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LAELIA rubescens

Image of Laelia rubescens

James Burghardt

Family

Orchidaceae

Botanical Name

LAELIA rubescens

Plant Common Name

Orchid, Pale Laelia

Special Notice

This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.

General Description

Long-lasting and usually pale pink, the autumnal blooms of Laelia rubescens, pale laelia, are borne atop upright slender stems. Hailing from the cooler, winter deciduous forests of Mexico to western Panama, this 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 similiar need.

The egg-like, wrinkly, compresseed pseudobulbs of pale laelia have papery sheaths and bear one long leaf that is leathery and medium 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 a few flower buds. Each opens to a star-like flower with wavy edges that is pale to rosy pink, with the lip's throat slightly darker. These blossoms are long-lasting. After or during the flowering wane, the plant slides into a cool winter dormancy.

Grow Laelia rubescens in full sun to very bright dappled shade. It does not grow in soil; place in a heavy pot with coarse bark that drains water efficiently or mount upon an exposed tree or palm trunk 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, but this species is tolerant of more arid conditions than others. 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 sunroom in winter. It will, in time, become a specimen plant which will display many more stems topped with fragrant starry flowers. Overall it is a very tolerant orchid of a wide range of temperatures and lower household humidity, which makes it popular among a wide array of plant enthusiasts.

Natural variation in flowers occurs in this species. A white flowering variety with a yellow throat is alba, light yellow flowers with a deeper yellow throat is aurea (which some botanists distinguish as a separate species), and variety semi-alba has pale flowers with a deeply colored lip.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    11 - 8

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    9 - 11

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Epiphyte

  • Sun Exposure

    Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    10"-14" / 25.4cm - 35.6cm

  • Width

    12"-18" / 30.5cm - 45.7cm

  • Bloom Time

    Fall, Late Fall, Early Winter, Winter

  • Native To

    Mexico, Central America

Growing Conditions

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Growth Rate

    Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Pink, Light Pink, Rose

  • Fruit Color

    Light Green, Sandy Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Light Green, Gray Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Hanging Basket, Houseplant, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No