Now here’s an orchid that could make a maiden blush! The zany subtropical Stanhopea dangles great clusters of blossom from its nether regions, down below the pseudo bulbs and large leafy foliage.
What first seems like a goofy quirk of nature turns out to be one of the magnificent miracles of the plant world. Overwhelming, viewed from Down Under.
It must be marvellous to happen upon these dizzying apparitions in the jungles of South America – where jungle still remains. Reports of pillage and slash-and-burn operations set off alarm bells. That many wild orchids now exist only through the good graces of botanic gardens and dedicated growers is hardly tribute to man’s passage through the kingdom of plants. Therefore it is important to keep a positive picture of these alluring plants swaying in tropical jungle atmosphere when you set about growing them.
Stanhopeas must never be housed in solid-sided pots (how would the flowers break through the terracotta?) and are best grown in wire baskets and viewed hanging high in your garden or fernhouse. Joy of joys, stanhopeas bloom late in the season after most else has given up the ghost. Late spring into early summer, the sturdy stanhopea keeps popping away. And I do mean ‘pop’.
Here are some varieties that grow easily in temperate outdoor conditions. Happy hunting! Stanhopea nigroviolacea, this fellow seems all-male to me. Big, robust, easy growing. Stanhopea inodora, my favourite, this ice green beauty is a hardy grower, but with a delicate countenance. Stanhopea reichenbachiana, porcelain white and spicy sweet perfumed, Stanhopea wardii, a sunny yellow deckled with tiny purplish flecks. Stanhopea graveolens, cool growing (bush houses, glass houses, shaded patios, garden balconies protected from the wind), this golden beauty hails from Mexico and Honduras. ‘Bottoms up!’ and follow the storylines with Friend Connect (top right) or click in to visit my Stanhopea stories for more orchid growing tips.