Michael Charters, www.calflora.net
Plant Common Name
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Long-lasting, brightly lavender-fuchsia and starry in shape, the autumnal blooms of Laelia gouldiana are among the showiest to behold, also being mildly fragrant. Hailing from the mountains of Mexican state of Hildalgo, this small clumping tender evergreen orchid needs cool winter temperatures during its dormancy. It is an epiphyte (living on another plant). Because of its need for winter chill, it is a popular companion for Cymbidium orchids, which have a similar need.
The pseudobulbs of this orchid bear two to three long leaves that are leathery and medium to light green. Actively in growth (both leaf and root) from spring through autumn, the clumping plant sends up tall, thin stems in autumn that are topped with up to ten flower buds. Each opens to a wide-segmented star-like flower, lilac-fuchsia to magenta-pink, with a darker lip that has a white throat with dark veins. These blossoms are long-lasting. After flowering, the plant slides into a cool winter dormancy.
Grow Laelia gouldiana in partial sun to partial shade that mimics the changing broken light it would naturally receive if growing on trees in an oak and pine forest. It does not grow in soil; place in a heavy pot with coarse bark that drains water efficiently or mount upon a tree or palm or hanging slab of cork bark. Water it frequently in the warmth from spring to fall, allow to become much drier in winter when it should be exposed to cool temps, it's tolerant down to the freezing point. Higher humidity and good air circulation are important when it is in active growth, too. When very hot in summer, increase shading and humidity for certain. Consider repotting this orchid only after it is overly rambling over the pot edges or the bark is degraded and fine, and then only after flowering is done and just prior to new root growth begins in mid-spring.
The flowers can be cut and used as a table decoration, leis, hair decals. If grown as a houseplant, it needs very bright light and is well suited to a cool sun room in winter. It will, in time, become a dense specimen plant which will display many more short stems topped with fragrant starry flowers. Overall it is a very tolerant orchid of a wide range of temperatures, which makes it popular among a wide array of plant enthusiasts.
AHS Heat Zone
11 - 7
USDA Hardiness Zone
9 - 11
H1, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Partial Sun, Partial Shade
10"-14" / 25.4cm - 35.6cm
14"-18" / 35.6cm - 45.7cm
Fall, Late Fall, Early Winter, Winter