Different Types of Orchids

Orchids belong to the Orchid family, Orchidaceae, which is considered the largest family of flowering plants. Orchids are categorized in different ways depending on certain characteristics. They can be divided into types based on the way the plant grows or categorized by where they grow naturally in the outdoors. According to Paul A. Thomas, extension horticulturist from the University of Georgia, orchids are the most genetically changing plant with more new species being discovered than any other plant.

Monopodial Orchids

Monopodial is a plant type based on growth characteristics. It has a single stem that grows in one direction from a shoot, year after year. This type of plant with a single shoot develops its leaves at the ends of the tips and its flowers form buds at the spot where the leaf and stem meet. Some varieties of this type of orchid include the "Vanda" and the "Japanese Wind Orchid." "Vanda" flowers come in plush colors, including blue, red, orange and yellow. The flower spikes can carry eight to 10 blooms.

Sympodial Orchids

Sympodial is the other type based on growth. The plants send out shoots from previous rhizomes. Many branches develop from the main stem. The main stem stops growing after the branches develop, and after the branches grow to a certain length, they stop growing too. The result is a plant with the look of one stem with several branches. The stems are not always vertical. New shoots can grow along the ground. Flowers of this type start from the base of the plant or from between the leaves. The Oncidium orchid is an example of this type of growth. They are sometimes referred to as "Dancing Ladies" or "Dancing Dolls" because the flowers resemble ballet dancers. They can also be called "Butterfly Orchids" because of the look of colorful butterflies fluttering in a breeze.

Terrestrial Orchids

Some types of orchids are defined by where they grow. Terrestrial orchids grow along the ground. Anota violacea and Anguloa uniflora are types of terrestrial orchids. The Anota violacea flowers are small and bloom in lavender or white. They prefer warm conditions. The Anguloa uniflora is known as the tulip orchid. They have big, sweet-smelling flowers that are creamy white in color.


This type of orchid can grow on trees and rocks. Ascocentrum curvifolium and the "Cattleya" are epiphytes. The "Cattleya" is the most popular orchid. They bloom tiny, narrow, brightly colored flowers. The Ascocentrum curvifolium have flowers that are orangish-red and only about 1/2 inch in size.

Keywords: types of orchids, descriptions of orchids, species of orchids

About this Author

Sheri Engstrom has been writing for 15 years. She is currently a gardening writer for Demand Studios. Engstrom completed the master gardener program at the University of Minnesota Extension service. She is published in their book "The Best Plants for 30 Tough Sites." She is also the online education examiner Minneapolis for Examiner.com.