Late summer orchids

Encyclia atrorubens ‘Littlefrog Princess’

In cultivation, most tropical orchids flower in late winter and spring, so the end of summer into early autumn is generally the quietest season for orchid growers.  With carefully chosen plants, however, an orchid collection is never entirely without flowers.  Here are two Encyclia species that produce gorgeous flowers in August and September, just when my greenhouse is looking most barren.

Encyclia atrorubens is from oak forests in Oaxaca and Guerrero states in Mexico.   Carl Withner reported that he saw it growing in the moutains near Acapulco [1].  In my greenhouse, new growth begins in the summer, and the plant flowers on immature pseudobulbs.  It seems susceptible to rot, so I grow it very dry in a terracotta pot with large chunks of scoria (red lava rock). It blooms well when the new growths and roots extend over the edge of the pot.

The flowers have very dark pigment, and the leaves become flushed with red/purple in bright light, but the flower stems are always a clear grassy green.  The contrast between stem and flower is exceptionally beautiful, and against a green background the dark flowers seem to float unattached.

Encyclia dichroma

Encyclia dichroma grows on rocky outcrops under fairly arid conditions in the Brazilian state of Bahia.  The plants have elongated, cone-shaped pseudobulbs with rigid leaves  and grow well bright and dry with plenty of air movement.  Give it more light than you would a typical cattleya alliance plant.

Withner [2] says that plants in nature bloom in the Brazilian spring (September/October in the southern hemisphere) but in early summer in cultivation.  However, my plant consistently blooms in September at the same time as E. atrorubens.  A hybrid of the two might be interesting.


1. Withner, C.L. (1998). The Cattleyas and their Relatives: Volume V. Brassavola, Encyclia, and Other Genera of Mexico and Central America.  Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

2. Withner, C.L. (2000). The Cattleyas and their Relatives: Volume VI. The South American Encyclia Species.  Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

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