A fairly small genus Zygopetalum is directly related to the orchid family. It combines 15 different types. This genus is represented by epiphytes, but sometimes, under certain habitat conditions, they can become lithophytes or terrestrial plants. All species of this genus can be found in the tropical regions of America, but the largest populations are found in the humid forests of Brazil.
Such a plant is related to the sympodial type. The zygopetalum is characterized by an unusual growth pattern. It grows with a ladder, while it gradually forms a rhizome (a modified creeping stem), which rises above the soil surface, while each young pseudobulb grows slightly higher than the base of the old one. Smooth, green, short pseudobulbs are oval or elliptical in shape, while they are slightly flattened. They seem to be in a nest, which is formed by flat and rather wide petioles of a pair of leaves located below (with age, the leaves fall off). On the upper part of the pseudobulb, 2 or 3 leafless leaves grow. Glossy, leathery leaves have a broadly lanceolate shape and well-defined longitudinally arranged veins.
Flower stalks emerge from the lower leaf axils. While young pseudobulbs appear, flower stalks begin to grow. Before the new pseudobulbs fully mature, very beautiful flowers bloom, collected in few-flowered inflorescences that have the shape of a brush. The flowers are pronounced zygomorphic. 3 sepals (sepals) and 2 real petals (petals) have interesting colors and can combine a variety of shades of burgundy-brown, green, and purple. In this case, the flowers are both monochromatic and with a variety of patterns and spots. 2 oval-pointed or obovate sepals are located at the bottom, slightly wider than the 3rd, which is located at the top and lies on the axis of symmetry. The petals are already the third sepal. The modified 3rd petal (lip) has significant differences from the rest of the petals and sepals. It differs both in shape and size and in color. The lip is fan-shaped with a wide base, and on its surface, there is a distinctly visible horseshoe-shaped protrusion. Often the lip has a white color and on its entire surface, there are many longitudinal long strokes or purple stripes. At the same time, the lip stands out strongly against the general background of the corolla.
Zygopetalum orchid care at home
Representatives of this genus are the most capricious and demanding in the care of the entire vast orchid family. In order for such a flower to grow and develop normally, it needs to provide conditions that are as close as possible to natural ones. In this regard, only experienced flower growers can afford to grow such an orchid.
One of the main challenges is lighting. The fact is that different species may require different levels of illumination. However, for most species, bright lighting is suitable, but at the same time it must be diffused. You should also protect the plant from direct sunlight, shading it. The illumination level should be approximately 5000 lux. It is best to place the zygopetalum on an east or west window. On the south window, good shading from the sun is necessary, and on the north – backlighting.
If the lighting is too bright, then this will provoke a rapid growth of peduncles. Because of this, the growth of young pseudobulbs slows down, and they do not have time to mature well. As a result, such pseudobulbs have defective sprouts that cannot bloom the next year.
If there is little light, then such an orchid is unlikely to bloom at all. And that’s all, because the development of peduncles stops, and the formed flower buds die off.
A cool temperature regime is suitable for such a plant. He needs a mandatory difference in daily temperatures. The best daytime temperature is considered to be 16-24 degrees, and the night temperature is about 14 degrees. Moreover, this temperature regime is year-round. However, the zygopetalum is able to withstand a short-term increase in temperature up to 42 degrees, and a decrease – up to 3-5 degrees.
In the warm season, the plant is recommended to be transferred to the street (in the garden or on the balcony). However, care must be taken to ensure that there is no threat of night frosts while the flower is in the fresh air. On the street, the flower will be provided with a natural difference in daily temperatures.
Both a special block and a pot filled with a substrate are well suited for growing. It should be remembered that the substrate must absorb liquid well, so it includes fine-grained pine bark, expanded clay, sphagnum, and peat. The most suitable pots for planting should be made of plastic. The fact is that the roots of such an orchid, as it were, grow into any porous surface (for example, clay), and therefore difficulties may arise during transplantation.
On the block, it is possible to grow a zygopetalum only in an orchidarium or a greenhouse, since at the same time it needs to provide the most favorable conditions. The block can be made from a piece of pine bark, which should be large enough. On the surface of the block, you need to fix the roots, and on top of them you need to put a not very thick layer of sphagnum or coconut fiber.
How to water
Only soft water at room temperature is suitable for irrigation, which must be filtered. You can use heated melt or rain water.
This genus of orchids differs from most others in that it reacts negatively to the strong drying of the substrate (namely, this is often recommended for other genera). The fact is that on the surface of the roots there is not a sufficiently thick layer consisting of velamen, which has a porous structure, which can absorb and retain water. In this regard, if the substrate is dried out, the roots may die. But at the same time, it is worth remembering that liquid should not stagnate in the substrate, because this impairs its air permeability, and the root system needs oxygen.
However, there is one caveat here. Over the years, the layer of velamen becomes thicker, as there is a gradual adaptation to the conditions of detention. In this regard, zygopetalums of the same species may have different roots. So, if a plant has been grown all the time in arid conditions, its roots will be airy, with the ability to store liquid. And if in this case the substrate is moist all the time, then this can destroy the flower. If the layer of velamen on the root system is very thin, then a long dry period will lead to the death of the roots.
For the zygopetalum, it is recommended to keep the substrate slightly moist. So, water should not protrude from pieces of bark, and the substrate should not stick together.
Watering is recommended to be carried out by immersion. To do this, the container is filled with water and a block or pot is immersed in it for a third of an hour. After that, the plant is taken out and waiting for the excess water to drain. Then it is put in its usual place.
Humidity such an orchid needs a fairly high. The fact is that in her homeland, even during a long drought, humidity is never less than 60 percent. The most suitable air humidity is from 75 to 100 percent. To increase humidity, in addition to spraying, it is imperative to use other methods. At the same time, water in a pan filled with expanded clay, and an open container with liquid placed nearby, will not help much. In the absence of a specially equipped room or orchidarium, you need to regularly use a household steam generator or humidifier. Flowers grown on blocks need especially high humidity.
Zygopetalum can react negatively to top dressing if the fertilizer contains potassium and phosphorus salts, as the root system is quickly destroyed because of them. You have to feed carefully. So, it is recommended to fertilize the plant during intensive growth 1 time in 2 or 3 weeks. To do this, use a specialized fertilizer for orchids, while it is recommended to take ½–1/4 of the dose recommended on the package. Foliar top dressing is also systematically carried out, for example, the foliage is sprayed with a very weak nutrient solution.
Transplantation is carried out only if necessary, for example, when young growths will not fit in a container. During transplantation, it is recommended to carefully remove completely dried pseudobulbs and dried or rotten roots, which allows you to make the bush more compact. At the same time, it should be remembered that it is highly undesirable to remove wrinkled pseudobulbs, even if they have lost their attractiveness and foliage, because they contain valuable nutrients that the zygopetalum needs for normal growth.
When grown indoors, this kind of orchid can be propagated only by dividing the rhizome. It is worth remembering that each division must have at least three mature pseudobulbs. Delenki should be left for some time in the open air to dry the sections. Also, experts advise to sprinkle the places of cuts with crushed charcoal in order to avoid the development of rot.
Seed, as well as meristem (cloning) methods are propagated only in industrial conditions.
Pests and diseases
Often a spider mite settles on the foliage . When it is found, you need to arrange a warm (about 45 degrees) shower, while thoroughly washing the foliage. If there is such a need, then the shower can be arranged for the plant several times.
Frequent diseases are a variety of rot (bacterial and fungal), leaf spot. It is almost impossible to cure a diseased plant. In this regard, it is recommended to provide the plant with the most comfortable conditions for its growth and development, which should be very similar to natural ones in order to avoid the development of diseases.
Types of Zygopetalum
In flower shops, it is quite rare to meet the original types of zygopetalum, as a rule, only interspecific hybrids can be found there. Below is a description of several main types.
The peduncle has a length of 40 centimeters and bears 8-12 flowers, which reach a diameter of 4 to 5 centimeters. The sepals and petals are oblong-obovate, they have a not very large extension at the tips. They are painted in a greenish color, while many shapeless spots of burgundy color are scattered over the entire surface. On the white lip are intermittent longitudinal stripes of a purple hue.
This view is similar to the previous one. However, it differs in that the narrower lip has a pure white wide part, while on the surface of the base, as well as on the remaining narrower area, there are a large number of small purple dots.
On a long peduncle (about 35 centimeters) there are 5-8 large flowers with a diameter of 6 centimeters. 2 sepals, located below, are almost completely painted in burgundy-brownish color, while only in some places you can see the main green color. From the middle to the base, the 3rd sepal and real petals are painted in the same burgundy-brownish shade, the second part is green, and there are large brown-burgundy spots on it. The lip has a smoothly changing color. So, it changes from violet-white – at the tip, to a dark purple hue – at the base.
Peduncle in length can reach 25 centimeters, while the flowers have a diameter of 5 to 6 centimeters. Narrow, almost belt-like petals and sepals have a uniform brownish-burgundy color. At the same time, at their base there are specks of green color. On the snow-white petal there are stripes-veins of a blurry purple color.
This species is the largest of all in this genus. It has very long peduncles, reaching a height of 0.9 meters, and also has large flowers (about 10 centimeters in diameter). Sepals and petals have a color similar to most members of the genus Zygopetalum. So, on the green surface there are a large number of burgundy-brownish spots. The white lip is almost completely covered with many blurry veins-stripes of purple color.
This species is dwarf, so its length is 15–25 centimeters, and the diameter of the flowers is 2.5 centimeters. Green petals and sepals are covered with burgundy-brown spots. The white lip has dark purple strokes only at the base.