Dendrobium orchids are a perennial favorite often found in the floral section of grocery and home and garden stores. Florists often incorporate the flower sprays into exotic tropical flower arrangements that make dramatic, long lasting focal points. Dendrobiums are easy to grow in the home and require only slightly more care than a common houseplant. Getting a dendrobium to rebloom year after year can be very rewarding.
Dendrobium is one of the largest genera of orchids with over 1,200 different species and even more hybrids. They are native to eastern and southeastern Asia, the South Pacific, India and Australia. New Guinea has one of the highest concentrations of dendrobium species at over 500. The most popular and widely grown dendrobiums are the cane types which are usually hybrids of D. phalaenopsis.
Dendrobium is a large and varying genus of orchids that differ greatly in their form. The most commonly seen ones are cane-like with nodes every few inches that produce a thick, fleshy, yellowish-green leaf. The canes are fleshy and are called psuedobulbs. These are bulb-like stems that store water and nutrients. Flower spikes emerge from the top nodes on canes and usually have five or more blossoms that can last from a few days to several weeks.
Dendrobiums grow in warm jungle rain forests where humidity is high and water abundant for most of the year. They are epiphytic--meaning they grow on other living plants, but are not parasitic. They are often found in tree canopies covering entire branches. Thick white roots wrap themselves around tree trunks and branches to prevent them from falling of in high winds. The roots catch leaf debris and bird droppings to use as nutrition.
There are very little uses for dendrobium orchids other than for the cut flower and ornamental plant trade. Some types are used in traditional Chinese medicine. Dendrobium flowers make very striking centerpieces in cut flower arrangements. Plants that are in bloom add a tropical and exotic-looking element to any room.
Commonly grown types of dendrobiums like bright diffused light, but not direct sun. An east-facing window or lightly shaded western exposure is usually adequate. They like even, constant moisture while actively growing and prefer to dry out slightly, but not completely between waterings after growth has stopped. Keep the temperature warm, between 60 and 65 degrees at night and about 20 degrees higher during the day. Humidity should stay above 50 to 60 percent. Fertilize with a diluted balanced orchid fertilizer once a month while the plant is actively growing. Alternately, you can fertilize weekly with quarter-strength fertilizer. Repot yearly after flowering in a free-draining orchid mix.