Remarkable Rhynchostylis

“Rhynchostylis orchids are best grown in slatted baskets where they produce colorful sprays of fragrant flowers each winter. Daily watering is suggested.” Photo Credit – Arthur Chadwick

Wine lovers take note. Some orchids prefer corks as their potting media.

Many popular genera grow best when their roots are gently wrapped in sphagnum moss and reside in a small pot. However, the diverse world of orchids allows for a wide range of growing conditions such that no single formula works for every plant.

Vandas and their relatives are a case in point. They thrive in slatted baskets that are filled with porous materials like wine corks. The roots cling to the surfaces and dry quickly when hydrated.

A lesser-known but exciting member of the Vanda family is the Rhynchostylis or “Foxtail Orchid.” The nickname comes from the downward trajectory of the inflorescences which give the vague impression of a fox’s backside. These plants grow naturally in the Far East and comprise only four species with just one, Rhy gigantea, having commercial value.

Hobbyists are drawn to Rhynchostylis by the powerful fragrance which can fill a room. Opinions vary but ‘spicy citrus’ is often used to describe the scent. The colorful, typically spotted flowers are equally alluring and last for months each winter.

Close inspection of the foliage reveals attractive horizontal striping and unexpected rigidity. The growth habit is compact, like phalaenopsis, with leaves alternating upward from the center of the plant. These plants don’t take up a lot of space.

Rhynchostylis are warm growing plants with daytime jungle highs in the 80’s and nighttime lows in the 60’s. Unlike phals, a chill in the fall is not required to encourage spiking.

Foxtail orchids prefer intermediate sun but be careful not to let the leaves get warm to the touch. Try a south-facing window with a sheer curtain or partially-turned blinds to temper the light. As soon as the weather turns warm, move the plants outside under a trellis or thinly-leafed tree.

Basket-grown orchids like Rhynchostylis love humidity and hobbyists sometimes add an evaporative tray or a one gallon humidifier in the vicinity. Daily misting of the roots is suggested and it’s not uncommon for owners to take showers with their plants. Most of all, start saving wine corks because repotting will eventually be needed.


 “Wine corks are the potting media of choice for plants in the Vanda family. The roots cling to the porous material and dry quickly when hydrated.” Photo Credit – Arthur Chadwick

Friday, February 1, 2019 - 00:15