The Ultimate Orchid Guide: Species, Classifications,Types, Meanings, And Where To Find Them

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The Ultimate Orchid Guide: Genera, Classifications, Types, Meanings, And Where To Find Them










Orchids, or the Orchidaceae, is one of the two biggest families of flowering plants in the whole world. (The other one is the Asteraceae flower family, which is where daisies and sunflower belong.)

These exquisite flowers can survive in almost any ecosystem, except glaciers for obvious reasons, of course. There are several orchid species scattered around various parts of Oceania, North America, tropical parts of America, Asia, Africa, and Europe.

5 Orchid Subfamilies

The orchid family is so large and diverse, it’s simply mind-boggling.

According to the Encyclopedia of Life, morphological and molecular studies have broken down the orchid family into five subfamilies:

  • Apostasioideae
  • Cypripedioideae
  • Epidendroideae
  • Orchidoideae
  • Vanilloideae

Among all these, Epidendroideae, or epidendroid orchids, is said to be the largest orchid subfamily, larger than all the other orchid subfamilies combined. Epidendroideae consist of more than 15,000 species in 576 genera.

Orchid Genera From A To Z

Orchid-of-Eve-Lady-SlipperOrchid Of Eve

To date, there are 21,791 recognized species distributed in 856 genera. This continues to grow, as new species get discovered every year.

Here’s a list of major orchid genera known today:

Classifications Of Orchids According To Growing Behaviors And Conditions

Poise-Phalaenopsis Orchid

Poise Orchid

Educate yourself about the different types and classifications of orchids is a top priority if you want to be an expert about taking care of orchids. Why? Because each orchid has its own unique trait that may be significant to its growing and flowering behavior.

The two main classifications of orchids:

  • Monopodial Orchids
    Derived from the Latin word “single foot,” these are orchids with a single stem that grows continuously in one direction, usually upward. Phalaenopsis and vandas are examples of monopodial orchids.

  • Sympodial Orchids
    From the Latin word “many footed,” sympodial orchids grow a new shoot from the rhizome and develops as pseudobulbs. The Cattleya orchid belongs to this group.

Orchids may also be classified according to where or how they thrive, such as the following:

  • Epiphytes – Otherwise called as air plants, these are orchids that grow on top of other plants or attached to tree barks.
  • Terrestrial Orchids – Orchids that thrive on the ground.
  • Climbing Orchids – As the name suggests, like a vine these orchids start from the ground and move higher up the tree where it’s perched.
  • Lithophyte – From the Greek word “litho” meaning stone, these orchids survive on surfaces of stones and rocks.

Miniature orchids are another type. Like bonsai plants, this type of orchid stays small no matter how long.

To learn more about proper orchid care and maintenance, check out our complete Orchid Care Guide.

Orchid Symbolism In Countries And Cultures Around The World


Flurry of Pink Orchids

Because of its abundant distribution in many countries across the globe, orchids have a rich history, story, and purpose, too.

Beyond their beguiling beauty, orchids have a lot of traditional uses.

For instance, orchids are a common ingredient in many remedies in ancient Chinese medicine. As a matter of fact, Chinese Emperor Shen Nung recorded their use in medicine.

The Aztecs, on the other hand, mixed vanilla orchids with chocolate to create their secret concoction for supernatural strength.

What Do Orchids Symbolize?

Orchids come with a whole treasure chest of fascinating meanings, each different depending upon what color, species, point in history, or a specific part of a country exactly is it we’re talking about.

For example:

  • In ancient Greece, orchids stood for love and fertility.
  • The Aztecs believe orchids are a source of strength and power.
  • During the Victorian era, rare orchids were bought by the elite class as a show of luxury and refined taste.
  • Calayan tribes in the Philippines regard orchids as keepers of the forest.
  • In China, orchids were dubbed as “Lan Hua,” or the quintessence of human perfection. They are also favorite gifts that attract good fortune and prosperity.

Confucius revered orchids, which he has shown in countless poems he had penned.

“An orchid in a deep forest sends out its fragrance even if no one is around to appreciate it,” he wrote about the captivating flower.

The great Chinese philosopher and poet said orchids represent humility, integrity, and refinement, which are qualities of a cultured and righteous man. This is something that many Chinese artists have continued through the years.

Orchid As A Floral Emblem


Bucket of Sunshine Orchids

If you’re born under the Chinese zodiac sign, Aquarius, rejoice, because this means orchid is your birth flower.

The unique orchid is also a favorite floral emblem for many countries across the world, including:

  • Indonesia (Moon Orchid)
  • Brazil (Corsage Orchid)
  • Singapore (Vanda 'Miss Joaquim' or the Singapore Orchid)
  • Costa Rica (Guaria Morada Orchid)
  • Belize (Black Orchid)
  • Venezuela (Mayflower Orchid)
  • Columbia (Mayflower Orchid)
  • Honduras (Brassavola digbyana)
  • Guatemala (White Nun Orchid)
  • Seychelles (Tropicbird Orchid)
  • Cayman Islands (Wild Banana Orchid)
  • Panama (Holy Ghost Orchid)

Different Colors Of Orchids And Their Meanings

Despite everything we’ve said, the color of your orchids can also play a crucial role in what it means. Check out what each orchid color represents.

  • White orchids – purity, innocence, and elegance
  • Pink orchids – beauty, femininity, and grace
  • Yellow orchids – friendship, joy, and new beginnings
  • Purple orchids – royalty, luxury, admiration, and respect
  • Orange orchids – pride, passion, and boldness

Orchid plants make thoughtful and tasteful presents. After learning all these, now you know what color of orchids to give during different occasions and situations.

Where To See Orchids In Los Angeles


Popsicle Orchids

The almost always sunny weather in most parts of California – wherever temperatures don’t drop beyond 28 degrees for long – offer a tolerable climate for orchids, especially for cymbidiums.

If love orchids or you’re looking for an inspiration for your growing orchid collection, Los Angeles has several botanical gardens with their own impressive orchidariums that you can check out.

  • Arboretum of Los Angeles County
    Located at North Baldwin Avenue in the city of Arcadia, the seven-acre botanical garden has a Tropical Orchid Greenhouse inside, which is home to a remarkable collection of wild orchid plants in Los Angeles. It is open every day to the public.

  • Descanso Gardens
    A visit to Descanso Gardens will be an absolute delight to any flower aficionado. Boasting of more than 600 varieties of camellia and five acres of roses, Descanso Gardens is also an oasis for exquisite orchids in Los Angeles. The 150-acre garden can be found at La Cañada Flintridge, Los Angeles County.

  • South Coast Botanic Garden
    An invigorating haven of flora and foliage, South Coast Botanic Garden has a diverse array of orchids and other tropical plants in its Display Greenhouse. Other must-see attractions inside it include the Children’s Garden and Children’s Discovery Garden, the Desert Garden, the Fuchsia Garden, and the Garden for the Senses among many others.

    South Coast Botanic Garden is open daily, except on Christmas, and is located at Crenshaw Boulevard, Palos Verdes Peninsula, California.

In other parts of the country, the Smithsonian Gardens is home to a diverse collection of nearly 9,000 live orchid plants. For the last 17 years, it has also hosted annual orchid exhibitions in cooperation with the United States Botanic Garden (USBG).



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