Brassia orchid is one of the best aromatic orchids out there. It is popular among orchid enthusiasts for its bizarre-shaped sepals.
Know all there is to know about this fragrant orchid from our comprehensive care guide.
What Is Brassia Orchid?
Brassia orchid or the Spider orchid is an epiphytic orchid native to South American countries such as Mexico, Peru, and West Indies. It is commonly called Spider orchid because of the long and weird shape of the sepals that spread out like a spider’s legs.
Unlike other orchids that are found in tropical rainforests, the Spider orchid is most commonly found in the Andes mountains of Peru.
There are a few varieties under the genus Brassia, with the most common being the Tailed Brassia or Brassia caudata. Brassia orchids belong to the subtribe Oncidiinae. It is named after William Brass, a British botanist, and Robert Brown described it first in 1813.
Size and Growth
Brassia orchid grows in wet forests anchored to the branches of large trees. It is pollinated by a unique spider wasp that stings the flower, thinking it is an insect, and then travels to the next flower, thereby helping in pollination.
Brassia orchids are not the most varied orchids like the Phalaenopsis orchids. There are few color variations apart from some brown, orangish-yellow colors, and slight variations may exist in hybrids. Do not remove its old pseudobulbs because they act as water and nutrient deposits.
Brassia orchid has beautiful, fragrant flowers that come in different colors. They have a star-like shape. Some people associate its long petals with spider legs, which is why it’s named the Spider orchid. The sepals can hang 10 inches or even more.
The flowers bloom two times a year and last for several weeks. When the orchid is done blooming, you have to cut the flower spike to the base. Unlike the Phalaenopsis orchids, its flower spike will not branch out, so there will be no keikis or branches.
The petals are yellow or green with maroon or magenta spots. They have a large, flowy lip that is white-colored. These captivating flowers attract female wasps, and they help in their pollination. A sudden loss in flowers indicates drought-like conditions.
Brassia orchid has white roots that remain white even after watering. Unlike some other orchids, they do not turn green after watering.
Brassia Orchid Culture and Care: Its Growth Requirements
Brassia orchid is not too picky when it comes to its light requirements. It loves bright light or moderately bright light, unlike the Vanda orchids. They bloom fine in moderate light as well. Bright light is beneficial for them but not a must.
Just look out for direct sunlight as it can burn the leaves. In cooler temperatures, you can give them more light because the days are shorter. Keep them on windowsills that receive indirect light throughout the day.
Watering the Spider orchid can be a bit tricky. It enjoys quite a lot of water and never likes to be completely dry. Water Brassia orchid thoroughly as it thrives in high moisture. Allow it to dry out just a little in between waterings.
Also, remember to water more in drier and warmer weather. We recommend watering every second or third day during the growing period of summer and every seventh day during winter.
If you notice the pseudobulbs getting wrinkled, it means your orchid needs to be watered. Its roots do not indicate the water requirements well because they always remain white in color. Another sign of underwatering is the accordion shape of the leaves.
Overwatering is not a massive problem for this orchid as it can tolerate a little bit of extra water. However, soggy and damp soil conditions for extended periods can make your plant decay.
If your orchid is not healthy, it is most probably because of irregular watering. Keep a fixed watering schedule and stick to it.
Brassia orchid is a warm-growing orchid. Temperatures between 60 and 80 Fahrenheit work well for this orchid. Warmer temperatures above 60 Fahrenheit help it to bloom. Do not keep them out in the open when the temperature drops below 50 Fahrenheit.
Do not keep them in temperatures above 80 to 82 Fahrenheit during the daytime. These orchids can handle lower and higher temperatures, but they perform better in intermediate temperatures. As a general rule, the higher the temperature, the higher the watering, and vice versa.
Brassia orchid in its natural habitat grows as an epiphyte which means that it does not necessarily require a soil mix. It grows well when planted in hanging baskets or mounted on vertical slabs. In hanging baskets, use sphagnum moss as substrate.
Use clear, transparent plastic pots to grow your orchid if you are a beginner. It will help you to see if the soil medium has dried. The roots will not help you judge if your plant needs water or not, but you will have to observe the substrate.
If the soil medium is almost dry and just a little bit moist, you can water your orchid. If you receive a new orchid, we would recommend you to repot it in a new soil mix so you can see if its roots are healthy or if it has any bugs or snails.
Brassia orchid prefers humid environments. Try to keep the humidity levels between 50 and 70 percent during the daytime and higher during the night. Keep humidity trays around your orchid and mist the plant regularly to keep the humidity high.
High humidity ensures excellent ventilation around the roots to prevent problems like root rot and fungal diseases. Keep fans near your orchid if it gets too humid. Over-humidity can lead to root rot, collar rot, or botrytis petal blight.
Brassia orchid does not have a particular routine for fertilizing. Fertilize your orchid adequately by following the instructions on the label of a liquid orchid fertilizer. Use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer from spring to summer.
Some people do not fertilize their Spider orchids ever, and it still blooms perfectly. So you can see how easy-going this orchid species is.
Be sure to flush the orchid in water every month to avoid any salt buildup due to fertilization. Salt accumulation for a long time can kill your orchid.
Repotting Brassia Orchid
Brassia orchids do not require frequent repotting unless planted in sphagnum moss. Repotting may be necessary every two years. If it is planted in sphagnum moss in a hanging basket, change the moss every year with a fresh batch so that it does not decompose or cause plant decay.
If your orchid has outgrown the existing pot by adding new pseudobulbs or its soil mix has started to decompose, it is time to repot your Spider orchid. Remove the old soil mix without breaking the roots.
Use a new mixture of bark chips and perlite and shift the plant to the new pot. A foul smell around the orchid or fungus in the soil mix indicates that you need to shift your orchid to a new soil mix.
Propagation is done by dividing the pseudobulbs. Orchid propagation is not easy, so do not get bogged down if you cannot propagate your Spider orchid. Divide your plant only when it has at least three pseudobulbs.
Brassia orchid is sometimes bothered by scales. Remove them by washing your plant with warm soap water. It will remove the pests. Alternatively, you can also rub or spray alcohol solution on the plant.
– Botrytis Petal Blight
If you see small patches or spots developing on the flowers, it is most probably your orchid has botrytis petal blight. It happens due to excessive misting or too humid conditions. To prevent such problems, improve air circulation if the humidity is high. Remove the infected flowers or the entire flower spike if it has spread to other parts.
– Collar Rot
Collar rot or Southern blight happens when the pseudobulbs rot and become mushy. It is a fungal disease that spreads because of high humidity and low air circulation. If you do not spot it within a few days, it will quickly spread to the base of the plant.
If it is not too severe, remove the infected part of the plant. For more serious cases, treat the plant with a fungicide, or in worse scenarios, throw it away.
Brassia orchid is a perfect orchid for all the new gardeners as it has minimal requirements and rewards with beautiful, scented flowers. Use our guide to make these beauties bloom successfully.
Let us sum up everything we have learned about these stunning orchids so far.
- Brassia orchid is an epiphytic orchid found in South America, West Indies, and Florida.
- It is commonly called the Spider orchid because its flowers resemble the shape of a spider’s legs.
- It prefers moderately bright light to bloom successfully.
- Water your Spider orchid abundantly during the growth period as it likes high moisture; never let it go fully dry.
- It can tolerate overwatering to some extent but avoid underwatering at all costs.
- Intermediate temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit work fine for its growth.
- It prefers highly humid conditions with good air circulation to grow well like other tropical orchids.
- Keep the humidity level above 50 percent at all times.
- Use a balanced orchid fertilizer during the active growth period and reduce it during winter.
- Repot your orchid every two years or so only when it has outgrown the pot or its soil medium has started to decompose.
- Propagation is done by dividing the pseudobulbs.
- Look out for pests, insects, and diseases and provide proper treatment if required.
These wild orchids can be a great addition to your orchid collection. The spidery flowers make them special and give them a go even if you are an absolute beginner.
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