Introduction to Orchids

Welcome to the wonderful world of orchids!
The orchid family (Orchidaceae) is the largest flowering plant family on earth with about 28,000 species. It is also one of the oldest plant families – developing about 100-125 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous Period. To put that into perspective, that means that orchids existed with the dinosaurs! Being so old, orchids have had plenty of time to develop into a diverse plant family with special pollinator/environmental relationships. There are orchids of every color, fragrance, size, and shape imaginable. Orchids are definitely a case of too many possibilities and too little time to collect them all!

Some Interesting Facts About Orchids

Most flowers are actinomorphic, meaning they have radial symmetry. Orchids are, with a few exceptions, zygomorphic or have bi-lateral symmetry. Look at the diagram of the cattleya orchid below, and you can almost see the "fold line" in the middle of the flower. Also, all orchids have three sepals (although in some it may only look like two because the two lateral sepals are fused) and three petals; however, one of the petals has been modified into a labellum or lip. The size, shape, and color of an orchid's sepals, petals, and lip are determined by the specific pollinator the orchid is trying to attract; and these pollinators can be as small as fungus gnat or as large as a bat.

Orchids can be propagated asexually or sexually. Asexual methods include vegetative propagation, backbulb cultivation, or simply dividing a large sympodial orchid. For sexual propagation, orchids have a structure, called a column, that has the stigma and anther fused as a single unit. A "cap" covers the pollina in the anther to help prevent self-pollination. For more information on propagating orchids, click the link below:

Orchid Hybridization and Propagation

Additionally, orchid pollen is not a loose, powdery substance, it is contained in tiny sacs that sit on top of little sticks. The arrangement sort of looks like tiny "Tootsie Pops". Once an orchid is pollinated, it will produce a seed capsule which contains up to tens of thousands of "naked" seeds, ones that do not have any endosperm. For these seeds to germinate, they must land in a location that has the correct environmental conditions and the correct fungus. The fungus is necessary to produce the nutrients for the burgeoning embryos.

A bit of Trivia

Once processed, the seed capsules of Vanilla planifolia are better known as vanilla beans. Further processing turns them into the vanilla extract that we use for cooking and baking.

Are orchids pet friendly?  Are orchids safe around children?
Orchids are pet-friendly!  There is no known orchid that is poisonous, and most orchids are edible to some degree (though we don’t recommend eating them).  Orchids are hypoallergenic, as their pollen is rendered in sticky sacs, not dust like other plants.

So, Are Orchids Hard to Grow?
Absolutely not! The key is picking an orchid that needs growing conditions that you can provide. Orchids are native to every climate on the planet except two: those that are permanently frozen and those that are permanently dry. That means that somewhere out there is an orchid that can easily be grown in the environmental conditions you have. Whether you're ready to pick your first orchid or looking to expand your orchid collection, check out the links below to get more information on the things you need to consider. Once you understand the importance of light, water, air movement, humidity, temperature, and fertilizer, check out our Care & Culture Sheets for some of the more common orchid genera. These sheets will explain what environmental conditions each specific orchid genus needs.

Orchid Care



Air Movement




Care & Culture Sheets