What is Zygopetalum?

Sara Schmidt

Small, pleasantly-scented flowers, the zygopetalum species are known as some of the easiest orchids to grow. These typically white and violet terrestrials make up 18 different types of flowers, and can be found growing in the rainforest. Most are quite showy, with speckled patterns and other exotic features.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

Most zygopetalum species feature a waxy, white, or cream colored petal background. Their fragrant aroma and pleasing purple, burgundy, green, or pink splashes of color make them popular flowers. While some do feature more subtle shades and designs, the flowers are well known for their exotic, bright coloration. Many people arrange zygopetalum as cut flowers in artful displays. Blooms may last up to eight weeks.

Stems of Zygopetalum plants have a leathery texture. Like the flowers themselves, they often feature splotchy, striking patterns of color. The sweet scent of the flowers is similar to that of the hyacinth or narcissus flower. The species was discovered in 1827. Its name translates from the Greek words for "yoked petal."

In warm climates, zygopetalum flowers can thrive outdoors. They may continue living when faced with hot summers or cold winters. Most species can be found in Brazil, though they grow in other parts of Central and South America as well.

The plants are susceptible to harm from insects and slugs. When cultivated for home use, the orchids should therefore be kept well above ground, and away from potential pests. If spaced apart properly, these flowers are typically resistant to most forms of bacteria and fungi.

During the summer, these orchids require cool temperatures at night in order to grow well in the heat. These should range from 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 18 degrees Celsius). After the flowers blossom, however, they should be kept relatively warm at temperatures higher than 35 degrees Fahrenheit (1.7 degrees Celsius). Humidity trays can help maintain these levels as well as the moisture the plants require.

Zygopetalum prefers moderate water and lighting. Misting is important in the care of these plants. Some shade should be provided if growing these fragrant flowers in a greenhouse setting. If grown indoors, however, extra lighting should be provided. Full sunlight is not recommended for zygopetalum.

Fertilization is recommended with these orchids. High levels of nitrogen should be provided during the spring and summer months, while additional phosphorus is needed during the fall. In the winter, a balanced mixture of the two may be supplied to the species.

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