The gorgeous Dendrobium bigibbum orchid plant is found growing naturally in its native habitat in North-Eastern Australia. It is a medium to large-sized orchid plant, usually an epiphytic or lithophytic type of plant.
Epiphytic, also known as an air plant, is any plant that grows upon another plant or object merely for physical support. Lithophytic is a plant that grows in or on rocks that grows very well in bright conditions on small trees and rocks.
These beautiful orchids used to be abundant in the wild around Cooktown, Australia, hence their commonly used name. Due to crowds of commercial collectors hauling them for personal accumulation, they are now rarely found in their natural growing environments.
The Dendrobium bigibbum orchid plants typically grow prolifically in semi-arid regions, where they form small to medium, slender clumps. The clumps, or pseudobulbs, are made up of green-to-purple erect stems with rounded bases. These shoot up to create leaves and flowering stems.
The Official Emblem of Queensland
The Dendrobium bigibbum flower became the official floral emblem of Queensland in 1959, when the government was looking for a native flower that was decorative, unique, easily grown, and similar to the State color maroon.
Out of four local choices, the Dendrobium bigibbum came out the winner, with its beautifully mauve flowers perfectly capturing the delicate yet strong quality and symbolism that Queensland was looking for in a floral emblem.
While commonly known as the Cooktown Orchid, the Dendrobium bigibbum orchid plant is also called the Mauve Butterfly Orchid due to its flowers’ delicate colors and shapes.
The plant grows somewhere around 15.7 to 47.2 inches. In the wild, it flowers in the dry season between March and July. In cultivation and commercial environments, the plant can flower year-round under the right conditions.
The Dendrobium bigibbum plant grows particularly well in vine thickets and on rocky slopes, where the threat of forest fires is minimal.
When exposed to an arid climate during the summer season, the plants can become completely dormant until the wet season arrives, during which they quickly produce new growth due to the sudden amount of humidity in the environment, and the flowering period follows soon after this sudden burst of growth.
The Dendrobium bigibbum orchid plants live most comfortably in tiny spots and cracks, with their roots jammed into the small space.
As they are inherently air plants and rock plants, their roots have evolved into efficient tendrils of water-retaining wonders clumped together. Once their roots are spread out, there is a tendency for them to stay too wet and moist, which may cause them to begin to rot.
Dendrobium bigibbum roots thrive happily in small pots and containers that might look ridiculously small in proportion to the plant.
The spectacular colors of the blooming Dendrobium bigibbum flowers fall under a vast spectrum spanning mild mauve to vivid violet hues.
From pink to lavender, to purple, to crimson, and sometimes to pale lilac, the blooms show off their beauty on an arching raceme, which is a cluster of flowers with separate blooms attached by short stalks at equidistant separations along a central stem.
The first few developed flowers at the base of the main stem usually bloom first, and the rest open in succession toward the tip during the flowering season.
The raceme can reach 15.7 inches and can bear up to twenty flowers. The flowers can be uniformly colored, but some varieties produce blooms with colored throats and lips. The flowers tend to be 1.2 to 2 inches wide and are three-lobed.
The Dendrobium bigibbum usually blooms from February to October, with flowers lasting up to two weeks.
Dendrobium Bigibbum Care
As an orchid acclimated to bright indirect light with dry and infrequent wet seasons, the Cooktown Orchid can be a challenge to grow in temperate climates where winters may be harsh and dark. As its native habitat is usually described as a semi-arid tropical desert, many orchid growers find cultivating the Dendrobium bigibbum to be a bit daunting.
However, armed with a little bit of information and knowledge, orchid plant collectors and lovers will easily keep the Dendrobium bigibbum alive, well, and flourishing with showy flowers.
The plant generally grows in warm to tropical temperatures with medium to bright indirect lighting requirements, with minimal watering and temperature fluctuations to promote flowering.
Cultivated Dendrobium bigibbum plants often have larger flowers than those found in their natural wild habitat.
Dendrobium bigibbum plants need bright indirect light. The ideal lighting condition is to place them in a south-facing window. In temperate climates, grow lights are recommended during the colder seasons, with a minimum light level requirement of 30,000 to 45,000 lux and even higher during the winter seasons.
Intense and indirect bright light encourages new growth and flowering for Dendrobium bigibbum plants.
Since the Dendrobium bigibbum is accustomed to dry arid climates, mimicking its natural weather conditions is ideal. Water is a crucial part of its growth, so watering during the summer season is perfect because, in its wild habitat, the wet season occasionally brings rain during this time.
In temperate climates, watering during winter should be minimal until new shoots appear. During the plant’s active growth stage, its growing medium should be moist to wet, with regular periods for the roots to dry out a little to prevent root rot.
The Cooktown Orchid is also a thermophilic plant, which means it thrives in high temperatures. In summer, minimal heat requirements will be needed to care for this plant. However, in temperate countries where cold and winter seasons are present, it requires minimum daytime temperatures of 75 to 78 F (24 to 26 C) and nighttime temperatures of 62 to 66 F (17 to 19 C).
Humidity is also an essential factor, with a high air humidity level requirement of 70 to 75 percent, with a slight drop to 65 to 70 percent air humidity in the cold and winter months.
A well-draining medium mix of sphagnum moss, medium fir bark, cork, or other orchid growing mediums keeps the Dendrobium bigibbum’s roots healthy and growing. They grow well attached to old tree trunks, cork stumps, or orchid poles.
Pine bark, moss, and cork are some of the best substrates that the plant can be propped up on to support its growth. Dendrobium bigibbum plants also do well in well-draining pots, with medium sizes of breathable, permeable substrates to maintain the plants’ roots’ perfect moisture content without excess dampness.
Heavy clay pots are teal for keeping the plants steady with large plant growth and a proportionally lower base.
Orchid supports are best used to steady the growth of new slender pseudobulbs. Repotting can be done after the flowering period when the plant has rested enough after spending its energy-producing blooms.
For temperate climates, repotting is recommended during the end of winter or at the beginning of spring.
During the growing season, which falls in the warmer months, Dendrobium bigibbum plants should be kept moist and well-fertilized. You should apply weak and diluted fertilizers every week to encourage growth, using about half or even a quarter of the recommended fertilizer dosage.
Ideally, a high nitrogen content fertilizer is recommended from spring to summer for healthy growth and flowering. Fertilization with a high phosphorous content is recommended during the late summer and autumn months to maintain a balanced state of nutrition.
During dormancy, which occurs in the winter season, use weak fertilizers once a month. The best forms of fertilizers are liquid fertilizers and the ones that are soluble in water.
Dendrobium bigibbum plants ideally should rest after flowering, as the blooms take so much energy to produce. In order to create an ideal resting period, watering should be more infrequent to dry out the plants in between.
Care must be taken to prevent wrinkled, shrunken pseudobulbs from occurring, as such conditions would prevent the plants from regaining their strength quickly. To keep the Dendrobium bigibbum plants perfectly dry but not dried out, they should be sprinkled or misted between watering periods.
Once spring approaches, the Dendrobium bigibbum plants can begin receiving more watering, as well as limited portions of diluted fertilizers, until they get accustomed to the change in weather.
The Dendrobium bigibbum is a wonderful houseplant when cultivated properly, and it can bring its caretakers hours of joy as they marvel at the delicate flowers in varying colors. Let’s go over everything to make sure you’re ready to start caring for your precious plants.
- The Cooktown Orchid can be grown even in temperate climates under the right conditions.
- The Dendrobium bigibbum will require an orchid growing medium, high humidity, high temperature, fertilizers, and a grow lamp.
- Water sparingly during the colder months, and water appropriately during the warmer months.
- Use weak fertilizer during the dormant seasons and increase the strength as summer approaches.
- Allow the plants to rest between flowering.
The Cooktown Orchid is remarkably easy to care for once you have provided it with the right conditions, so why not try your hand in growing these beautiful orchids? Their beautiful foliage and delicate purple blooms will definitely bring you priceless moments of pleasure!
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