanda genus.

The Arachnis genus contains 20 epiphytic species native to tropical and subtropical regions of Southeast Asia, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, and New Guinea. The Vanda genus contains about 80 epiphytic species native to tropical regions of Southeast Asia and islands of the South Pacific. Knowing the native growing environments and growth habits of its parent genera, we know that mokara orchids are also epiphytes that thrive in similar environments.

Ruby Mokara

Created in Singapore in 1969 as a result of crossing two genera, mokara orchids are perennial, manmade hybrids that don’t occur in nature.

©Wiyada Jaroenkhan/Shutterstock.com

Morphology

Highly sought after for use as cut flowers and in floral arrangements, the ruby mokara orchid cultivar produces stunningly red blooms densely clustered on upright racemes. The petals and sepals of this delightful orchid create a windmill-like pattern for the flower. The labellum, or lip, of this orchid, is small, dainty, and features a splash of yellow. The petals and sepals have subtle mottling of dark red spots over the lighter red background.

These delicate beauties typically feature 6-10 blooms per stem with an average flower size of 1-2 inches across. Typically, the stem height reaches 16-18 inches. The main stalk of the ruby mokara, and indeed most mokara orchids, is particularly fleshy and robust, with elongated, lanceolate leaves growing upward in an alternating pattern along the stalk. The leaves are numerous and dense, making this orchid a great candidate for filling in space.

Plant Care

Mokara orchids are known for being hardy and easy to care for, making them highly sought after for both their immense beauty and resiliency. Generally, you can follow growing guides for orchids in the Vanda genus when caring for your ruby red mokara orchid. We’ll cover their specific growing requirements below.

Watering

With their extensive root system, mokara orchids need more watering than most orchid species. Depending on the humidity of the growing environment, you may need to soak the bottom of the plant in water daily. For spaces with humidity over 50%, you’ll likely be fine to water about four days per week. Just always be sure to use the moisture of the growing medium as your watering guide. If the growing medium is drying out, it’s time to water again.

Light

This orchid hybrid also likes quite a bit of sunlight. You’ll want to provide about half a day of full sun exposure starting in the morning, followed by about 25-35% shade by the afternoon, especially in the growing months. If you start noticing any signs of leaf burn, back off how much direct sunlight your plant receives. This may be achieved by simply moving.

Temperature and Humidity

This tropical orchid does best in daylight temperatures between 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit, with nighttime temperatures between 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit. During winter, try to simulate these lower temperatures during the day as well to help encourage flowering in the spring. Most orchids need a dormancy period in the winter to flower.

The ruby red mokara orchid loves humidity, so ideally, provide a growing environment with 80% humidity. You can increase the humidity of your space by using a humidifier a few feet from the plant. You can also add a pebble tray under the plant, but this method will not increase the percentage as much as a humidifier, so adjust according to your space.

Fertilizer and Growing Medium

Consistent airflow is vitally important to the health of the ruby mokara orchid. As such, you definitely want to ensure that you’re growing this plant in a medium that promotes a significant degree of aeration. Remember, mokara’s parent genera comprise epiphytes, so you’ll want to treat this orchid similarly. This means growing either on mounted bark or in a coarse medium of chopped fir bark and tree fern fiber.

Fertilize weakly weekly with a 1/4 dosage of balanced 20-20-20- NPK (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) orchid fertilizer. Some orchid experts also suggest using a high phosphorus 10-30-20 NPK fertilizer every third feeding to promote flowering. During dormancy, cut back on fertilizing to once every three to four weeks.

2. Bastian’s Phalaenopsis (Phalaenopsis bastianii)

Native to the lowland Sulu Archipelago region of the Philippines, Bastian’s phalaenopsis is an elegant, tropical epiphytic orchid. This lovely little perennial orchid belongs to the widely popular Phalaenopsis genus, which currently contains 63 species. The botanical name for this species is Phalaenopsis bastianii.

Bastian's Phalaenopsis

Native to the lowland Sulu Archipelago region of the Philippines, Bastian’s phalaenopsis is an elegant, tropical epiphytic orchid.

©Daniel VG/Shutterstock.com

Morphology

This star-shaped orchid features elongated pale yellow petals and sepals nearly covered in eye-catching red mottling. The bottom petal, known as a labellum, or lip, is narrowly shaped and protrudes outward from the flower. This orchid’s labellum is fuchsia and sparsely covered in white hairs. The stark contrast in the color of the labellum entices pollinators to land on it.

The elongated, linear, oval leaves of Phalaenopsis bastianii emerge from a short central stalk. It produces 2-10 alternatingly arranged leaves that can grow up to 9 inches long and are rather inconspicuous, contrasting with its showy, colorful blooms. The blooms are typically long-lasting from early spring through summer and emerge from erect to arching, branched stems. The plant usually produces several stems from 6 to 20 inches in height, each displaying 2-7 flowers.

Plant Care

Orchids in the Phalaenopsis genus, also known as phals or moth orchids, are widely popular and considered some of the easiest orchids to care for, especially as houseplants. Below, we’ll cover how to best care for your Phalaenopsis bastianii.

Watering

Allow the roots of this orchid to dry between watering. Your watering schedule will depend on the growing medium used and the air humidity of the plant’s growing environment. With a well-draining, aerated growing medium and humidity over 60%, you’re generally looking at watering about once a week.

Light

Ideally, you’ll want to place Phalaenopsis bastianii in a location with bright, indirect light, such as in an east-facing window. Avoid exposing this orchid to more than 1-2 hours per day of full sun exposure. During the winter, if you’re growing your orchid in an overcast, more northern region, you may need to place your plant in a south-facing window to achieve enough light access.

Temperature and Humidity

Like other orchids in the Phalaenopsis genus, during its growing season, this plant likes daytime temperatures between 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit, maxing out at 95 degrees Fahrenheit. At night, it prefers temperatures between 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit. Like many orchid species, Phalaenopsis bastianii prefers distinct temperatures between day and night. Additionally, this orchid requires consistently lowered temperatures during dormancy to produce flower spikes. Ideally, provide this plant with temperatures at 55 degrees Fahrenheit consistently for a few in the late fall in order to encourage flower spike production once the plant begins to awaken in the late winter.

A tropical epiphyte, this species of orchid loves humidity. You should aim for 50-80% humidity in its growing environment. It’s crucial that this air isn’t stagnant, however, as the plant will suffer from moisture accumulation on its leaves.

Fertilizer and Growing Medium

For phals such as this species, the fertilizer schedule and type depend on the growing medium used (and as always, whether the plant is growing or dormant). If you grow this epiphyte mounted on bark or in a bark-based medium, try to provide high-in-nitrogen fertilizers such as 30-10-10 NPK mixes twice a month in addition to 1/4 diluted strength balanced orchid fertilizer. If you’re growing in a 30% sphagnum moss to perlite, small-sized lava rock, and bark, you can rely mostly on using a balanced orchid fertilizer. During the fall and winter, you can cut back on your fertilizing schedule to once a month and switch to a high-in-phosphorus mix, such as 10-30-20 NPK, as this can aid in flower production.

3. Cymbidium canaliculatum var. sparkesii

Native to Northern and Western Australia, Cymbidium canaliculatum var. sparkesii is one of three species of perennial orchids in the Cymbidium genus native to Australia. Cymbidium canaliculatum is the most widespread of the species and the most tolerant of the hotter, dryer environments of its native range. These semi-terrestrial orchids are unique in that their roots penetrate into any exposed decomposed section of a tree rather than attaching to the healthy, firm timber. True epiphyte orchids only attach to the exterior of a plant.

Cymbidium canaliculatum var. sparkesii

Native to Northern and Western Australia, Cymbidium canaliculatum var. sparkesii is one of three species of perennial orchids in the Cymbidium genus native to Australia.

©Ken Griffiths/Shutterstock.com

Morphology

The specific variety of canaliculatum we cover is var. sparkesii, which produces small, star-shaped, dark burgundy blooms. The petals and sepals may be entirely burgundy or feature a thin green border along the margin. The labellum on this variety is narrow, protruding, and pigmented light red with a large central stripe. Well-loved as cut flowers, each upright stem produces 20-50 densely clustered flowers that are each about 1-2 inches wide. The size of its flowers situates this orchid as belonging to the group of miniature cymbidiums.

The light green, lanceolate, stiff leaves of the Cymbidium canaliculatum var. sparkesii are distinctly fleshy and thick, a response to growing in rather arid environments where the plant needs adequate water-storing abilities.

Plant Care

This cymbidium species can be a bit tricky to grow as it has unique growing needs due to its arid native growing region. Essentially, it can be easy to overwater this orchid, even if you provide a well-draining and aerated growing medium. We’ll discuss in detail below this lovely plant’s growing requirements.

Watering

While many cymbidiums enjoy copious amounts of water, Cymbidium canaliculatum, including var. sparkesii thrive in much drier conditions. Once again, how much you water will depend on the growing environment and time of year. During its growing season, you’ll want to water more frequently, which likely means at most once per week. During the winter, some growers report watering only once every two weeks to three weeks. Letting the roots and growing medium completely dry out between watering is imperative.

Light

This orchid is rather sun-loving and does best with about 55% sun exposure or only 45% shade. As such, it tends to thrive with full sun during the morning, transitioning to bright, indirect light in the afternoon. Light green leaves indicate adequate sun exposure, while darkening of the leaves indicates the plant is producing more chlorophyll to compensate for a deficiency in light intensity.

Temperature and Humidity

Cymbidiums, in general, thrive in moderate humidity, around 50%, but this variety tends to prefer even lower humidity, between 20-30%. If your growing environment has a higher humidity percentage, consider adding a dehumidifier into your space, but ensure you’re still promoting active airflow. Orchids don’t appreciate stagnant air; this cymbidium variety is no exception.

The temperature range for this var. sparkesii is quite wide. Due to its adaptation to environments with hot summers and cold winters, with proper airflow and humidity levels, this plant can survive in temps from 35-100 degrees Fahrenheit. If growing indoors, try to simulate this natural swing in temperatures between the growing season in the spring and summer and its dormant season in the late fall and winter.

Fertilizer and Growing Medium

If growing in pots, make sure to plant in a deep container as this plant’s root systems tend to grow long and downward. When potted, ideally use a porous container like clay, and make sure the growing medium is well-draining and aerated. Medium-grain pine bark with crushed volcanic rock is a good potting base for this orchid variety.

You’ll want to fertilize this orchid conservatively. During its growing season, feed about once every two weeks with a diluted water-soluble balanced or low-nitrogen orchard fertilizer. During dormancy, you can cut back to fertilizing with a balanced or high phosphorus mix about once every 6 weeks.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © PENPAK PROMLEE/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Cammi Morgan is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on mycology, marine animals, forest and river ecology, and dogs. Cammi has been volunteering in animal rescue for over 10 years, and has been studying mycology and field-researching mushrooms for the past 3 years. A resident of Southeast Appalachia, Cammi loves her off-grid life where she shares 20 acres with her landmates, foster dogs, and all the plants, fungi, and critters of the forest.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How long have orchids been around?

Emerging on our planet 112 million years ago, orchids have since evolved an enormous diversity of forms and growing habits. You can find these species clinging to rocks, growing in the soil, or attaching themselves to the bark of trees. From arid regions in Australia to temperate North American hardwood forests to tropical rainforests in South America, native species of orchids grow on every continent except Antarctica.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.