What are Cycnoches?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2019
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Cycnoches is an orchid genus native to South America, with less than 30 known species. The Latin name for these flowers is derived from the word for “swan,” a reference to the appearance of the flowers seen on some species. These orchids can be tricky to grow and require very well-controlled conditions. Nurseries and companies specializing in orchid cultivation carry them. Unusual species can be quite expensive.

Members of this genus produce flowers in colors like white, green, cream, rust, and yellow. Many are spotted or striped. The flowers grow on long stalks with 30 or more blooms. Depending on the species, Cycnoches can be a trailing or upright plant, with robust foliage in addition to several stalks of flowers. The flowers live for a long time and have a strong odor. This genus is also famous for producing male, female, and hermaphroditic flowers, all of which look radically different.

These orchids are native to lowland forests and are epiphytic plants, growing on dead logs and trees and deriving their water and nutrition from the air and the materials available on the surface of the substrates they grow on. Because they are designed to grow in exposed areas, potting media must be chosen with care. Orchid mediums need to retain moisture to keep humidity up, without getting wet, or the pseudobulbs of the plants will rot and the plants will not put out roots and new foliage.


Cycnoches species are nutrient-hungry during the growing cycle, but require what is known as a dry rest once they are done blooming and their deciduous leaves have dropped away. In a dry rest, gardeners can take the plants out of pots and rest them on a workbench, or put pots in an out-of-the-way area. Periodic sprays are recommended to prevent dehydration, but otherwise, the plants should be left alone. When new growth starts to appear, the orchid can be returned to potting medium, watered, and fertilized to get Cycnoches started on another blooming cycle.

As new pseudobulbs develop at the surface of the potting medium and along the branches, they can be gently separated to produce new plants. Gardeners may trade plants with each other, giving people an opportunity to access unusual or interesting species. Care should be taken with Cycnoches cultivation to avoid allowing the plants to become colonized by mold and mildew. The plants need bright conditions, warm, humid air, and good air circulation to thrive.



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