Maxillaria tenuifolia care infographicIf you enjoy the Pina Colada fragrance than get Maxillaria tenuifolia and fill your home with a light coconut fragrance. Maxillaria tenuifolia, or the Coconut orchid, is an easy-to-grow orchid that smells just like coconuts.

What Is Maxillaria Tenuifolia?

Maxillaria tenuifolia, also called the Coconut orchid, is an epiphytic orchid native to Mexico, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. It grows attached to rainforest trees, but sometimes it also grows as a terrestrial plant.

Its common names are the Delicate-leafed maxillaria and the Coconut pie orchid, and it belongs to the Orchidaceae family and the Maxillaria genus. John Lindley described this species first in 1837.

  • Size and Growth

The coconut orchid is a sympodial orchid that grows at relatively lower elevations where temperatures are higher. It can reach a maximum height of 25 inches.With time, the plant becomes bushy. In comparison to other orchids, this one is a fast-grower, and in the jungles, it grows upward to reach the light.

Maxillaria tenuifolia basic care

A unique feature of Maxillaria tenuifolia is the growth of its pseudobulbs, which grow on top of each other. It looks as if one pseudobulb is growing on top of the other. But each pseudobulb has roots that grow down into the soil mix. The pseudobulbs have a papery coating which you can leave unremoved.

  • Foliage

Maxillaria tenuifolia has linear, thin grass-like leaves. The grass-like foliage makes the plant look attractive even when it is not blooming. The leaves have flat pseudobulbs at the base. Low light conditions lead to whip-like leaves, which make the plant look messy. If you notice the plant getting too leggy, it is time to shift it to a brighter spot.

  • Flowers

The Coconut pie orchid has small, triangular flowers that bloom during the spring and summer months. They are dark red-colored and have yellow or brown spots. There may be slight color variation from plant to plant. The coconut-scented blossoms are the reason behind this orchid getting the name Coconut pie orchid.

The blooms are of the size 1 to 1 and a half inches across. Additionally, there is only one flower per spike. The single flowered inflorescence arises out of the pseudobulb. The flowers bloom from summer to spring and last for 10 to 12 days.

Maxillaria Tenuifolia Culture and Care: Its Growth Requirements

Maxillaria tenuifolia is one of the easiest maxillaria to care for. Still, you have to consider a few important points regarding its light requirements, water requirements, soil mix, humidity, and fertilizer requirements.

Try to replicate the natural conditions in your home for the best results. Read from our guide below to learn about its basic growth requirements.

  • Light Requirements

Maxillaria tenuifolia has medium light requirements and grows best in bright, filtered sunlight. If your orchid is placed in a south-facing window, provide curtain-filtered light during the day since the direct afternoon sun can burn the leaves.

Try to put your orchid in a spot where there is good ventilation and receives indirect light throughout the day. It also grows well under grow lights and fluorescent sodium fixtures.

Like most Cattleya orchids, Maxillaria tenuifolia also enjoys high light conditions. Never put your orchid in harsh, direct sunlight during noon, as it will cause leaf burn.

If you are growing your orchid mounted on a slab of cork or tree fern, hang it in an area where it can receive water regularly. A spot below a tree would be perfect as it will create a near-natural environment for the orchid where it can also receive rainwater.

East and west-facing window sills where the orchid can obtain bright, indirect light also work well for its growth. If you place your orchid in a spot where it does not receive adequate light, its leaves will grow longer and upward in search of light. This will lead to a leggy plant.

  • Water Requirements

Maxillaria tenuifolia likes its soil moist. Keep the soil mix moist at all times but avoid overwatering as it will lead to soggy conditions. Soggy soil conditions can cause root rot. Maintain good air movement around the roots to prevent root rot.

If the pseudobulbs turn wrinkled, it means that the orchid is thirsty, and it is time for you to water. Water it four to five times a week during the growing period.

Maxillaria tenuifolia blooming

While cultivating the Coconut orchid indoors, allow the soil mix to dry out in between waterings, especially during the winter months. But do not let it remain dry for too long as it will lead to wrinkled pseudobulbs.

In general, watering once every two to three weeks works fine during the dry period during the winter months. Resume the regular watering schedule as spring approaches.

  • Temperature

Maxillaria tenuifolia is a warm-grower and can tolerate colder temperatures also. It grows well in daytime temperatures of 58 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit and above and nighttime temperatures between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Although the orchid can tolerate temperatures warmer than 75 degrees Fahrenheit, we advise you to avoid placing the orchid in too high temperatures.

  • Soil Mix

Maxillaria tenuifolia grows well when attached to tree fern or cork. It is the most natural method of growing this orchid species. If you decide to grow your orchid mounted on bark or cork, make sure to water the orchid several times a day during the dry summer months.

Tree fern cannot hold moisture for too long, so it becomes necessary to water two to three times a day to keep the orchid roots moist. Some people also grow Maxillaria tenuifolia in sphagnum moss mounted on cork.


Another way to grow is in a well-ventilated plastic or clay pot in a mix of two parts of bark chips and one part of peat moss. Add perlite or charcoal for drainage. It helps in getting rid of stagnant water conditions.

Coconut orchids look stunning in hanging baskets as the baskets allow the orchid leaves to fall beautifully. Hanging baskets with coconut husks and tree fern slabs are the best ways to cultivate Maxillaria tenuifolia.

Both let the epiphytic orchid grow naturally and promote optimal growth. You can choose one out of fir bark, coconut husk, and bark chips to grow your orchid. Avoid using only sphagnum moss as it retains moisture for long periods and can lead to root rot.

  • Humidity

In the natural habitat, Maxillaria tenuifolia grows at a humidity level of 80 percent and above. But in indoor settings, try to maintain the humidity level 50 percent and above.

With high humidity, maintain good air movement to keep the orchid roots healthy. Keep a humidifier or humidity trays around the orchid to keep the humidity level high in dry conditions. Keep in mind that the higher the humidity, the higher the ventilation, and vice versa. Low aeration can make your orchid’s roots rot.

  • Fertilizer Requirements

Fertilize your Coconut pie orchid once a month with 20-10-10 NPK fertilizer. Dilute one spoon in one liter of water and apply monthly or bi-monthly.

During the intensive growth period, use one-fourth to one-half of the recommended dose mentioned on the fertilizer label. During this period, use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer for better growth. Shift to a phosphorus-rich fertilizer during autumn as it helps in flowering.

Avoid fertilizing during the winter months as the plant goes into rest and resume regular fertilization as spring approaches. Dilute the fertilizer in water to avoid problems like root burn.

Repotting Maxillaria Tenuifolia and Its Propagation

Maxillaria tenuifolia likes to be root bound and does not enjoy frequent disturbance. But this does not mean that you will never need to repot it. When Coconut orchid is root bound, it starts to show growth upwards.

While if your orchid is in a wide basket, it will spread horizontally. If your pot is full and the orchid leaves droop all over the edge of the pot, it is time to shift your orchid to a bigger pot. Repotting every two to three years works fine for the growth. A new soil medium would promote new growth.

It can be propagated easily by the root division method. It has loose roots, which are easy to separate with your hands. While dividing the plant, if four to five pseudobulbs are arising from the rhizome, you can propagate them.

Another method of division is by removing one pseudobulb. It has thin roots that go into the soil. Gently remove the roots from the soil. Plant the roots and stems in sphagnum moss or bark chips mix. You will begin to see new roots after four to six weeks.


Maxillaria tenuifolia is prone to diseases like leaf blight, anthrax, and southern blight. They affect different parts of the orchid leaves and roots.

Tips for Maxillaria tenuifolia

Remove the diseased body and use chemical treatments if needed. Improve the way of watering and provide your plant with sufficient light and ventilation. A proper balance of these three will keep your orchid healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long does it take for Maxillaria tenuifolia to reach maturity?

Maxillaria tenuifolia’s maturity time varies based on growing conditions. Typically, it takes 3-5 years to reach maturity from seedling stage.

2. What is the typical habitat of Maxillaria tenuifolia in the wild?

Maxillaria tenuifolia is an epiphytic orchid found in Central and South America, growing on trees and rocks in humid forests at elevations of 500-2000m.

3. How do you distinguish between the different varieties of Maxillaria tenuifolia?

One way to distinguish between different varieties of Maxillaria tenuifolia is to look at their physical characteristics, such as the size and shape of their leaves and flowers.


Maxillaria tenuifolia is the one for you if you love light fragrances and looking forward to adding some color to your home garden. Even when the orchid is not flowering, its grass-like leaves look attractive.

Let us sum up all the essential points you need to keep in mind before growing this beauty.

  • Maxillaria tenuifolia, also called the coconut pie orchid, is endemic to South American countries from Mexico to Honduras.
  • It is an epiphytic orchid famous for its coconut-like scented blooms.
  • It can reach a height of 25 inches with pseudobulbs on top of each other.
  • The blooms are red-colored with white or yellow lips; each one comes out of one stem.
  • The coconut orchid prefers bright, filtered, dappled light to grow well.
  • Keep the soil moist by watering four to five times a week, and reduce watering in winter.
  • Intermediate temperatures between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit work well for its growth. It can tolerate temperatures outside this range also.
  • Use a mix of bark chips and perlite if in pots, or mount on tree fern using sphagnum moss.
  • Drainage with constant moisture and aeration in the soil mix is the key to keeping your orchid healthy.
  • Maintain humidity level 50 percent and above to keep the orchid healthy; use humidity trays in dry weather.
  • Fertilize frequently once every 15 days during summer and spring, reduce in autumn and stop fertilizing in winter months.
  • Repot the orchid when it is root bound, once every two to three years, works well as it does not like root disturbance.
  • Propagate your orchid by dividing the roots when you are repotting it.
  • Propagation is also possible through pseudobulbs.


When in bloom, the beautiful Maxillaria tenuifolia flowers fill the room with lovely fragrance. Get the coconut-scented orchids in your home and give your home the perfect tropical vibe!

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