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What Is Aerides?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2014
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Aerides is an orchid genus native to the lowland tropics of Asia. These orchids are epiphytic, which means they designed to grow nonparasitically on the branches of trees or other plants, and in nature they can be found in abundance, wrapped around branches and tree trunks at various heights in the forest canopy. They are popular for cultivation, as they are colorful and relatively easy to grow, in addition to having very long-lasting blooms.

These orchids produce showy, waxy flowers in colors like white, pink, purple, and yellow. Many are varicolored, and fall in long cascades from trailing racemes. The flowers are highly fragrant and when the plant is healthy, very long lasting. Foliage is relatively simple and tends to grow near the top of the plant, while the flowers emerge from the bottom.

Known by common names like cat's-tail orchid and fox brush orchid, Aerides species prefer to grow in hanging baskets, as this closely approximates their natural habitat. If the plants are allowed to hang, the flowers can develop normally, with a downward growth habit. The plants survive on little to no potting medium, and it is important to use a very well drained medium to avoid attracting mold and mildew to the leaves and roots. If the orchids are kept in wet conditions, they can sicken and die.

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These plants have adapted to live in the warm, humid environment of the tropics. People living in tropical regions can grow Aerides outdoors in their gardens. In cooler and drier regions, the orchids must be grown indoors. Conditions in a home are often warm and humid enough to support orchids, especially if the plants are periodically misted to provide moisture, and people can also grow these flowers in a greenhouse or conservatory. Orchid food needs to be provided periodically to encourage healthy, even growth, and these plants can benefit from resting after blooming. During a resting period, the plants are kept in a cool place and misted, not watered, to store energy for the next round of blooming.

Nurseries may carry Aerides species and gardeners can obtain a wider range of options through a nursery specializing in orchids. Orchid propagators also trade plants with each other, providing access to unusual and interesting species that may not always be readily available commercially. People interested in growing orchids like Aerides may want to consider joining a local orchid society to network with other gardeners, learn about orchid propagation, and access resources like organized orchid trades.

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