Ascocentrum is the name of a genus of flower in the Orchidaceae family, more commonly known as orchids. These plants are found natively in the Himalayas and some countries in Southeast Asia. The orchid grows up from a single stem, sending leaves out from the central point. In nature they grow on trees, as many orchids do, and produce groups of small flowers that are brightly colored. The blooms can be a variety of colors, from yellow to purple to red, making this a popular orchid to grow at home.
An Ascocentrum is an epiphytic plant, meaning it takes root on the sides and branches of larger trees. They are relatively small plants, growing to an average height of 10 to 20 inches (25 to 50 centimeters). The flowers themselves are small, ranging from approximately 1 to 2 inches (about 3 to 4 centimeters) in diameter. There are 13 different species of this orchid in nature, and there are many more intentionally crossbred species that have emerged from the Ascocentrum’s popularity as a house plant.
In the horticultural trade, the abbreviation for this orchid is Asctm. One of the causes for the aggressive hybridization of the Ascocentrum is its resemblance to the Vanda genus of orchids. Growers are fond of Vanda orchids because of their unique colors and intricate blooms. Although there are more than 50 varieties of Vanda orchids, they are endangered and cannot be shipped outside of their native habitats, creating an even stronger demand for hybrids.
Ascocentrum orchids are a popular choice for growing in the home. Similar to most other orchids, they require very specific growing conditions and some extra attention outside of zones 9 and 10. Depending on the exact variety, they require full sun to intense partial sun. They also require a warm growing environment with nighttime temperatures that do not drop below 55° Fahrenheit (12° Celsius).
Humidity is important to most orchids, and this one is no exception. Although most homes naturally have a sufficient amount of humidity, some do not. In these cases, special water-filled trays are needed to keep the plant properly hydrated. Moving air around the plant also is important to help simulate its natural environment.
The last two elements that Ascocentrum requires are adequate soil and water. The soil should be something very loose, such as tree bark or perlite, so the water does not touch the roots and rot them. Watering should be done regularly, but the growing medium should be allowed to completely dry out from one watering to the next.