How to Grow and Care for Clamshell Orchids

Orchids are a wild and great household of vegetation comprised of practically 800 genres and over 28,000 particular person and naturally occurring species. That is to say nothing in regards to the numerous types of hybrid orchids. Clamshell orchids are members of the Prostheceae genus, which incorporates greater than 100 species.

This attention-grabbing and exquisite plant will be tough to search out within the wild, however because of the web, it has change into a lot simpler to find in cultivation. Let’s dive deep into these incredible orchids and talk about how one can develop and care on your personal clamshell orchid

Clamshell Orchid Overview

Plant Sort

Sympodial Epiphyte

Native Space

Central America, Florida, Colombia, Venezuela, West Indies


Vibrant Oblique Gentle

Watering Necessities


Pests and Illnesses

Aphids, Caterpillars, Botrytis, Root Rot

Soil pH

Impartial to Acidic

What are Clamshell Orchids?

Close-up of a Clamshell Orchid flower against a blurred black and spruce background. The flower is complex, consisting of a central slipper-shaped pouch that is brightly striped in purple and yellow. This pouch is surrounded by drooping elongated, velvety petals and sepals of a delicate green hue.
Clamshell orchids are uncommon U.S. native tropical orchids.

Clamshell orchids, also referred to as Prosthechea cochleata, are certainly one of just a few sorts of tropical orchids thought of native to america. These late fall and winter bloomers flower for a number of months and are thought of self-pollinating

Principally native to swamps, woodlands, and damp forests, this epiphyte makes its residence on the branches of bushes. It’s potential to see these orchids of their pure habitat lined in algae or moss – if you will discover them! They are typically tough to search out within the wild however are usually not thought of threatened. 

Historical past

Close-up of two Clamshell Orchid flowers against a blurred background of green foliage. The foliage is slender and elongated. The flower consists of a slipper-shaped pouch of purple with yellow stripes, surrounded by downturned soft green petals and sepals, which are oblong with a velvety texture.
Clamshell orchids made historical past in 1787 at Kew Gardens, sparking curiosity in European orchid cultivation.

Prothechea cochleata was one of many first orchids to be recorded blooming in a British nursery when one first unfurled its flowers on the Kew Gardens in London in 1787. This sparked a protracted interval of avid orchid assortment and cultivation in Europe, with some hazard risked within the acquisition of those attention-grabbing vegetation.

Native Space

Close-up of a Clamshell Orchid flower against a blurred background of green foliage in a garden. The leaves are large, long, slender, with tapered tips, and green in color. The flower consists of a distinctive slipper-shaped pouch that is complemented by elongated, gracefully arching petals and sepals with a velvety texture and a soft green hue.
Clamshell orchids, native to the Americas and Florida, are Belize’s nationwide flower.

Clamshell orchids are native to the Americas. It’s the nationwide flower of Belize, the place it is called the black orchid. It’s discovered primarily in Central America, the West Indies, Colombia, Venezuela, and southern Florida.

The orchid is taken into account threatened right here in america, the place it is just native to the southernmost elements of Florida. It predominantly lives within the Everglades, a closely forested swamp that occupies a lot of the decrease peninsula. 

Whereas it may be tough to search out within the wild, it’s common in cultivation. It’s prized for its relative ease of care and its very long-lasting and uniquely formed flowers. It has been hybridized extensively as nicely. 


Close-up of a Clamshell Orchid flower against a blurred green background. The prominent purple pouch, resembling a delicate clamshell, serves as the centerpiece, adorned with intricate patterns and textures. The hanging petals and sepals have an oblong, narrow shape and a delicate green tint.
Clamshell orchids are sympodial epiphytes that develop horizontally by way of rhizomes, producing distinctive, fragrance-free flowers.

Clamshell orchids are sympodial epiphytes. Sympodial orchids develop horizontally alongside a central rhizome on the base of the plant. The rhizome sends up pseudobulbs, every producing leaves and a single flower stalk. For this orchid, the flower stems proceed to develop and bloom moderately than dying off after the preliminary flowers are spent. 

Epiphytic vegetation are basically air vegetation. These are vegetation that develop connected to tree branches. They don’t root within the soil, so that they gather all of the moisture and vitamins they want from the rain and the humidity they’re surrounded by. 

Every pseudobulbs produces between one and three lengthy, straplike leaves which are versatile and sometimes keel over as they mature. Every additionally produces a flower spike that may kind wherever between one and 15 flowers.

The blooms are distinctive in a number of methods. For one factor, they’ve a non-resupinate labellum, which sits on the high of the flower moderately than twisting round beneath the petals and sepals. The petals and sepals are lengthy, skinny, and twisted, hanging beneath the labellum, giving the flower a squidlike look

The labellum of this orchid may be very pronounced and often darkish purple in colour. A number of varieties have striped labellums. The petals and sepals are yellow to pale inexperienced and generally white. The flowers are usually not at all times aromatic, however when they’re, they’ve a spicy aroma. 

Makes use of

Close-up of Clamshell Orchids flowers against a blurred background. The Prosthechea cochleata boasts a captivating close-up appearance with a distinctive pouch as its centerpiece. The pouch, resembling a delicate clamshell, is a vibrant shade of purple with yellowish and white patterns. Surrounding the pouch are gracefully arching petals in hues of soft green and yellow. The labellum, or lip, completes the ensemble with intricate detailing, showcasing patterns in shades of yellow and white.
Orchid flowers could also be used as a garnish for meals however are primarily grown for decorative use.

Orchid flowers are edible and ornamental and will be usually used as a garnish in superb eating institutions. Nonetheless, the primary use of orchid vegetation is decorative. These orchids are practically at all times offered for cultivation and visible appreciation. 

The place to Purchase Clamshell Orchids

Close-up of many Clamshell Orchids seedlings in black plastic pots in a greenhouse. The seedlings are young, have several oblong lance-shaped leaves with a smooth and glossy texture. They are a pale green shade.
Discover clamshell orchids on-line, as they don’t seem to be generally obtainable in native nurseries or shops.

You could occur upon certainly one of these orchids at a nursery or orchid present. Nonetheless, if you wish to buy a clamshell orchid, I like to recommend wanting on-line. Whereas they’re simple to take care of and common, they don’t seem to be generally encountered in most brick-and-mortar retailers. 


Close-up of repotting a Clamshell Orchid in a gray plastic pot, indoors on a wooden table. Female hands in transparent gloves place an orchid seedling in a small gray pot. On the table there are many potted orchids, a yellow spray bottle, orange pruning shears and fertilizer in a green bottle with a red cap.
Develop orchids in containers and produce them indoors for winter in non-tropical climates.

Until you reside within the orchid’s native vary, which is zones 10-13, your orchid will have to be grown in a container and introduced indoors for the winter. Orchids are very cold-sensitive and can’t survive winters in non-tropical climates. 

Past holding it out of the chilly, a very powerful variable in planting an orchid is sweet drainage and air circulation across the roots. Three various kinds of specialty orchid pots will be generally discovered commercially.

When you plan to maintain your orchid outdoor for the hotter months, I extremely suggest certainly one of these wood baskets. They do a wonderful job of mimicking the pure habitat of the plant, providing optimum drainage and air circulation. Sadly, they are often tough to water when stored indoors and have a tendency to make a little bit of a multitude except you’re taking them all the way down to water them.

These look identical to common terracotta pots however with further drainage holes within the sides and backside. These are nice for regulating moisture, because the pot absorbs moisture, wicking it away from the roots, and the extra drainage holes enable for good air circulation. Nonetheless, terracotta pots launch extra water by their drainage holes, so may have one thing beneath to catch any that drains off.

These are probably the most ornamental of the three and are available in many shapes, sizes, and colours. For indoor orchids, these are probably the most visually interesting, however they’ve some downfalls. Due to the glaze, these pots don’t do an important job of drying out. Whereas they sometimes have loads of holes within the sides, it is rather necessary to make it possible for water doesn’t sit within the dish on the underside of the pot, or you possibly can find yourself with root rot.

How you can Develop

Clamshell orchids are thought of simple to develop if their wants are correctly met. Let’s discover these wants so we are able to correctly take care of these enjoyable vegetation. 


Close-up of Prosthechea cochleata flower in sunlight in the garden. The flower is large and has a distinctive purple pouch that resembles an intricately shaped clamshell. This pouch is surrounded by delicately arching petals in a yellowish-green hue.
Go for vivid, oblique mild close to home windows, or use filtration by a curtain or privateness glass to diffuse direct daylight.

Like most orchids and different epiphytes, clamshell orchids don’t admire direct daylight, as their leaves are delicate to mild and tailored to receiving mild by the filter of a tree cover. Because of this, it is vital to not place your orchid ready the place it will likely be uncovered to direct daylight, particularly within the afternoon when the sunshine is extra intense. 

Vibrant, oblique daylight is right for these vegetation. Setting them close to, however in a roundabout way in entrance of, a brightly lit window is a good suggestion. You can even create a filter through the use of a sheer curtain or privateness movie on the window. My orchids appear to like sitting within the window of my rest room, which has privateness glass. This disperses the sunshine, making it much less intense however nonetheless fairly vivid. 


Close-up of Prosthechea cochleata flowers against a background of green foliage with drops of water, in the garden. The leaf is oblong, lance-shaped, rich green in color with a smooth texture. The flowers are large, with an expressive purple pouch that resembles a delicate clamshell. Delicate, drooping, arching petals surround the pouch and have a soft green hue.
Water clamshell orchids weekly within the rising season, however keep away from overwatering.

This orchid appreciates moisture however is surprisingly drought-tolerant for a plant of its kind. Throughout their rising and flowering season, which spans from summer time by winter, they need to be watered about as soon as per week. After flowering, scale back watering to each two to a few weeks to keep away from overwatering. 

The primary explanation for demise for indoor orchids is root rot. That is brought on by overwatering because the potting materials breaks down and decays, resulting in the proper surroundings for micro organism and fungus round your plant’s roots. 

Prevention is one of the best treatment to stop the danger of root rot. You possibly can keep away from this downside by solely watering when your potting materials is dry to the contact. If every week goes by and the potting combine remains to be damp, maintain off on watering for an additional day or two. 

When you preserve your orchid outdoor in the course of the hotter months, you’ll seemingly have to water it extra incessantly. I water my out of doors orchids as soon as each three days to maintain them from drying out. 


Close-up of a gardener's hands wearing colorful bright green gloves pouring orchid soil mixture into a plastic translucent purple pot. There is a soil mixture scattered on a white table and a plastic pot full of soil mixture lies.
Repot orchids after flowering utilizing a mixture of orchid bark with charcoal or perlite added.

Orchids don’t develop in typical soil in nature, so naturally, they want one thing a bit totally different in cultivation as nicely. Most orchids come from the grower in bloom and in a plastic nursery pot stuffed with damp sphagnum moss. Whereas this shall be superb whereas the plant is in bloom, as soon as the flowers fall and the plant goes dormant, this may maintain an excessive amount of moisture and result in that dreaded root rot. 

As soon as your orchid drops its flowers, it’s best to repot it. Repotting just isn’t really useful whereas the plant is in bloom, as it will probably shorten the lifetime of the flowers. Pot your orchid in a potting medium that features two elements bark and one half charcoal or perlite. The charcoal absorbs and holds vitamins from fertilizer for the plant to make use of later. 

When you choose to not make your potting combine, nice options are simple to search out at any orchid retailer and even most {hardware} shops. Orchid bark comes pre-mixed and able to go within the pot with none fuss. 

Temperature and Humidity

Close-up of a Clamshell Orchid flower. The flower is large, has a distinctive purple pouch which has a clamshell shape and is surrounded by a white and yellow labellum. The drooping, arching petals surround the pouch and have yellowish-green hues.
Keep clamshell orchids in heat temperatures and better humidity utilizing trays or humidifiers.

Clamshell orchids are notably delicate to chilly. Whereas most orchids are native to zones 9-12, this one received’t survive outdoor north of zone 10. Will probably be happiest with an evening temperature within the 60s and a daytime temperature of about 80°F. 

When you discover the ideas of your orchid’s leaves wanting dry and brown, there’s a good probability it wants extra humidity. Orchids are tropical and develop in humid environments. This explicit orchid is happiest with an ambient humidity stage between 50-70%

Since that is larger humidity than most individuals are comfy holding of their home, you are able to do just a few issues to extend the humidity round your plant. A pebble tray is an effective methodology of accelerating the humidity instantly across the plant. A humidifier does an important job as nicely. I choose to maintain my orchids within the rest room, because the humidity stage tends to be larger there. 


Close-up of an inflorescence of Clamshell Orchid flowers in a sunny garden against a blurred background of green foliage. The flowers consist of elongated, thin, delicately arching petals and sepals of a pale green hue. In the center there is a purple pouch resembling a clamshell, which surrounds a white and yellow labellum.
Fertilize orchids each two weeks in the course of the rising season utilizing diluted specialty or all-purpose fertilizers.

Orchids are heavy feeders that like to be fertilized. You must fertilize as soon as each two weeks or each different watering throughout your orchid’s rising season. You will discover specialty orchid fertilizers that work very nicely at most retailers or dilute an all-purpose fertilizer. A 20-20-20 system, for instance, must be diluted to ¼ energy and a 10-10-10 to ½ energy. 

When watering and fertilizing orchids, one of the best methodology is to water from the underside. I fill a big tub or sink with water and fertilizer answer and set my pots instantly into the water for about 5 minutes. This manner, the plant absorbs all of the water it wants, and also you keep away from water sitting within the crown and leaves of the plant, which may trigger rot. 


Close-up of a Clamshell Orchid flower on a long thin green stem against a blurred beige background. An elongated, belt-shaped leaf of bright green color is in the frame on the right. The flower is small, graceful, reminiscent of a dancer in a skirt. The flower has a distinctive purple slipper-shaped pouch at the center. Delicate, drooping, arching petals and sepals of pale green color surround the pouch.
Take away brown or dried-out pseudobulbs and prune lifeless or diseased foliage when repotting.

Orchids don’t require a lot upkeep or pruning. You will need to repot your orchid each few years because it outgrows its container. Since this can be a sympodial orchid, it should outgrow its container ahead of a monopodial orchid, which grows vertically, would want. 

When repotting, place the oldest pseudobulbs in opposition to the aspect of the container, permitting room for the plant to proceed to develop horizontally. Don’t detach the previous pseudobulbs except they’re brown and dried out, as these retailer vitamins for the brand new development and flowers that the plant produces. 

Pruning is usually not obligatory, with just a few exceptions. Any lifeless or diseased foliage must be eliminated out of your orchid to stop fungal an infection. Additionally, when the inflorescence has stopped blooming and all flowers are spent, wait till the stem turns brown after which minimize it off simply above the primary node. 

The node is situated about an inch above the place the stem attaches to the plant and appears like a slight swelling within the stem. Reducing the stem helps the plant redirect power away from flowering and into new development.


Propagation of Sympodial orchids by division method. Close-up of female hands in yellow rubber gloves holding pseudobulbs of an orchid with a developed root system and green foliage, against the background of a table with potted orchids and a bowl of soil mixture. These pseudobulbs are swollen, fleshy structures that serve as storage organs for water and nutrients. Along the length of the pseudobulbs, one can observe nodes and internodes, with each node giving rise to a set of leaves and roots.
Divide sympodial orchids throughout repotting, chopping by the rhizome at intervals, and repot divisions for development.

Orchids will be propagated in just a few methods, however I choose division for sympodial orchids. They have an inclination to not produce keikis, or child vegetation, as readily as monopodial orchids and are very simple to divide. Once you repot your orchid, it’s the greatest time to divide the plant.

Reduce by the rhizome at intervals of no fewer than 4 pseudobulbs. The brand new vegetation want the vitamins these spent pseudobulbs comprise to ascertain themselves and produce new development. Repot your divisions as you’d a mature plant and place them in vivid, oblique mild.

Frequent Issues

Orchids are usually not with out their points and might fall prey to some illnesses and issues. It could possibly be certainly one of these points coming to mild when you discover your orchid appears to be like sad or as if one thing is munching on it.

Root Rot

Close-up of damaged orchid roots due to rotting. The root ball is dense, shaped like a flower pot. The roots are thick, intertwined, cream-colored, but the lower part of the roots is brown and slightly rotting. The hands of a gardener in white gloves demonstrate the damaged roots of an orchid. There is soil and a yellow elongated orchid leaf on a white table.
Stop root rot in orchids by avoiding overwatering, because it damages roots and causes decay.

That is the orchid grower’s nemesis and the factor that takes out a majority of indoor orchids. Root rot begins within the roots however will in the end kill your plant when you don’t catch it early within the recreation. One of the best ways to take care of root rot is to keep away from it in any respect prices. 

The way in which to keep away from root rot is to keep away from overwatering. When the orchid potting medium stays damp, it breaks down sooner and turns into a breeding floor for micro organism and fungus. Below the bark, root rot seems as mushy, black root tissue that falls aside simply. 

Above the roots, root rot manifests in yellowing leaves, lack of flowers, and leaf loss. The yellowing will first happen near the plant’s crown and transfer outward. It is vitally tough to avoid wasting an orchid from root rot, but when it’s not superior, you possibly can trim away the diseased root tissue and repot it in a clear potting medium.

Insect Infestation

Close-up of Mealybugs on a green orchid leaf. Mealybugs have a distinct appearance characterized by their small size and a white, cottony or powdery wax covering that resembles meal or cotton.
Fight pests like aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites on orchids to stop nutrient drainage and honeydew.

Orchids produce numerous nectar and are stuffed with candy sap bugs like to feast on. Aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and thrips are all culprits of sucking the life out of your orchids after they occur upon one. These bugs drain the plant of vitamins and go away behind a sticky mess known as honeydew. 

Honeydew is insect excrement, and it causes some critical points. For one factor, it attracts ants, however that received’t do a lot harm to the plant. Honeydew is an ideal surroundings for black sooty mildew to develop, and this interferes with photosynthesis, which is a way more critical problem. Luckily, the honeydew can simply be wiped away with a humid fabric. 

Leaf Spots

Close-up of a Clamshell Orchid plant with leaves affected by Leaf Spots. The leaves are slender and elongated with a smooth texture. They are a bright green color with many uneven brown-orange spots.
Stop orchid leaf spot by watering from the underside and isolating contaminated vegetation.

There are just a few totally different pathogens that trigger leaf spot in orchids. Most of them are waterborne and will be averted by watering from the underside and isolating any vegetation which may be contaminated. A couple of small spots are unlikely to do a lot hurt, however bigger lesions might trigger an issue, and people leaves must be eliminated. 

Often Requested Questions

Sure, you possibly can!  Though this methodology is commonly controversial, it has been studied and proven to be an efficient approach to water an orchid. It’s particularly helpful for these gardeners with an inclination to overwater.

Orchids are completely protected for people and animals to devour. Actually, the flowers are generally used as a culinary garnish.

Orchids will be grown hydroponically by partial or full water tradition, in addition to semi-hydroponically.

Closing Ideas

Orchids are such attention-grabbing and great vegetation, and the clamshell orchid is an excellent orchid for the novice and collector alike. Although uncommon, clamshell orchids have lately gained vital recognition, notably amongst collectors searching for rarer vegetation. These easy-care, lovely vegetation are sure to be a dialog piece with fellow orchid lovers. 

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