How to get your Jewel Orchid to Flower

by Sarah Gardiner

Sarah is a horticulturist with a passion for edible and cottage gardens. 

With the end of winter in sight, the days here down under are getting longer and temperatures are starting to become more mild. We can always tell that spring is just around the corner when we start to notice flower buds forming on the tips of our Jewel Orchids, alerting us to the fact that the glorious sight of orchid flowers is on its way. 

Jewel Orchids are a group of tropical orchids that are native to China and Southeast Asia. In their natural habitat, they are tropical plants that thrive on the forest floor, growing in quite low light. These beautiful plants can grow up to twelve inches high and wide, and unlike most Orchids, they are often admired for their foliage rather than flowers. 

Having said this, as we already mentioned - it is a magnificent sight to see your Jewel Orchid flower. Jewel Orchids produce a cluster of flowers, branching off single spikes, protruding from each branch. The more mature and healthy your orchid is, the more flowers you will see on each spike.

In order to achieve an eye-catching floral display on your Jewel Orchid, ensure that you follow these general care tips:

The dark, velvety foliage of Ludisia discolour 'Jinhua'.

1. Use the right potting mix. Jewel Orchids are terrestrial orchids, meaning they grow in the ground. In their natural habitat, they grow amongst much leaf-litter that enriches their soil as it decomposes. When grown indoors, make sure you choose a mix that is free-draining. We recommend a mix of potting mix, perlite and orchid bark.

2. Grow your Jewel Orchid in indirect light. These little guys have adapted to low light conditions, so you don’t want to scorch their leaves with any direct sunlight. Find a position that’s a couple of metres from a window, where they will receive indirect light for most of the day.

3. Water regularly. When grown in a free-draining mix, you should be able to water your Jewel Orchid when the top inch of soil is dry - usually every 7 to 10 days. Don’t water if the soil is wet as this will result in root rot, and try not to water the foliage as it can contribute to fungal disease.

4. Keep on the lookout for pests. Mealybug happens to love Jewel Orchids, as do caterpillars. Spray your plant every fortnight with a solution like Dr Greenthumbs Reset Leaf Conditioner as a preventative for these pests.

5. Repot when necessary. You might not know it, but these Orchids grow from rhizomes under the soil surface. If you notice growth coming out from the drainage hole of your pot, or the plant generally looks a little crowded; it’s probably time for an upsize. This is also a good opportunity to propagate your Jewel Orchid, which can be done easily by dividing your plant and potting it into multiple pots.

6. Fertilise sparingly. Jewel Orchids aren’t big feeders and there shouldn’t be the need to fertilise more than a couple of times a year. This can be done in the warmer months with a slow-release orchid specific fertiliser, or with a high-potassium feed to promote flowering in late winter.

In late winter, providing that your Jewel Orchid has had good light and correct care - it should be ready to flower. If you start to notice flower buds, take this opportunity to feed your Jewel Orchid some liquid potash. This liquid form potassium will encourage more and bigger blooms and a longer flowering time. Make sure you place your plant back in a position where it can be admired as the buds grow then burst into flower - this won’t be a show you want to miss!

While often prized for their foliage rather than flowers, when the buds burst into flower, Jewel Orchids still put on a show.