How to Grow Monkey Face Orchids at Home

Take one look at monkey orchids, and you’ll have no question about the meaning behind their names. Their flowers resemble a monkey’s face! While these plants are a delight to look at, they’re a bit tricky to care for properly, in my experience. In this guide, I’ll take you through my essential tips on how to grow and care for Monkey Face Orchids at home.

Monkey Face Orchids (Dracula simia)_ Your Complete Guide

Potting Considerations

When you choose a container for monkey orchids, you’ll want to look for a pot that other orchids would like. Make sure the roots have room to spread.

An essential component of a proper pot is drainage holes. These holes allow excess water to escape, preventing root rot issues.

Soil Preferences

In their native habitats in Ecuador, monkey orchids don’t grow in soil. Rather, they grow atop other plants. They don’t hurt these plants but use them as structural support.

If you grow a monkey face orchid at home, you probably won’t grow it on another plant. Instead, you’ll use a mix that is well-suited for these orchids.

In my experience, a potting mix specifically designed for orchids is a great choice. These are well-draining mixes that contain plenty of chunky material. The All-Natural potting mix by Perfect Plants (via Amazon) is a good one.

I always like to make my own mix for these plants. For this, I simply combine 3/4 bark chips with 1/4 peat moss and mix well with a splash of water. This mix offers excellent drainage, aeration, and stable base for plant growth.

Light Preferences

Pink and violet colored Monkey Face Orchids in bloom

Since these orchids are tropical plants, you might think they love lots of light. However, this isn’t the case!

My monkey orchids thrive in shady conditions that mimic the habitat present in the forest understory. They will suffer if they are exposed to bright light or even too much indirect light.

I find that it’s best to keep monkey orchids in an area that receives only a few hours of indirect light each day. The interior of your home is typically a good location for these plants. I have mine near an east-facing window which receives a little soft morning sunlight behind sheer curatins, and indirect light throughout the rest of the day.

Temperature and Humidity

Unlike a lot of other houseplants, monkey orchids prefer cool temperatures. This makes sense since these plants are native to high elevations in Ecuador.

I find that the maximum temperature these orchids can handle is 70ºF. However, they will do much better at temperatures between 50-60ºF.

Like most houseplants, you’ll want to keep monkey orchids away from hot and cold drafts. I keep mine well clear of heating or cooling vents.

Monkey orchids thrive in high humidity. If their environment is slightly dry, they will suffer.

I find the best way to increase the humidity of an area is with a small indoor plant humidifier. These are a good investment if you want to grow these temperamental plants.

When and How to Water

A purple Monkey Orchid in bloom

Monkey orchids don’t have water-storage organs known as pseudobulbs. Therefore, they can’t store a large amount of water to use during times of drought.

While monkey orchids can last a couple of weeks without water, mine perform best with regular watering.

A good plan I like to follow is to water my monkey orchid every one to two weeks. If you notice any signs of root rot or other fungal issues, you should decrease the frequency in which you’re watering.

When I water, I ensure that excess water is escaping through drainage holes. If this water collects in a saucer, I empty it so the plant doesn’t absorb it back up.

Fertilizing

Monkey orchids will benefit from fertilization. I use a balanced (equal NPK ratio) houseplant fertilizer that I dilute to half-strength.

I then fertilize my orchids once every two weeks from spring through fall. I reduce fertilization to once every 6 to 8 weeks during the winter.

Pruning and Staking

While monkey orchids are tricky to care for, I find that they don’t require complex pruning. Once a flower stalk dies, you can carefully cut it back. That is all the pruning this plant requires.

While many orchids benefit from staking, monkey orchids don’t need it. Since they form only one flower atop each flower stalk, the flowers aren’t heavy. Therefore, the stalk can support the flower’s weight without any additional support.

Common Problems, Pests & Diseases and Treatments

Two individual flowers from the Monkey Face Orchid plant

Monkey orchids suffer from many of the same problems as other orchids. Keep your eyes out for the following issues.

Mealybugs

If your monkey orchid looks like it’s covered with cotton, you’re likely dealing with mealybugs. These soft-bodied insects suck plant juices which weaken the plant and open it up to disease.

You can handpick small numbers of mealybugs and place them in soapy water. Another option is to spray the pests with insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Aphids

Aphids are another type of soft-bodied sucking insect. They suck a plant’s sap and spread disease as they feed.

There are hundreds of different types of aphids that appear in a variety of colors. However, all are small with soft bodies.

Aphid populations can quickly spiral out of control, so it’s best to treat aphids when you first spot them. If you only have a small number, you can squish them with your fingers.

For larger aphid infestations, spray the bugs with neem oil or insecticidal soap. You may have to repeat applications to kill all of the pests.

Root Rot

Since these plants live in the shade, they’re especially susceptible to root rot. Overwatering is the number one cause of root rot.

If you notice your orchid is turning yellow or wilting, it might be dealing with root rot. Mushy roots are a sure sign of rot.

If you spot this issue, it’s best to repot your monkey orchid into fresh soil media and a suitable orchid plant pot. Remove the plant and carefully trim any infected roots.

Shake off any old soil and repot your orchid using fresh potting soil. To prevent further root rot, decrease the amount you water. Also, ensure that the pot has proper drainage holes.


Monkey Orchids FAQs:

Are Monkey Orchids Real?

Absolutely! While some people think these flowers are painted or photoshopped, they’re real.

Are Monkey Orchids Perennials?

Yes, monkey orchids are perennials. That means they live for multiple years as long as you provide them with the right environment.

How are Monkey Orchids Pollinated?

In the wild, monkey orchids are pollinated by insects. These may include flies, butterflies, and bees.

Insects can pollinate cultivated orchids, but humans can also hand pollinate the flowers. This ensures the flowers will form seeds.

Can I Grow Monkey Orchids from Seed?

While growing monkey orchids from seed is possible, this is extremely difficult to do at home. Unless you’re a serious plant professional, purchasing monkey orchid plants rather than seeds is best.

Wrapping Up

If you’re looking for a challenging yet delightful orchid to add to your plant collection, you can’t do much better than a monkey face orchid. What’s more, with a little care, orchids can live for many years to come.

Further reading: Discover the most popular types of orchids to grow in your garden.

Contributing Editor | briana@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

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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