Classifications of Orchid Plants

Orchids are among the most prolific of plants. Thousands of species exist today, falling into a range of classifications. They are so abundant that they have become widely and commonly available in nurseries, garden centers, and even department stores. Many are quite hardy and can be raised at home. Others have more specialized growing requirements. All are beautiful, with a diversity of form unrivaled in the plant kingdom.

Cattleya Orchids

Cattleya orchids are tropical varieties best known for their showy display of large flowers. They originate in South and Central America, and are epiphytes that grow on trees. The blooms are among the most colorful and come in colors such as white, yellow, pink, lavender, purple, red and green. Many of these types of orchids are fragrant.

Cymbidium Orchids

These orchids are cool-weather plants that come from Central Asia. These easy-to-grow orchids grow well in bright, but indirect light. Temperatures range from 60 to 90 degrees F during the day and 40 to 50 degrees F at night. Cymbidiums are the most widely cultivated orchids.

Dendrobium Orchids

Dendrobium are tropical, brightly colored orchids. There are about 1,200 species of Dendrobium. Members of this group of orchids live in a wide range of environments, from cooler mountain regions of the Himalayas to the deserts of Australia to the jungles of New Guinea. Dendrobium blooms can last for up to four months, and they often re-flower from canes that have already flowered.

Epidendrum Orchids

Easy-to-grow Epidendrums are native to Mexico. The flowers come in white, purple, red, pink, orange and yellow. These heat-loving orchids can tolerate temperatures over 100 degrees F. These plants tend to grow tall and often require staking for support.

Masdevallia Orchids

Many of these orchids grow in the Andes mountains. The sepals of the flowers are large and have a distinctive triangular form. The flowers are actually small. These orchids can grow on trees, on rocks and in the ground.

Miltonia Orchids

Miltonia orchids are often called "pansy" orchids because the flowers are so similar in appearance to actual pansies. There are two types of Miltonia orchids: the Miltonia proper from Brazil and the Miltoniopsis from Colombia. Miltonia orchids bloom in the fall, while Miltoniopsis orchids bloom in the spring.

Oncidium Orchids

Commonly called "Butterfly Orchids" because the flowers are said to resemble the colorful insects, Oncidiums can grow to 5 meters. These orchids are generally epiphytic, or tree dwellers, while others grow on rocks. They occur in a variety of environments in Central and South America. The flowers are large with ruffled edges on their petals. Oncidium orchids come in white, yellow, pink, red and maroon.

Paphiopedilum Orchids

Known as the "Lady Slipper Orchid" due to the flower's lip resembling the toe of a slipper, this orchid group is common in Southeast Asia. The flower petals are often speckled or striped with color, including red, pink, yellow, brown and maroon. The blooms are long-lasting. Paphiodepilum are easy to care for, and they are a good choice for someone who is starting out in raising orchids.

Phalaenopsis Orchids

The name Phalaenopsis comes from the resemblance of the blooms to a type of moth called Phalaena. Most Phalaenopsis orchids are epiphytic, growing on trees or other plants, though some are lithophytic, growing from rocks. These orchids can be found in Southeast and Central Asia, and Northern Australia. They appreciate humidity and grow well in indirect light. The plant's blooms are colored white, yellow or pink, and they form long, impressive sprays.

Vanda Orchids

These tropical orchids come from Central and Southeast Asia, Northern Australia and New Guinea. Vandas are highly prized for their blooms, which are white, yellow, orange, red and true blue. Many types of Vanda orchids are protected from collection or exportation due to their status as endangered species.

Zygopetalum Orchids

These orchids share similar growing conditions to Cymbidium orchids, which are often grown together. Zygopetalum orchids produce fragrant blooms all year long that come in white, cream, burgundy, purple and green. They are easy to grow, and they do well in indirect light and high humidity. Zygopetalums are from South and Central America.

Keywords: orchid classification, orchid types, orchid plant species

About this Author

Located in Jacksonville, Fla, Frank Whittemore has been a writer and content strategist for over 15 years, providing corporate communications services to Fortune 500 companies. Whittemore writes on topics that stem from his fascination with nature, the environment, science, medicine and technology.