While most orchids are known for their large, colorful flowers, jewel orchids stand out with their stunning leaves. These leaves are velvety in texture and have veins that create stripes and patterns. Jewel orchids also are a bit different from most other orchids since they grow in soil. Ludisia orchids are easy to care for at home, as long as you create the right environmental conditions. Here we’ll take you through everything you need to know about successfully growing and nurturing Jewel Orchids at home, plus learn about their history, origins, meaning, and symbolism in the world today.
Jewel Orchids – The Essentials
Jewel orchids are known for their striped, velvety leaves and small white flowers. Ludisia species are native to Southern Asia where they grow in the soil. These orchids are easy to care for as long as you provide a shady environment and lots of humidity.
About Jewel Orchids
Jewel Orchids – Family, Genus, and Taxonomy
- Family: Orchidaceae
- Genus: Ludisia
For a long time, humans thought there were only one species in the Ludisia genus. This species is Ludisia discolor.
However, a new species was added to the Ludisia genus in 2013. Scientists discovered Ludisia ravenii in the Philippines and classified it as a new species.
Sometimes people refer to members of the Anoectochilus and Macodes genera as jewel orchids. However, members of the Ludisia genus are most commonly referred to as jewel orchids.
Botanical Characteristics, Colors, Fragrances, and Toxicity
While most orchids are grown for their large flowers, jewel orchids are a bit different. These plants produce inflorescences containing small white flowers, but their leaves are the real attractants.
Jewel orchids have velvet-like leaves that are two to three inches long. These leaves have veins that are a different color from the rest of the leaf. This leads to the appearance of stripes or patterns.
The leaves also have a faint shimmery appearance. This is what inspires the common name jewel orchid.
While all types of jewel orchids produce white flowers, the leaf color varies between cultivars. Leaves may be medium green or so dark they appear almost black.
The flowers don’t have any notable fragrance and Jewel orchids are non-toxic to humans as well as dogs and cats.
History & Origins of Jewel Orchids
Jewel orchids originated on forest floors in tropical South Asia.
The genus was first described as Ludisia in 1825. During the same year, a different botanist gave this genus the name Haemaria. However, since the genus Ludisia was published first, this name stuck.
After naming, humans began cultivating these plants for ornamental use in the home.
As demand for jewel orchids increased, people began removing them from their natural homes. Therefore, wild populations have decreased over time.
While it’s unknown what the name Ludisia refers to, discolor means two different colors.
What Regions Are Jewel Orchids Native To?
Jewel orchids are native to tropical forests in South Asia. This includes areas in China, India, Myanmar, Thailand, and more.
While many types of orchids grow on other plants, jewel orchids grow on soil on the forest floor. This makes them terrestrial plants rather than epiphytes.
When Do Jewel Orchids Bloom?
Jewel orchids typically bloom during the winter or spring of each year. However, they may bloom during other times of the year.
Their flowers typically last one to three weeks.
Popular Jewel Orchid Cultivars
The most common jewel orchids are members of the Ludisia discolor species. The following are two popular cultivars.
‘Black Jewel’ has dark green leaves that almost appear black. The bottoms of the leaves are maroon and the veins are red or pink.
‘Alba’ has medium green leaves with stunning patterns. The white veins create patterns that are similar to those found in rattlesnake plantain.
Uses and Benefits of Jewel Orchids
Jewel orchids are most commonly used as ornamental orchids. Since they are so different from other orchids, they’re often found in orchid collections.
For more, see our in-depth guide to orchid plant uses and benefits.
Jewel Orchids Meaning & Symbolism
In the Indonesian island of Java, people hold the jewel orchid in a special light. They believe that the jewel orchid emerged from a piece of a fallen fairy princess cloak.
In other parts of the world, jewel orchids are seen as symbols of beauty and good luck.
How to Grow and Care for Jewel Orchids at Home
Jewel orchids prefer wide, shallow pots rather than narrow, deep pots. This allows their roots to grow outward rather than straight down.
When you’re searching for a container, make sure you look for drainage holes. These allow excess water to escape which helps prevent problems with disease.
Jewel Orchid Soil Preferences
As we briefly mentioned above, jewel orchids are terrestrial plants. That means they grow in soil.
Many other types of orchids are epiphytes, which means they grow on top of other plants.
Since jewel orchids are used to growing in soil, they don’t require a super chunky mix. Instead, they can be planted in soil mixes that are used for other houseplants.
Jewel orchids perform well in potting mixes designed for African violets.
This mix provides more aeration and drainage than a typical houseplant potting mix.
If you can’t find an African violet potting mix, you can make your own soil mix. Combine one part peat moss, one part perlite, and one part vermiculite.
For more, see our essential guide to the best orchid plant soil mix.
The Best Light Conditions for Jewel Orchids
In the wild, jewel orchids live on the forest floor. They’re protected from direct sun rays by the forest canopy.
You want to provide light conditions that mimic their natural environment. This means avoiding bright, direct light. Rather, provide indirect light or shady conditions.
One of the best spots for jewel orchids is in the interior of your home, away from any windows. A bathroom with a small window is also a good location.
For more, see our essential guide to orchid plant light requirements and where to position orchids in the home.
Temperature and Humidity Preferences
Jewel orchids prefer warm temperatures. For optimum growth, keep the air temperature between 60-75ºF.
You want to keep the temperature consistent over time. Therefore, avoid placing these orchids near hot or cold drafts.
Jewel orchids require moderate to high humidity. They will suffer in dry environments.
The best way to increase humidity is with a humidifier. However, you can also increase humidity by regularly spritzing your plant with water from a spray bottle.
High humidity does increase the odds that fungal issues will develop. To keep harmful fungi away, ensure good airflow. A fan is a great way to increase circulation and prevent disease.
For more, see our in-depth guide to orchid plant temperature and humidity tolerances.
When and How to Water Jewel Orchids
Jewel orchids require regular watering to stay happy. They don’t require any special water, but you can use rainwater or distilled water if you like.
A good rule of thumb is to water your orchid once every week. If you notice that your soil is still wet when you go to water, wait a few days before watering again.
For more, see our comprehensive guide to watering orchid plants.
Fertilizing Jewel Orchids
You should fertilize your jewel orchids regularly to provide them with essential nutrients. Plan to fertilize every two weeks in spring through fall and every month in the winter.
Look for a balanced houseplant fertilizer. This should contain equal amounts of the three macronutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Mix this fertilizer to half the recommended strength before applying it to your plants.
For more, see our in-depth guide to fertilizing orchid plants.
Pruning and Staking Jewe Orchids
You won’t need to prune your jewel orchid unless you spot signs of disease. If you do spot diseased leaves, it’s best to remove them using a sharp pair of shears.
Common types of orchids like moth orchids require staking to support their large flowers. However, these orchids don’t require any staking.
Common Jewel Orchid Problems, Pests & Diseases (and treatments!)
Jewel orchids are susceptible to common orchid pests and diseases. Watch out for the following, and treat if necessary.
Spider mites are small creatures that are related to ticks and spiders. There are many different types of spider mites, and certain species infect jewel orchids.
Spider mites are super small, so you might see their damage before you see the mites themselves. If you notice a silvery speckled pattern on your orchid’s leaves, chances are good that spider mites are to blame.
These pests damage jewel orchids by sucking plant sap and spreading disease. Therefore, it’s important to get rid of them before they severely damage your plant.
The good news is that spider mites are typically easy to control. To get rid of the mites, wipe every leaf with a wet cloth.
If you have spider mites, you also want to check your humidity levels. Low humidity increases the chances of a spider mite infestation.
Another pest to watch out for is aphids. These small insects use sucking mouthparts to drink plant sap.
Aphids breed rapidly, so their numbers can quickly get out of control. Therefore, it’s important to treat aphids as soon as you see them.
If you notice a small number of aphids, you can remove them with a wet paper towel. If you are dealing with a larger infestation, you can spray your plant with neem oil or insecticidal soap.
Root rot is a general term for a number of fungal issues that destroy orchid roots. Without roots, your plant will be unable to take up water or nutrients.
Some symptoms of root rot include discolored leaves or wilting. If you notice either of these, it’s a good idea to take a look at your plant’s roots. If the roots are soft, they are suffering from root rot.
Once roots are infected with root rot, the damage cannot be reversed. However, you can prevent future damage and give your plants a chance to rebound.
Remove your plant from its container and shake off any old soil. Trim off any sections of soft and rotten roots.
Once the rot is gone, you should repot your jewel orchid in fresh potting soil in a suitable orchid plant pot.
To prevent future outbreaks, make sure that the container has proper drainage holes. Also, avoid overwatering.
Although jewel orchids aren’t super common, they’re a fabulous orchid to add to your home. They’re easy to care for and add something new thanks to their beautiful leaves.
Jewel Orchid FAQ
Do Jewel Orchids Produce Flowers?
Yes, they do. While jewel orchids are well known for their beautiful leaves, they also produce flowers. Jewel orchids typically flower once a year. They form many small white flowers atop a flower stalk.
Are Jewel Orchids Rare?
Jewel orchids aren’t super rare, but they’re not common either. While jewel orchids are easy to propagate from stem cuttings, growers often sell them for high prices. This leads to people thinking they are rare.
How Do You Care For a Jewel Orchid?
Jewel orchids are easy to care for indoors at home. It’s important to provide your jewel orchid with a warm temperature and high humidity. Use well-draining potting soil and water once a week. Make sure to keep the plant away from bright direct light.
How Big Do Jewel Orchids Get?
Jewel orchids grow up to 12 inches tall.
Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.
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