Phaius orchids have been gaining popularity in recent years and this popularity is perfectly deserved. Phaius orchids (or Nun Cape Orchid, Nun Orchid, Greater Swamp Orchid and Veiled orchid) are highly decorative – their flowers are beautiful and have a fair scent. These great flowers come in large numbers – inflorescences of Phaius orchids can be up to six feet high. They are perfectly suited for indoors cultivation – they do not need greenhouses, excessive light levels or something to thrive, simple windowsill conditions are OK for them. And even more – they can tolerate a wide range of growing conditions, so they could be recommended for orchid beginners. Also, Phaius orchids can be propagated by the quite unusual way – via faded inflorescences, after flowers drop off, you can simply cut flower bracts and place them into a container with sand and partly cover it. And if the conditions are right – humid, warm, sufficiently watered and shaded – after 2-3 months new plantlets are formed in nodes of an inflorescence.
Phaius orchids are mostly terrestrials and related to Calanthe orchids (and once they were included in one genus). They are large to giant sized sympodials with large leaves, pseudobulbs are conical or ovoid. Phaius orchids are Old World tropical orchids and can be met everywhere in tropical Asia, Africa and Australia, and have been naturalized in the New World tropics, including Florida. Phaius tancarvilleae is the most well-known species in this majestic genus; it has 4 and half inch wide fragrant flowers of different colors, including orange-purple and white-green in alba clones. Phaius maculatus (flavus) has yellow three inch wide fragrant flowers. Phaius pulcher, also called Beautiful Phaius, has lovely wide flowers with white sepals and petals and white with purple and red lips, flowers without fragrance. And there are some exceptionally beautiful hybrids – for instance, Phaius Microburst ‘Wild Thing’ has lovely salmon colored big flowers.
What’s about Phaius orchid care – it is easy. Phaius orchids are mostly terrestrials and need a substrate, suited for Cymbidiums and other terrestrial orchids with sphagnum moss, medium bark, perlite, cocoa chips and some debris. Watering should be ample, but substrate should not be swampy – yes, Phaius is called Swamp Orchid, but too much water kills roots and can provoke root rotting. Temperatures should be warm to hot – they are tropical orchids, and in tropical states including Florida, they can grow outside and even become invasive. They prefer semi-shade – so a bright windowsill without direct sunlight in midday is OK for them. They bloom in spring and have somewhat dormancy in winter – simply reduce watering and do not apply fertilizers.