What is Stanhopea?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2019
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Stanhopea is an orchid genus, named for the British botanist who first described it in detail. These orchids are native to high forests of Central and South America and they are famous for blooming upside-down, with the flowers emerging from the base of the plant. Stanhopea are sometimes known as upside-down orchids or bucket orchids after their distinctive appearance and blooming habit. These flowers are very hardy and can be cultivated as houseplants.

Over 50 species of Stanhopea have been identified. Most are epiphytic and evolved to live on the branches of trees in the forest canopy. The plants have long, folded leaves and produce sprays of flowers multiple times a year. The waxy flowers are very short-lived, and as a result, these orchids have developed a number of tricks to ensure successful pollination.

Stanhopea flowers are very colorful and elaborate, designed to attract pollinators like bees. Most also practice a catch and release technique with their pollinators; when insects land on the flowers, they fall into a tube they must climb out of to escape. In the process of climbing, they become covered in pollen, and the pollen is carried to another plant where the process is repeated. Stanhopea orchids are not the only plants that do this and plants can use other techniques like creating appealing tunnels and landing strips for pollinators to explore when they land to seek nectar.


People who want to grow Stanhopea orchids will need to grow them in wire baskets to allow the flowers to emerge. An epiphytic orchid or plant mix should be used to create a appropriate substrate for the orchids to grow on, and the plants need to be established in an area with bright, indirect light and high humidity. Some people cultivate their orchids in greenhouses, while others may prefer to designate an area of the house for orchid growing.

Gardeners resident in regions with climates similar to that of the forests these orchids are native to can grow Stanhopea outside. In addition to being grown in baskets, the orchids can also be cultivated on trees and shrubs, mimicking the way they are found in the wild. Whether indoors or outdoors, it is important to feed the orchids and to keep them out of direct light to avoid burning the leaves. Gardeners should also be aware that orchids can be vulnerable to insects and mildew and need to be watched closely for signs of infestations.



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