Such a large genus as Maxillaria, belonging to the orchid family, is represented by epiphytes. This genus unites more than 300 plant species that are naturally found in the tropics and subtropics of America. At the same time, these plants have quite strong morphological differences. As a result of the fact that such diversity is pronounced, at the moment it is proposed to divide this genus into several separate ones.
Although the genus is quite extensive, only a few species are grown at home that has fragrant or large flowers. The most popular is the narrow-leaved maxillaria (Maxillaria tenuifolia). It naturally occurs in areas stretching from Nicaragua to Mexico.
This rather compact sympodial orchid has slightly flattened, smooth egg-shaped pseudobulbs that are 3.5–4 centimeters long and 2.5–3 centimeters wide. Pseudobulbs are located quite close to each other on the rhizome (creeping, horizontally located ground stem). They grow in a “ladder”, that is, each young pseudobulb begins to grow slightly higher than the previous one, because the rhizome is not pressed against the soil surface, and over time it gradually rises. Young pseudobulbs are univalent, while old ones become “bald”. Belt-shaped leathery leaves have a pointed end and a pronounced central vein, while young ones are folded along it. In length, they reach 35 centimeters, and in width – only 1 centimeter.
In the wild, the plant blooms in June-July. Short (about 5 centimeters) peduncles develop at the base of young sprouts, and they carry only one fragrant flower. Pronounced zygomorphic flowers are quite large, so in diameter they reach about 5 centimeters. 3 sepals (sepals, which are often confused with petals) of a lanceolate shape, have a slightly curved back edge. They are 2.5 centimeters long and 1–1.2 centimeters wide, and they are located relative to each other at an angle equal to 120 degrees. 2 opposite real petals (petals) are 2–2.2 centimeters long and 0.8 centimeters wide.
Outwardly, they are similar to the ears, but that’s all because they are located almost perpendicular to the surface of the cup, and at the same time their tips are slightly bent. The large lip (3rd petal) looks like a protruding, long tongue. The reproductive organ of the flower (column) reaches 1.5 centimeters in length and has a slightly curved, hook-shaped tip. The color of the flower is mostly red, while the bases of the sepals and petals, as well as the column, are painted yellow. The lip also has a yellow color, while on its surface there are many reddish spots.
This kind of orchid, unlike other representatives of the extensive orchid family, does not have such a spectacular appearance. However, many flower growers grow it for its unique flower aroma, similar to pineapple.
Maxillaria orchid care at home
Maxillaria is most suitable for growing by experienced orchids. In order for a plant to develop and bloom normally, it needs to provide special conditions of detention, which is sometimes not so easy to do in room conditions. Experts advise using orchidariums, specialized greenhouses or terrariums for its cultivation.
Lighting and temperature conditions
In order to successfully grow this kind of orchid, it is necessary to choose the appropriate temperature and light conditions for it. Maxillaria narrow-leaved under natural conditions prefers to grow in the mountains, in this regard, it needs a lot of light and not too high air temperature. Such bright lighting and coolness are required for the flower all year round. In this regard, he is recommended to be illuminated with special phytolamps, it is worth remembering that the duration of daylight hours throughout the year should be from 10 to 12 hours. And the optimal level of illumination required for a flower is at least 6000–8000 lux.
This orchid should be protected from direct sunlight. This is not due to the high degree of illumination that they carry, but to an increase in air temperature. The fact is that such a flower needs moderate temperatures, and it reacts extremely negatively to heat. So, the optimal temperatures for its cultivation are from 18 to 22 degrees. In this regard, it is impossible to put maxillaria on windows of southern orientation, because even if it is shaded, the air temperature will still be high.
It is worth remembering that such a plant can completely replace solar lighting with artificial. At the same time, special phytolamps must be used for lighting. Due to this, orchids can highlight the coolest corner in the apartment, where the sun’s rays will not reach it, as well as warm air heated by heating devices. This genus of orchids differs from almost all the others in that it does not require a mandatory temperature difference during the day to lay flower stalks.
How to water
This genus of orchids has another difference from other members of the orchid family. The fact is that on the surface of its roots there is no porous protective layer (velamen), which is designed to prevent the rapid evaporation of accumulated moisture. In this regard, drying the substrate for the flower is contraindicated, since as a result of this, the roots begin to die. But it’s not worth pouring the flower too much, because if water stagnates in the substrate, rot may appear on the root system. You need to water in such a way that the substrate in the pot is always slightly damp (not wet).
It is necessary to water only with soft water, the acidity of which is equal to 5-6 pH. At the same time, experts recommend using well-settled water, which must be filtered. Watering is carried out by completely immersing the pot or block in a basin filled with water. You need to take out the orchid after 20-30 minutes and wait until the excess liquid drains. Only after that it can be put in its usual place.
Maxillaria can grow indoors with dry air, but it is best if the humidity is kept at 70 percent. To increase the humidity, it is recommended to use household humidifiers and steam generators. So, the pot can be placed on a pallet filled with pebbles with the addition of not very much water. It is also recommended to moisten the flower from the sprayer, but it is only advisable to carry out such a procedure in the morning and evening (not in the afternoon).
For growing this kind of orchids, blocks, pots or special hanging baskets can be used. But at the same time, planting maxillaria in a pot is not recommended due to the special growth of the “ladder”, because after only 12 months the flower will fall on its side under its own weight. To avoid this, it is recommended to purchase supports made from tubes and covered with a layer of coconut fiber in a flower shop. They are placed in the container necessarily at an angle. As a result, the rhizome will grow under this support, fixing its roots in the coconut fiber.
Sphagnum is perfect for planting such an orchid, and no other additives are required.
A large piece of pine bark is used as a block, and it must be long. Roots and rhizome pre-wrapped with sphagnum must be securely fixed on the surface of the block.
Top dressing is carried out during intensive growth, 1 time in 14–20 days. To do this, use special complex fertilizer for orchids, and take ¼-1/6 of the recommended dosage on the package.
Maxillaria grown indoors can be propagated only by dividing the rhizome into parts. It should be remembered that the segmentation must have at least 3 adult pseudobulbs.
For reproduction in industrial conditions, seeds are used, as well as the meristem method (cloning).
Transplantation is carried out only in case of emergency. For example, after the plant no longer fits in a pot or on a block.
Diseases and pests
Resistant to diseases and pests. However, if the rules of care are not followed, or the flower is placed in an unfavorable climate for it, it dies very quickly.
Features of flowering
If the illumination and temperature conditions are correct, then flowering can occur in any of the months. After blooming, the flower fades only after 30–40 days, while the duration of flowering is on average 4 months.