Masdevallia orchid is not just another windowsill plant. It can be slightly challenging for beginners to grow this orchid. But there are some tips and tricks which can help you grow these beautiful orchids.
Read our Masdevallia culture tips to know how to care for this beauty.
What Is Masdevallia?
Masdevallias are epiphytic, lithophytic, or terrestrial orchids found in the cloud forests of South American countries from Mexico to Brazil. There are over 500 different types of Masdevallia orchids with different colors and shapes.
Some of its common names are the Flag orchid, Fissia, Jostia, and Spectaculum. Some of its famous varieties include Masdevallia Copper Sun’ Humongous’. It is named after the physician and botanist Jose Masdeval. Hipólito Ruiz López & José Antonio Pavón described it first in 1794.
– Size and Growth
Masdevallias are small to medium-sized, cool-growing orchids that come from high-altitude regions. They grow in compact spaces in clumps and clusters. So usually, large pots are not required to grow them.
These orchids do not have pseudobulbs, so there is no way for them to store water and nutrients in roots and leaves for future use. That is why they prefer moist soil at all times.
Masdevallia has smooth, paddle-shaped foliage that looks like grass. The grass-like leaves are narrow towards the base. Its leaves are thin, and plants with more delicate leaves prefer shadier spots. Do not expose these plants to direct sunlight in summer as the leaves will burn easily.
Masdevallia orchid flowers are dainty, with some of them being fragrant. These plants have inflorescences that carry single, triangular flowers. Maximum flowering takes place in winter and spring. The petals are small, with their margin developing into a tooth. The flowers come in different colors ranging from bright orange and red to white and purple.
Masdevallias have small roots, but they are many in number. So the roots quickly fill up the space in pots and containers. The roots also have a lot of fine hair.
Masdevallia Orchid Care and Culture: Its Growth Requirements
– Light Requirements
Masdevallia is a shade-loving orchid. They like to be on the cooler side of the greenhouse. Keep them in a bright, shady spot where there is indirect light throughout the day. So in summer, they like to be in the shade, and in the winter season, bright, indirect light works well for them. To induce flowering, provide brighter than the usual light. Bright light can make the leaves pale and light green.
– Water Requirements
Since these orchids do not have pseudobulbs, there is no way for them to store water and nutrients. So they like to have their soil mix moist all the time as they cannot maintain moisture on their own. But be careful not to overwater these gorgeous plants as it can cause their roots to rot.
They like damp soil conditions, just like the wet forests where they grow in clumps. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. Let the roots dry out only a bit in between waterings. Water them daily in spring and summer and reduce the procedure to weekly watering in autumn and winter. Mounted orchids may need more frequent watering than the ones in pots and baskets.
Use only clean, distilled, or rainwater to water these orchids. If the salt or chloride content is high in tap water, use filtered water.
– Soil Mix
Sphagnum moss works well for these orchids as it helps in retaining moisture and keeping the orchid roots moist. To make a loose, well-draining, and moisture-retaining soil mix, use 70 percent sphagnum moss, 20 percent bark chips, and 10 percent perlite.
You can also use 80 percent thick orchid bark chips and 20 percent coarse perlite or a mix of bark chips, perlite, and fibrous peat moss to make a well-draining soil mix.
These orchids can be grown, mounted, and in pots. For mounted orchids, use sphagnum moss and for potted orchids, use the bark chips mix. Sphagnum moss is an excellent option for soil mix because it makes it easy to take out the plant and check its roots.
Masdevallia orchids are generally cool-growers but sometimes can be grown in intermediate temperatures also.
The optimal temperature differs from one orchid species to another. There are three groups – cool to cold growers, intermediate growers, and warm growers.
The cool-growing orchids prefer temperatures between 40 and 75 F. In winter, they like temperatures from 50 to 55 F, and in summer, they prefer temperatures between 55 and 70 F. The cool-growing orchids cannot tolerate temperatures higher than 75 F for more extended periods. They like cooler climates but cannot tolerate frost if kept outside.
The intermediate growers prefer temperatures between 55 and 75 F. The warm-growers prefer temperatures between 60 and 80 F. A difference of 5 to 10 F is required to induce flowering.
Masdevallia orchids prefer high humidity with good air movement. They cannot tolerate dry conditions. In summer, keep the humidity level high, around 70 to 80 percent and 50 to 65 percent in the winter season. Keep humidifiers and humidity trays around your plant to keep the humidity level high in summer.
While keeping the humidity level high, keep the air moving. Lack of air circulation with high humidity and moisture can cause root rot and fungal infections. Keeping fans around the plants helps in maintaining good air movement.
– Fertilizer Requirements
Fertilize your orchid once every two weeks using one-fourth of the recommended dose on a liquid orchid fertilizer. Fertilize actively from spring to autumn and avoid fertilizing during the winter season as new growth is slower in winter. To prevent salt accumulation due to over-fertilizing, wash the plant with water regularly. Too much salt can burn the plant roots.
Repot Masdevallia orchids in spring or autumn every two years or so when the plant has outgrown the pot or its soil mix begins to decompose.
Unpot the plant by gently removing the old soil medium. Wash off the plant properly to get the old media out. Cut off the old, dead roots that look dark gray to black-colored. Sterilize the scissors before cutting off the dead roots. Cut off the yellowing leaves and old bloom spikes. Masdevallia orchids generally bloom only once per spike, so it is crucial to remove the old spikes.
Make a new soil medium of sphagnum moss, orchid bark chips, and perlite. Put some of this mix on the roots and wrap the rest above the roots. Take a four to five inches large pot, which should be only one size bigger than the previous one.
Fill it with the sphagnum moss-wrapped plant. Give it a quick watering and keep it in a shady spot. This repotted plant will be good for at least one year and likely two years. You can propagate the plant by dividing it while repotting. Each division should have at least two to three growths.
Masdevallia is a great orchid if you live in cool, temperate climates. It needs a little bit of extra care than other orchids, but it is worth caring for because the blooms are simply gorgeous.
Let us sum up all the necessary points regarding its growth requirements.
- Masdevallia orchids are terrestrial and sometimes epiphytic or lithophytic orchids endemic to the mountainous cloud forests of South America.
- There are about 500 different species under this genus, and they come in various colors. Most flowers bloom in winter and spring.
- These orchids prefer to be in the bright shade during the warm summer months and bright, indirect in winter.
- Water your orchid frequently in summer and reduce it in winter—these orchids like moist soil at all times.
- These orchids do not have rhizomes or pseudobulbs to store water and nutrients. So watering frequency has to be kept high as compared to other orchid species.
- Use a mix of sphagnum moss, bark chips, and perlite for potted orchids and sphagnum moss for mounted orchids.
- You can also use only New Zealand, long-fibred, sphagnum moss in warm climates to retain moisture.
- Most species under this genus are cool-growers, so they like cooler temperatures with high humidity to thrive.
- Do not let the temperature go beyond 75 F, as warm temperatures can be detrimental to these cool-growing orchids.
- Maintain above 70 percent humidity level with good air movement as these orchids love humid conditions.
- Fertilize the orchid biweekly with a soluble orchid fertilizer during the active growing period.
- Repot the orchid every two years when it has outgrown the existing pot, or its soil mix has started to decompose.
Now that you have all the crucial information on this pretty orchid, we hope you will get one of these beauties for yourself and enjoy the mass of blooms!
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