3 Types of Green Orchids

Paphiopedilum malipoense - Jade Slipper Orchid
© WindOfHope/Shutterstock.com

Written by Cammi Morgan

Updated: March 16, 2023

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When we think of colorful flowers, we usually think of various bright hues of pinks, oranges, reds, and purples. But green? While it may sound like a green-colored flower wouldn’t stand out against its foliage, green flowers can actually look amazing! They add a serene, forest-y vibe to your garden.

You’re in luck if you’re looking for a green-flowered addition to your orchid collection! This guide will explore three of our favorite green orchids and cover their specific care requirements.

Let’s get to it!

Orchids: Botanical Classification

More than 28,000 species of orchids belong to the Orchidaceae family of flowering plants. This family represents the second-largest family of flowering plants after the Asteraceae (sunflower) family. An incredibly diverse family of plants, native species of orchids grow on every continent except Antarctica. Evolving 112 million years ago, orchids have adapted to various environments. These include rocky outcrops, the bark of trees (non-parasitically), and well-draining soil. You’ll find species that grow in high altitudes of cool mountainous regions and lowland tropical forests.

3 Gorgeous Species of Green Orchids

Green-flowered orchids occur naturally in various growing environments. Finding a species or cultivar that fits your growing region or indoor climate is achievable. Below, we’ll dive into three magnificent green orchids, their morphologies, and their growing requirements.

1. Jade Slipper Orchid (Paphiopedilum malipoense)

Paphiopedilum malipoense - Jade Slipper Orchid

A Paphiopedilum malipoense, or the jade slipper orchid.

©WindOfHope/Shutterstock.com

This orchid grows natively in steep limestone outcrops of the southwest Guanxi, southwest Guizhou, and southeast Yunnan provinces of China. It can also be found in similar habitats in Northern Vietnam. This stunning little lithophytic or terrestrial orchid’s habitat is quite obscure. Only recently discovered in 1984, the jade slipper orchid shares its genus with about 78 other species and belongs to the subfamily, Cypripedioideae. Its native growing environment consists of hot, humid summers and dry, cold winters.

Morphology

Orchids in the Paphiopedilum genus all share the same basic floral structure of their sepals, petals, and modified petal (labellum). The structure of the jade slipper orchid’s flower is as follows:

  • An enlarged pouch labellum (bottom modified petal) that resembles a slipper
  • Two lateral petals
  • A top dorsal sepal
  • Two fused lateral sepals situated behind the slipper-like labellum

The labellum is light green on the jade lady slipper and dotted with tiny darker green freckles. The orchid uses this pouch as a trap which forces its pollinators to be covered in pollen. This consequently increases its chances of pollinating another Paphiopedilum malipoense. The two lateral petals are ovate to lanceolate-shaped and light green with purplish-green vein mottling. The top dorsal sepal features similar coloring but normally with less purple mottling. The light green fused lateral sepals are generally hidden from view when facing the flower head-on as the large labellum pouch obscures them.

The 4-5 inch wide flowers typically bloom in the spring, usually emerging singularly atop long, upright, 18-22 inch stems. The height of the stems ensures that the flowers bloom out from the crevices that the plants typically grow in. The leaves of this orchid are variegated and provide visual interest on their own. The light green and dark mottling of the leaves and stunning purple checkering underneath make this orchid unique.

If all those gorgeous features aren’t enough to make you love this orchid, the flowers also produce a raspberry scent! Stunning leaves, blooms, and a wonderful fragrance? Talk about a triple threat.

Plant Care

This gorgeous green orchid isn’t particularly difficult to grow, but there is one thing you’ll need to do to ensure successful growth: patience! This orchid can take a painfully long to bloom. It can take months from when the bud first develops to when the flower actually opens. Don’t let this long budding period make you think the plant’s growth is stunted or dying. You’re on the right track as long as you’re providing its care requirements!

Watering

For this orchid, you’ll want to mimic its natural growing environment of wet summers and dry winters. Aim to keep this plant’s roots consistently moist but not saturated during its growing period. You don’t want to let it dry out between waterings. In its dormant phase in late fall and winter, you’re going to cut way back, allowing the plant to dry out between watering completely. This schedule will depend on your growing climate but could look like every two weeks with light misting in between. Often, in its native climates, the only moisture this orchid receives in the winter comes from fog and dew.

Light

Since it often grows in crevices, the jade slipper orchid prefers indirect light over full sun exposure. We’re talking much deeper shade than many other orchid species, so even gentle full sun in the morning will damage this fragile plant. Instead, you’ll want to provide low to medium indirect sunlight, especially in the growing phase. In the winter, you can bump sun exposure to medium to bright indirect sunlight, but keep this orchid out of the full sun.

Temperature and Humidity

During the summer, optimal temperatures for Paphiopedilum malipoense are between 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime and 60-65 degrees at night. During dormancy, this plant needs to experience a marked temperature drop to flower. Aim for providing winter temperatures between 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit. Year-round humidity should be between 50-70%.

Fertilizer and Growing Medium

Like all orchids in the Paphiopedilum genus, this orchid only requires light feeding. Any more will harm its delicate leaves and root structure. You’ll want to feed with a balanced, water-soluble orchard fertilizer weekly at no more than 1/4th the dosage strength. Cut back to feeding once a month during dormancy. Flush the growing medium periodically to prevent the accumulation of minerals.

2. Intact Catasetum Orchid (Catasetum integerrimum)

Catasetum integerrimum - Intact Catasetum Orchid

The

Catasetum integerrimum

thrives in wet tropical biomes.

©José Ramón Fernández/Flickr – Original / License

Native to tropical regions of Mexico, Central America, and Cuba, this whimsical green epiphytic orchid thrives in wet tropical biomes. The intact catasetum orchid is one of at least 170 species in the Catasetum genus, all of which are known for their unique pollination methods. Most orchids have male and female reproductive structures fused together in a column. However, the catasetum orchid is unique in that flowers tend to (with some exceptions) contain either male or female reproductive organs. As such, their pollination strategies require different approaches.

Using strong, enticing floral fragrances, the flowers of catasetum orchids, including the intact catasetum, attract male euglossine bees. As the bee lands to collect the scents, the male flower detaches and drops its pollinarium (a structure containing pollen) onto the back of the bee, where it stays attached. When the bee travels to a female catasetum orchid, which releases a different set of attractive scents, it will deposit the pollinarium directly into the stigmatic opening, resulting in successful pollination.

With these different pollination roles, the males and female flowers of the Catasetum genus tend to present distinct morphological features.

Morphology

The general, at-a-glance morphology of both sexes of intact catasetum orchids feature green, fleshy 3-inch-wide flowers that resemble adorable little characters shrouded in hoods and capes. In these flowers, the hood of the structure is the labellum, which normally sits on the bottom of the flower, forming a lip which actually sits atop the flower, creating the hooded appearance.

On male flowers, the structure consists of an overall drooping flower (many describe a downward-facing praying figure) featuring a light green-yellow fleshy hood (labellum) with drooping, almost translucent-green sepals and petals that give this flower its cloaked appearance. In the center of the flower sits the pollinarium, ready to detach and drop upon the back of a probing bee.

Female flowers have a more upright appearance, featuring a hood-like labellum positioned at the top of the flower. The overall coloring of female intact catasetum orchids is much more vividly green. The hood-like labellum is also a bit wider and rounder. The female flower’s bright green petals and sepals don’t droop and instead resemble a cloaked, hooded figure with arms raised out to the sides, the fabric of the cloak draping around them. In the center of this flower sits the stigmatic slit, where the euglossine bee deposits the pollinarium.

The scents produced by the intact catasetum orchid are generally described as resembling spices.

The leaves of this unique species are broad, flat, yellow-green, and oblong-lanceolate. The plant typically produces 6-8 arching, deciduous leaves that can grow up to 8 inches long. On average, 3-10 flowers emerge in clusters near the top of a 16-inch raceme.

Plant Care

Growing intact catasetum orchids is achievable, provided you follow its basic growing requirements, which include year-round high humidity. An interesting note is that the same plant can produce both male and female flowers and that growing conditions can determine the sex of a flower. Namely, stronger, hardier plants tend to produce more, if not entirely, female flowers as they require a healthier structure to produce seeds. One study found that young forests with more light exposure than the dense canopies of mature forests contained more female intact catasetum orchid flowers.

Watering

This bizarre and beautiful green orchid develops pseudobulbs, which store nutrients and water for this plant during dormancy. On top of having a sensitive root structure that thrives with a lot of moisture, the production of these pseudobulbs is typically energy-intensive, so you’ll need to water frequently. You don’t want to let the growing medium totally dry out during this orchid’s growing phase. Once the pseudobulbs are fully developed in the fall, you can slowly cut back on watering, with only about once-a-month watering during winter dormancy. If you choose to mount this epiphytic orchid, you may need to water more in its growing phase since the roots are more prone to dry out. Remember, many tropical epiphytic orchids are exposed to mist, fog, or dew daily in addition to rainfall.

Light

These plants do best with bright, indirect sunlight. You can also provide direct sunlight in the gentle morning hours, followed by diffused lighting for the rest of the day. Towards the end of their growing season, you can increase light exposure to only about 25% shade as the pseudobulbs reach maturity.

Temperature and Humidity

As tropical, heat and humidity-loving orchids, you’ll want to ensure these plants don’t get too dry or chilly. During its growing season, aim to keep the intact catasetum orchid between 75-90 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 60-70 degrees at night. In its native growing environment, winter temperatures don’t drop much lower, so don’t let this plant be exposed to temps below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

For these tropical green orchids, shoot for providing 75-80% most of the year, with a reduction to 60-65% in late winter to early spring.

Fertilizer and Growing Medium

Fertilizing for this orchid can be broken up into its early growth, late growth, and dormancy. From spring to the middle of summer, apply weekly a water-soluble 1/4th to 1/2 the dosage strength of a balanced or high-in-nitrogen orchid fertilizer. Once the orchid enters its late growing phase from late summer to autumn, you can switch to a high-in-phosphorus orchid fertilizer. You can halt feeding entirely during dormancy or cut back to once a month.

For the intact catasetum orchid, grow it in a container or mounted to bark with sphagnum moss. It’s best to grow this orchid on a fern tree slab only if you can maintain high humidity levels and water this plant once a day. If growing in a container, ensure the medium is well-draining and aerated. Constant airflow is critical for this species. Chopped sphagnum moss is a great growing medium for this little green orchid, as it helps ensure drainage while retaining enough moisture. You can also add in perlite and crushed charcoal or lava rock.

3. Locust Green Sudamerlycaste (Sudamerlycaste locusta)

Sudamerlycaste locusta - Locust Green Sudamerlycaste

A Sudamerlycaste locusta, or the locust green Sudamerlycaste.

©Motohiro Sunouchi/Flickr – Original / License

An elusive green orchid native to the mid-ranging altitudes of Peru, this plant grows either as an epiphyte (attached to plants non-parasitically, such as the bark of trees) or as a lithophyte (growing attached to rocks). As a lithophyte, it’s typically found growing among limestone outcrops and disturbed areas such as along railway embankments. Less commonly, it grows as an epiphyte on the trunks of trees in wetland areas. The locust green sudamerlycaste (Sudamerlycaste locusta) orchid is one of 45 species belonging to the Sudamerlycaste genus.

Morphology

This mountainous green orchid species produces a fleshy, whimsical flower with three large sepals, two small, elongated lateral petals, and an eye-catching green and white fringed labellum. The dorsal sepal protrudes out and over the column of the orchid, resembling a sunhat. The column of this orchid is white with a subtle splash of yellow. These apple-scented flowers typically reach 4-4.5 inches across and bloom in early spring, with flowers lasting about 4 weeks.

Plant Care

Caring for the lovely locust green sudamerlycaste orchid involves providing bright, indirect light, humidity over 55%, consistent moisture, and light fertilizer. We’ll go into more detail below.

Watering

During its growth period, frequent watering for Sudamerlycaste locusta is crucial, so make sure never to let the growing medium completely dry out. During its dormancy phase, you can cut back on watering and allow it to dry out completely before watering again. How often you water will depend on the humidity level of the growing environment.

Light

Providing bright, indirect light of between 20,000-30,000 lux (measurement of light level intensity) is important for this species. If you grow this plant in direct sunlight, only expose the locust green sudamerlycaste orchid to full sun in the morning. Switch to indirect light for the rest of the day.

Temperature and Humidity

As a cool-to-warm growing orchid, you’ll want to keep the temperature range below that of tropical orchids. Remember, the locust green sudamerlycaste orchid grows in cool, temperate, mountainous regions. Ideally, day-time temperatures during its growing season should range between 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Aim to expose this orchid to temperatures between 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit at night. During its dormancy, temperatures in its native growing environment typically drop to 45 degrees at night.

Growing Medium and Fertilizer

People tend to have great success growing this species of orchid in open-slotted wooden hanging baskets. Your best bet is to fill the basket with a growing medium of coconut fiber, small-to-medium-sized bark pieces, and perlite. Only apply fertilizer to this plant during its growing seasons. Feed weakly weekly at 1/3rd the dose of water-soluble, balanced orchid fertilizer.


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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.

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