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Love orchids? This butterfly-friendly plant is perfect for beginners

Epidendrum orchid

Epidendrum ibaguense

Planting areas: USDA Zones 10 to 11, Sunset Zones 17, 21 to 24

Size: 2 to 4 feet high, 3 to 4 feet wide.

Bloom season: All seasons, mostly spring and summer.

Exposure: Medium to high indirect light.

Water needs: Mostly drought tolerant once established.

Snapshot: Epidendrums are a good starter orchid for first-time orchid growers.

They can be kept outdoors in areas where frost is not a factor and can adapt to a variety of light situations. (It’s worth noting, however, that leaves turn brownish-bronze with too much light, while too little light can result in leggy plants with few blooms.)

Butterflies are attracted to this orchid’s flowers, which come in shades of red, yellow, fuchsia, orange and lavender, while deer are not. Flowers grow on top of long stems originating from the base of the plant, and each blossom cluster features 20 to 30 tiny individual frilly flowers grouped together.

The oblong, evergreen leaves are leathery in texture and medium to dark green in color.

Use stakes or tomato cages to support this plant’s vertical growth without sprawl. You can propagate epidendrums easily by cutting below the aerial roots, and planting the cuttings in well-draining soil, either in the ground or a pot, with fine-to-medium bark mixed with perlite for adequate drainage.

Plants in clay pots will require more water. You can also use plastic pots with a drain hole, as well as raised beds and planters if frost is not an issue.

Epidendrums appreciate humid air and need to be watered at least weekly in warm weather and less often in cooler weather. The plant enjoys more water if available, but dislikes standing in water or drying out completely.

In addition, epidendrums do not like the salt spray found in coastal areas, so grow them in an enclosed courtyard or a greenhouse if needed. Fertilize with a balanced 20-20-20 orchid fertilizer, half-strength, weekly during the blooming season.

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