Brassia

Orchids: the Houseplants for November  

Speciality orchids are the Houseplants of the month for November. They’re eccentric types which continue to treat you to flowers even without potting soil and look like they’ve come straight out of the jungle. Gorgeous!

Brassia: Green Orchid with extra-terrestial beauty

Green, wispy and enchanting: Brassia is a science fiction fantasy that grows and flowers -  and that you can’t stop looking at.

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Colours and shapes

The narrow, slightly curling ribbon leaves and the bizarre structure make Brassia a very unusual orchid. The plant has curved stems with 10 to 15 greenish flowers with a diameter of 15 to 20 cm. The flowers themselves have blackish purple spots, and the white lips have distinctive green patches. This extra-terrestrial appearance makes Brassia a very eye-catching orchid. The long ribbon-like flowers have earned it the nickname ‘spider orchid’. Despite its exotic appearance, the beautifully scented Brassia does well in a living room.

Symbolism

As Brassia’s flowers are so light and delicate, they move when you walk past. For that reason the orchid is also known as the ‘dancing lady’ in South America.

Origin

Brassia originates from the damp rainforests of Central and South America. It’s related to the Oncidium orchid, and there are some 35 species. Its delicate appearance suggests it’s a hothouse plant, but nothing could be further from the truth. In the wild, Brassia grows everywhere from swamps to some thousand metres above sea level. It’s an epiphyte, which means that the orchid grows on or under other trees without drawing nutrients from them. It fishes water and food out of the air with its aerial roots and the flower helps with reproduction: its spider-like shape attracts spider-hunting wasps which sting the lip and thus pollinate other Brassias.

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Caring for Brassia

  • Position: preferably a light spot, but not in direct sunlight.

  • If the plant gets too much light the green flower ribbons turn yellow, and dark green if it gets too little light.

  • Immerse the pot for half an hour with a small dose of orchid food once every 10 to 14 days, then leave to drain thoroughly.

  • If the air indoors is very dry, e.g. because of central heating, it’s best to mist an orchid’s buds every day. This prevents them from drying out and not opening

  • The orchid will keep looking its best with some ‘benign neglect’. Remove wilted flowers, but otherwise leave the plant alone.