Orderly Orchids (Sequential Bloomers)

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Sequentially Flowering Species and Hybrids Extend the Blooming Season


IF YOU ARE LIKE MOST OF US AND want to have some orchids flowering at all times, the orchid species and hybrids with a sequential flowering habit can give even the smallest orchid collection a high level of flower power. Unlike many orchids, which produce 

a comparatively short-lived inflor-escence consisting of several to many flowers that open more or less together, these orchids tend to have only one or two flowers open at a time, in succession, and often flower over a very long period. Interestingly, orchids with this type of flowering habit occur in many branches of the orchid family.

Phalaenopsis are well-known for their long-lasting inflorescences, and most hobbyists who grow them have had spikes that, either when cut back or without encouragement, branch and produce additional blossoms after the initial flowering. Within the genus, however, are some genuine sequential bloomers that typically produce one or two flowers at a time on an in-florescence that may continue to flower for many months. Mostly, these are small-flowered types derived from species such as Phalaenopsis cornu-cervi and several of those species that were once classified under the Phalaenopsis lueddemanniana umbrella. These small-flowered species and hybrids also tend to produce keikis (plantlets) along their flowering stems, so they are often passed along among orchid-growing friends.

A favorite of mine among this type is the old hybrid Phalaenopsis Mahinhin. It is a purple star-shaped primary hybrid that was produced by crossing Phalaenopsis equestris with Phalaenopsis lueddemanniana (prob-ably a Phal. lueddemanniana type that would be called Phalaenopsis pulchra today). Mine has been known to flower for 18 months without a rest and it readily produces keikis. You may have to hunt a bit to find these types, as they are not much in fashion today. Still, they can add a nice dimension to a small grouping or exhibit of flowering orchids and it is always gratifying to see another bud forming as one fades. Check with established orchid nurseries and Phalaenopsis enthusiasts and you might discover some.

The New World genus Psychopsis, which is among the best known of the sequential-blooming orchids, is hard to resist. They are called butterfly orchids and were once classified as part of the New World genus Oncidium. Every collection should have one, whether you choose one of the species such as Psychopsis papilio or Psychopsis krameriana, or opt for a hybrid such as Psychopsis Butterfly (sanderae × papilio).

The slipper orchids also offer some good selections for those seeking orchids with a sequential flowering habit. While some of the most dramatic of all orchid inflorescences are produced by those Phragmipedium species that open their flowers simultaneously, others, such as Phragmipedium longifolium and Phragmipedium pearcei flower suc-cessively, for a longer-lasting, if less dramatic show. You can look for this characteristic in some of their hybrids too.

The stars among the sequential-flowering slipper orchids, however, are those species in Paphiopedilum section Cochlopetalum, among them Paphio-pedilum victoria-regina (syn. chamber-lainianum), Paphiopedilum primu-linum, Paphiopedilum liemianum and Paphiopedilum moquettianum. Paphio-pedilum Pinocchio (glaucophyllum × primulinum) is a popular hybrid. All of these charmers produce a succession of flowers that may continue many months. Their twisted petals are often warty and hairy. Hybrids made with genera from other sections of the genus Paphiopedilum have rarely, if ever, produced plants with the same ability to flower successively over such a long period.

Although they are not exactly sequential bloomers, equitant oncidiums (now classified in the genus Tolumnia) will usually branch and produce additional flowers as the original inflorescence begins to fade. You must be careful not to cut the flower stem back too soon or you will lose out on this bonus of bloom. I have had the same experience with species of the genus Galeandra. Not only do their flowers open somewhat sequentially, the in-florecence usually branches when the last flowers on the peduncle are opening. Last summer my Galeandra dives continued to produce its cornucopia-shaped flowers for several months.

For fans of African orchids, genera and hybrids within the genus Ae-ranthes offer multiple blossoms, one after another. I find their rather large, pale-green flowers among the most interesting in the orchid world. Aeranthes Grandiose ‘Shooting Stars’, AM/AOS (grandiflora × ramosa), is a good one.

A sequential bloomer I am hoping to add to my collection is Coelogyne usneoides. It is an Asian species that produces a large waxy flower of a creamy hue, with contrasting dark brown markings in the throat. Coelo-gyne speciosa is another sequential bloomer from this genus.

Even pleurothallid fans can extend the flowering season of their collection with sequential-blooming species. Pleurothallis erinacea and Pleuro-thallis ornata (syn. schiedei) are but two of a number of species in this diverse group that produce their flowers in order, rather than simul-taneously.

The Cattleya Alliance is not without plants with this flowering habit. A well-grown example of the charming cockle-shell orchid, Pros-thecea cochleata (syn. Encyclia cochleata), will produce one spidery flower after another for months. The genus Epidendrum has some examples too, including Epidendrum longipetalum and Epidendrum nocturnum.

You will find many more examples than these once you start to look for orchids with this characteristic. Sequential-flowering orchids are not the ones to choose if you value the “wow” factor of an orchid plant with a large number of showy flowers or inflorescences covering the plant at one time. What these types lack when compared with some of their splashier cousins, however, is often more than compensated for by the sometimes remarkable duration of their flowering season.
 

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