Nun Orchid

Phaius tankervilliae or grandifolius

The nun orchid or nun's orchid, is so called because of its hooded flowers. Here are some tips for getting Phaius tankervilliae or grandifolius to bless you with beautiful blooms.

Most nun's orchids are terrestrial but some types can be found growing in trees in the plant's native habitat.

Nun orchid flower stalk.

Phaius orchids came to the U.S. from China in the eighteenth century.

The flowers are large by orchid flower standards (nearly 5 inches across) and fragrant. The showy white or rust red blooms march single file up the erect 4 foot stalks.

Budding is initiated by short day length during late winter and early spring. The buds open over several weeks. Each flower lasts for approximately one month.

The plant produces a scant number of pleated, 3 foot long leaves.

White nun orchids coming into bloom in the spring.

The nun is an unusual orchid in that it grows in soil. This makes it easier to care for than its cousins that grow in bark or moss. Just treat it like any other garden (in frost-free zones) or house plant.

Phaius tankervilliae Care

White Nun Orchid flowers.

Nun orchids need well drained soil and protection from the hot afternoon sun. Plant them in soil deep enough to allow their vigorous root system to develop. Allow the soil to dry to a depth of two inches before watering.

Feed with a slow release product in the spring and summer after the plant begins active growth.

Do not plant in the ground where temps drop below 35 degrees F.Divide nuns immediately after they finish flowering by splitting the clumps in two. Make sure you leave 4 back bulbs in each division.

The spent flower stalks can also sometimes be induced to root. To try, remove 1 from the plant and lay it on a tray of damp sand. Place the tray in the shade. Do this during humid weather. New shoots will emerge from the nodes in the stem in a month or two.

Nun's Orchids Make Fine
Indoor Tropical Plants

When crowded into a pot, their long, wide leaves take on a tropical look.

Preferred Temperature: 65-75 degrees F. during the day. As low as 55 degrees at night during the winter. Give shade and moisture, Phaius grandifolius can handle higher summer temps. Maintain 40-60% humidity.

Light Requirements: Filtered sun is best but artificial light can be substituted. Give the plants 1,000-1,500 foot-candles for 14 or 15 hours per day.

Food, Water & Soil: Pot new plants or divisions into a coarse potting mix which drains well and keep them moist.

Fertilize nun orchids monthly (year round) using a water soluble orchid food diluted to half strength. Just add it to their water and feed and water them at the same time.

The plants will need to be repotted every 2-3 years.

Other Types of Orchids:

Fragrant Bamboo Orchids

Miltonia, the Pansy Orchid

Lady Slipper Orchids

Bletilla striata, Hardy Ground Orchids

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