40 Types of Orchids: Fascinating and Curious Flowers

Types of orchids number in the tens of thousands. We’ve covered the most interesting and common ones. Learn about these weird plants here!

Phalenopsis orchids

Have you ever wondered how many types of orchids? Well, there are tons of different species and cultivars. Some are very rare, and others are much more common in commercial cultivation. Those common orchids are often found in grocery stores and floral shops.

Records of orchids date all the way back to China in 500 BC, and orchids have been the fascination of botanists and plant enthusiasts since their initial classification in the western taxonomic system in the 18th century. At this time, explorers brought varying specimens from tropical lands to their homes in Europe.

Orchids are sometimes the bane of the indoor plant growers. It’s true that orchids have different needs than other houseplants, but for many orchid varieties all it takes is a cursory simulation of their native ecology. Many species have been selected for their adaptability to a home environment as well.

Now, let’s discuss these alien-looking flowers, their care, and their growth habits so you can decide how to build your orchid collection!

All About Different Types of Orchids

Phalenopsis orchids
Phalenopsis orchids.

Let’s discuss the most interesting plant family out there! We’ll start with a discussion of the general botanical structure of orchids, and then talk about their ecological niches. Then we’ll discuss the difference between cultivars and species, and the basic care needs of most cultivated orchids.

After this, we get to talk about specific orchids, divided into 5 major subfamilies that make up the overarching Orchidaceae family.

Botanical Structure

Other flowering plants have 3 to 6 stamens, but orchids have 1 to 3 stamens depending on their subfamily. They also don’t have a stamen and pistil, and instead have a singular column. This column is practically a fusion of the pistil and stamen. Atop this column is what’s called an anther cap, which is removed by the pollinator of the orchid flower in the process of pollination.

Most, if not all orchids have a labellum, which is a lip-like lower petal that dangles at the base of the flower. When people think of orchids, they probably picture the labellum. This part of the orchid mimics the anatomical structure of a female insect of that particular flower’s pollinator.

Another interesting characteristic of orchids is the sometimes present pseudobulbs. These are bulbous growths present at the base of an orchid plant or protruding from the plant on a stem. If pseudobulbs are present, this indicates the orchid lives in a sometimes dry environment, where there is a need to store water and nutrients. A lack of pseudobulbs occurs on orchids that live in naturally and consistently humid environments.

Long story short, orchids are highly evolved plants with botanical structures that are specialized for varying habitats and reproductive processes.

Orchid Type Ecology

Orchids are members of the Orchidaceae family, which comprises over 28,000 species in the plant kingdom. This makes the orchid family the largest plant family in the world. But why do we see so few of them in our immediate environment? Probably because they need specialized environments to thrive.

Orchids are epiphytic, lithophytic, or terrestrial. There are even orchids that grow in the desert! Epiphytic orchids grow on tree branches and trunks, often in tropical forests. Lithophytic orchids have adapted characteristics that allow them to cling to rocks. Many of these orchids produce roots that rest on the surface of rocks. Those orchids can develop roots that grow to 10 times their size in some cases. Terrestrial orchids live in the soil of the earth. These are often woodland plants, but some live in wetlands and open prairies.

The vast majority of orchids are niche specialists, and don’t survive well in even simulated conditions. But there are many cultivars that do just fine indoors. Orchids often live in temperate, subtropical, and tropical parts of the world. Many come from areas where there’s a spring and summer rainy season, and a fall and winter dry season. There are some species that live in extremely dry and hot conditions, or extremely cold ones.

Cultivars v Species

It’s worth discussing the difference between cultivars and species, to give you a sense of how vast the orchid world is. The word cultivar generally refers to a plant that has been cultivated by humans. This process begins when people discover a species in the wild, and bring it into the human realm to learn more about it. In this process, humans may selectively breed plants for desirable traits that make them more palatable for human use and enjoyment.

Most of the orchids you find in stores are highly modified cultivars rather than true-to-the-original species. If you’re new to orchid growing, stick with these! They’ll be much easier for someone who has less experience with plants of this kind. For rarer species, consult an orchid cultivator in your area.

Basic Orchid Care

Dendrobium orchids
Dendrobium orchids.

While there are tons of different genera and orchids within that have more specific care needs, here we’ll discuss the basics for moth orchids and other very common cultivars. This short guide can be applied to caring for most orchids you find in stores. When in doubt consult the orchid’s native ecology to learn more about how to simulate that environment at home.

Light and Temperature

The vast majority of orchids need bright light and temperate weather to thrive. Very bright light can cause problems for some, so try to keep them in an area where they have some shade from nearby plants, or where they’re offset from a bright light source. Keep them in conditions between 50°F and 90°F. Outside those conditions, shelter them.

Water and Humidity

While there are other orchids that prefer a desert or dry prairie environment, most of the ones you care for at home like humidity. If you want long-lasting flowers, keep the plants out of the pathway of HVAC vents, and dry air. Mist them daily if you live in a dryer home. Water them only when their substrate dries out. They need cycles of wet and dry to do well.

Mounted orchids need to be watered more often. Drench them in a sink every 3 to 5 days.

Soil and Fertilizer

Most of the orchids from stores are epiphytic and do best in a potting medium that’s composed of tree bark. You can add a little bit of sphagnum peat moss for water-retention, and perlite for drainage. There are also orchid-specific mixes out there. These plants also prefer slight acidity. To fertilize them, look for an orchid fertilizer, and only fertilize in their active growth seasons of spring and summer.

Alternatively, you can work with an orchid mount, which is best suited for those orchid types that are lithophytic or epiphytic. The mount is usually a rock, log, or moss-covered pole that simulates the native habitat of an orchid. It’s a better medium for orchids that are used to more drastic wet and dry cycles.

Pruning and Maintenance

After your orchids bloom, deadhead their flower spikes to keep them healthy. However, if you have a variety that blooms multiple times on one flower spike, remove just the flower instead.

When the media in your orchid pot is completely decayed or the roots are completely overgrown, repot it. Select a container that is slightly larger than the current one, and water the plant ahead of repotting. Then remove the orchid from the container, and trim away dead roots. Then place the orchid in the new pot, and add some potting media. You can stake your orchid to ensure it is well-placed to develop new roots in its new home.

Note that mounted orchids don’t have to be re-mounted often – really only after several years. To do this, carefully remove the orchid from its current mount, and trim away dead roots. Then place the plant on its new mount and cover the roots with moss. Lightly wrap the moss-covered roots with a monofilament 10-pound fishing line and wait for it to attach to the new mount. Keep it in a shady area for several weeks, and do not jostle it.

Now, let’s talk orchid types!


There are only two genera in this subfamily. Combined they make up only 15 species total. This is considered one of the basal lineage subfamilies, meaning they have characteristics of some of the earliest forms of orchids documented today. Let’s talk about these orchid genera now! 

Apostasia Orchids

Apostasia orchids
Apostasia orchids.

These orchids are called grass orchids, and they hail from eastern Asia, the Pacific Islands, and Australia. All have evergreen grass like leaves and yellow or white flowers. Unlike other orchids, they lack a labellum, and their petals are more evenly shaped and proportioned. And like grass, they develop rhizomatic roots that allow them to spread. Because of their rarity, it’s unlikely you’ll find a grass orchid to care for at home.  

Neuwiedia Orchids

Meuwiedia orchids
Meuwiedia orchids.

The leaves of these orchids are similar to Apostasia, but they are much more broad. In terms of flowers, they grow in a nodding fashion on an inflorescence. The flowers are often a shade of yellow, and when viewed up close look like a typical orchid flower.   


This subfamily consists of about 15 genera. While we won’t discuss all of those here, we’ll touch on some of the most popular and interesting. Like the name suggests, this is where the vanilla orchid is housed! These plants are native to the Americas, Asia, and Australia. Flower colors are normally white, but sometimes they’re pink or blue. Some are vining plants (like vanilla) and some are upright. 

Eriaxis Orchids

Eriaxis rigida
Eriaxis rigida.

Eriaxis rigida is the only species in this genus. This terrestrial orchid reaches up to 2 to 3 feet tall, and hails from New Caledonia. It grows upright in scrublands, blooming 1 to 2 inch white and purplish flowers in early spring. 

Isotria Orchids

Isotria verticillata
Isotria verticillata.

There are two species in this genus: Isotria medeoloides, which is native to the midwest and eastern United States, and Isotria verticillata, native to eastern and central US. They are both found in temperate forest areas. 

I. medeoloides, also called little five leaves, has rhizomatic roots that form among interwoven streams and hardwood litter. Its tiny flowers emerge from five pointed leaves that resemble a star shape. I. verticillata has a very similar botanical structure, with a slightly different habitat, with a preference for acidic peat bogs and forest floors. 

Epistephium Orchids

This genus has 22 recognized species native to S. America, Belize, and Trinidad. All of the orchid varieties within this genus are terrestrial. They grow in hot prairies and savannahs as well as the low elevations in rainforests. 

Epistephium elatum is a species that hails from Columbia. It lives in peat bogs there, and grows long leathery leaves from which emerge a spike of light purple flowers in winter. These blooms are about 2.5 inches across.   

Duckeella Orchids

The three species of this genus are from South America. They bloom yellow flowers that are roughly 1.5 inches across, and develop roots in the earth at elevations of 100 to 400 meters. Duckeella adolphii is one of the characteristic members of this genus, with very thin stems and pale yellow flowers with delicate petals. 

Cleistes Orchids

All 40 to 50 species of Cleistes span the entire native range of Epistephium orchids. They are upright, terrestrial orchids with stunning flowers. Cleistes bifaria is a plant native to the southeastern US, and its unusual flowers are somewhat like a bird of paradise, with petals protruding above the labellum in an intense way. This flower has adapted to wildfire conditions.   

Pseudovanilla Orchids

These orchids are giant climbers! They develop large clinging roots, and branching stems that produce numerous blooms in many colors. They are all terrestrial but seem epiphytic due to their vining habits. Pseudovanilla foliata is known commonly as the great climbing orchid. This lovely golden flower dangles from the vine and produces a white, yellow, and pink labellum that almost has a textured look. 

Vanilla Orchids

Vanilla planifolia
Vanilla planifolia.

If you’re wondering where we get vanilla from, it’s from orchids! These vining evergreen orchids are native to the tropics of North America, Asia, New Guinea, and West Africa. Vanilla planifolia is a common vanilla orchid, and one you can cultivate at home for vanilla beans. This particular species can grow to 30 feet, and produces pale green-yellow flowers. We have a great piece on how to grow vanilla beans that will give you all the info you need to produce your own! 


Slipper orchids make up this subfamily. Slipper orchid characteristics include slipper-like labella that attract pollinators, who fall in the indentation and must climb the column and pollinate the flower in the process. There are 165 species in this subfamily, who are distributed across the world. 

Cypripedium Orchids

Cypripedium parviflorum
Cypripedium parviflorum.

The Venus slipper orchid grows in the subtropics and the tundra alike. Those dwelling the cooler temperatures of Siberia and Alaska, being so specialized, have become nearly extinct due to their disappearing habitat. These are terrestrial, rhizomatic orchids that have narrow petals that are darkly colored and a large scooped labellum that contrasts from the petal color. Cypripedium henryi, a native of China, is one such orchid. Its small, yet bulbous yellow flowers grow from broad, vertically-veined leaves.   

Mexipedium Orchids

The only species in this genus is Mexipedium xerophyticum, which is in my opinion potentially the cutest orchid out there. Its white flower blooms from running lithophytic roots on rocks in Oaxaca. Small silvery green leaves form little mounds in rock crevices, and produce pinky-white flowers with side petals that resemble sickles. 

Paphiopedilum Orchids

Paphiopedilum orchid
Paphiopedilum orchid.

The Venus slipper is also represented by 80 species of Paphiopedilum orchids. These orchids once lived all over the world, but have largely been removed and extinct in their native habitat. They grow anywhere orchids grow, on rocks, trees, and in the earth. They are commonly bred and cross-bred, making them widely available in cultivated orchid marketplaces. 

All have a large upper petal that has blotches, speckles, or vertical stripes. Their two side petals are speckled and fuzzy, and their labellum looks somewhat like a pitcher plant. One common species, Paphiopedilum gratrixianum, is a vibrant orange, white, fuschia, and maroon flowered plant that grows in moderate temperatures up to 12 inches tall. They can be easily propagated by division of the leaves.  

Phragmipedium Orchids

Phragmipedium orchid 'Apple Pie'
Phragmipedium orchid ‘Apple Pie’.

These orchids hail from South America, Central America, and Mexico. 15 to 20 species make up this genus, and these are divided into 6 groups. They have many different preferred media, and all have pseudobulbs for water and nutrient storage in dry periods. They tend to be tall – up to 3 feet – and have large flowers, making them some of the most popular orchids. 

The species, Phragmipedium boissierianum has been bred and cultivated in captivity, with many resulting cultivars available for practitioners of organic gardening. It’s a lithophytic or terrestrial orchid that grows well in pots, and doesn’t like wet feet. Its light green flower has three twisting narrow petals that are fringed on their edges. The slipper labellum is blotched with translucent maroon.  

Selenipedium Orchids


These rare orchids are only found in the Amazon. While they were chosen as a commonly cultivated plant for a time, their popularity has waned as they are difficult to care for. They have a widely set vegetative bunch of leaves from which a stem of many flowers that are small bloom. One particular species, discovered in 2015 (Selenipedium dodsonii) has the look of a laughing face, with green petals and a thick, yellowish-orange labellum.  


These orchids comprise the majority of the orchid family, with over 15,000 species. These are epiphytes the majority of which grow in the temperate areas of the world, with some occurring in regions with cooler temperatures, or cold ones. They are not drought-tolerant, but have adapted to dryer periods with varying evolutionary mechanisms. Because there are so many genera within this subfamily, we’ll only touch on a portion here.   

Epidendrum Orchids

Epidendrum orchids
Epidendrum orchids.

Holding 1500 species, the genus of Epidendrum orchids is epiphytic, with native habitats in the Americas. Some have pseudobulbs, and others don’t. Their flowers are variable in size, too. What they have in common is creeping, reedy stems and masses of bright yellow pollen. Epidendrum adenoglossum doesn’t look like other Epidendrum orchids at all, with multiple stems and mostly closed orange flowers that grow opposite on bulbous stems. 

Odontoglossum Orchids

Odontoglossum orchids
Odontoglossum orchids.

These orchids make up about 100 species. Most are epiphytes, but there are a few species that are terrestrial. They originate in the Andes and higher elevations of Central and South America. Their petals open on anywhere from 20 to 150 flowers that form on inflorescences. The flamboyant colors these flowers display are what make them desirable in the plant trade.

Dendrobium Orchids

These live on rocks and trees in southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. Dendrobium phlox is interesting in that it has a bushy habit, with small orange flowers with an almost symmetrical bell-shape. Dendrobium calamiforme is another interesting species, with spindly light green flowers with a maroon speckled labellum. This species is native to dry parts of Australia, and has cylindrical leaves that hold water well through periods of drought.

Dendrobium nobile, or the nobile dendrobium is probably the most common of the Dendrobium orchids. It’s often available in stores sold as a houseplant. It can also grow outdoors in zones 11 and 12. Its purple, fragrant blooms are not only gorgeous, they’re a staple in Chinese medicine. 

Cattleya Orchids

Cattleya orchids
Cattleya orchids.

Corsage orchids are often Cattleya orchids, which have vibrant and fragrant flowers that look and smell incredible in formal settings. These orchids are native to Central America and northern South America. All have fringed petals. Cattleya bicolor is a commonly cultivated corsage orchid species with at least 20 associated cultivars. This lovely flower that ranges in color widely has thinner petals that make up star-shaped blooms, with a 6th protruding labellum petal. It is native to Brazil.  

Encyclia Orchids

Encyclia orchids
Encyclia orchids.

Also known as butterfly orchids, Encyclia orchids are found growing on trees in the tropical areas of the Americas. They are common in horticultural markets, and their labellum has lateral lobes that encircle their column. They are used to environments with high humidity, a lack of direct sun, and little precipitation. 

A very commonly cultivated species is Encyclia cordigera, which has three different color schemes depending on the cultivar. All three have a wide lip that looks like an upside down heart and is either solid fuschia or white with a pink splotch. The upper petals either match the labellum or contrast greatly in browns and maroons.  

Cymbidium Orchids

Cymbidium orchid
Cymbidium orchid.

Also known as boat orchids, Cymbidium orchids have a boat-like labellum, and freeform petals and sepals. Boat orchids grow in clusters or on inflorescences of several small flowers. They have pseudobulbs and clustered leathery leaves at their base. A large genus, the habits of the orchids within are variable. However, they are great for beginner orchid gardeners as they adapt to multiple settings. 

One interesting cultivar is C. sinense x Sleeping Beauty, which has green petals and sepals that look like leaves, and a greenish-white flower with a pink-speckled cream labellum. Within the labellum are mounds of bright yellow pollen. This species is sure to add a striking visage to your collection.  

Miltonia Orchids

Miltonia orchids
Miltonia orchids.

An orchid in this genus is also known as a pansy orchid due to some of their resemblance to pansies. There are 12 epiphytes and 8 natural hybrid species of pansy orchids. All have long-lasting flowers, and all are native to Brazil. They have a wide range of morphological characteristics. 

Miltonia regnellii is a lovely member of this genus, with flowers that bloom in January and last until May. In fact, like most other Miltonia orchids, they’ll bloom again in August and last until October in cultivation. Some cultivars are all white, while there are those that have either white or yellow petals with a lavender labellum.   

Phalaenopsis Orchids

Also known as moth orchids due to their tendency to be pollinated by moths, butterflies, and bees, there are about 70 Phalaenopsis spp. These plants are native to East Asia, the Philippines, and Australia. They are potentially some of the most widely cultivated orchids, and you’re likely to find one in the nearest grocery store. What makes them so adored is their ability to bloom several flowers at once.

Certain species of Phalaenopsis orchid have butterflies dancing around them in the wild, as this is their associated pollinator. One of the most beautiful of these is Phalaenopsis amabilis, commonly called the moon orchid. This white-petaled flower has a round shape, and tendrilled labellum. It’s the national flower of Indonesia and won the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. 

Vanda Orchids

Vanda orchid
Vanda orchid.

Yet another common plant in horticultural trade, vanda orchids are the most specialist when compared to other orchid genera. They are native to east Asia, the Pacific Isles, Australia, and New Guinea. They grow on rocks, trees, and the earth of varying habitats and can survive dry periods with ease. Most have a spur on their lip. 

Vanda garayi is one epiphytic species that has flowers that look a bit like hyacinth flowers, as the small petals protrude from an inflorescence. It has ridged leaves that fan to either side, and blooms bright orange flowers from spring to summer. 

Oncidium Orchids

Oncidium orchid, 'Tiger Hamburhen'
Oncidium orchid, ‘Tiger Hamburhen’.

The 330 species in the Oncidium genus are also known as dancing lady orchids, and vary widely in their structure. Their common name comes from the fringed and flowing look of their flower structure.

Characteristics include column wings and pseudobulbs, though not all species exhibit them. They are native to the tropics in North and South America, and many have yellow flowers.

One of the most famous of the Oncidium orchids is Oncidium tigrinum, known as the Kandyan dancer orchid, due to its lovely yellow flowers that look like Kandyan dancers. These orchids are native to Mexico, Central America, and Venezuela. The petals almost appear as outstretched arms of a jubilant dancer clad in red-splotchy yellow gown. 

Arundina Orchids

Arundina graminifolia
Arundina graminifolia.

The bamboo orchid genus contains only one species: Arundina graminifolia. This orchid has a terrestrial habitat, and grows to 2 meters tall in optimal conditions. Successive purplish-pink blooms form on a single stem in spring and fall. The flower structure is much like a daffodil, with backing petals around the tubular lip that has bright orange-yellow in its center. These orchids are rare to extinct in their native habitats.  

Prosthechea Orchids

Prosthechea cochleata
Prosthechea cochleata.

Prosthechea orchids, or cockleshell orchids make up about 100 species in the Orchidaceae family. Every member of this genus has a pseudobulb, and a thick spongy covering on vegetative parts. Some have flowers that bloom from a stalk, while others bloom directly from the stem. They have been historically used in Central America for medicine, due to their high flavonoid content. They hail from there and Florida. 

Prosthechea cochleata is one cockleshell orchid worth noting. Known as the clamshell orchid, it has a highly unusual flower with a labellum that forms a hood over the column, rather than below like other plants in the family exhibit. It has a dark purple flower, called the black flower in Belize, where it is the national flower. 

Zygopetalum Orchids

Zygopetalum crinitum
Zygopetalum crinitum.

There are 14 species in the Zygopetalum orchids genus, and all hail from South America with the majority originating in Brazil. They are either terrestrial or epiphytic, growing at higher elevations in somewhat open meadow situations. They are cultivated for their use in cut flower arrangements, donning varying stark patterns and colors. One of the most interesting species is Zygopetalum crinitum, which has lime green, maroon-splotched petals, and a white and violet-striped lip. 

Brassavola Orchids

Brassavola cucullata
Brassavola cucullata.

Spider orchids are what people commonly call the 21 species of Brassavola orchids. They originate in Mexico, the West Indies, Central America, and South America. Some orchids in this genus grow single flowers, while others produce several on a single branch. They have a citrusy smell, which brings in pollinators with ease. Some are long-bloomers, while others only bloom for a few days. 

Brassavola cucullata is also called the daddy long legs orchid due to its thin flowers that look like the animal of the same name, as the petals and sepals dangle low, resembling legs. Their fringed to the point of fuzzy lip brings in particular moths, and dusts the pollen from their bodies. Another striking example is Brassavola nodosa, called the lady of the night. She dons a white flower with a large, heart-shaped lip.    

Brassia Orchids

Brassia caudata
Brassia caudata.

With long tepals that give them the name, spider orchid, Brassia orchids are a lot like Brassavola species. They live on trees in the understory of rainforests in Mexico, Central America, South America, and the West Indies. Most species are concentrated in Peru, where their multiple flowers on a single branch are almost exclusively pollinated by spider wasps. 

Of all the species, Brassia caudata is the most common. This yellow, maroon tiger-striped flower grows long, trailing sepals at the base, and sharply angled petals above. Their pseudobulbs form at the bottom of their leathery leaf mass. 

Phaius Orchids

Phaius tankervilliae
Phaius tankervilliae.

These swamp orchids hail from tropical regions in Eastern Asia and the Pacific Islands. The nun orchid also originates in Australia and New Guinea. All 45 species are evergreen, terrestrial plants that branch and spread through rhizomes. All have evenly proportioned petals.  

The nun’s cap orchid, or Phaius tankervilliae grows to roughly three feet tall, with flowers forming in succession on branches that reach several feet tall. The rust-colored blooms have a purple lip, and bloom for about a month at a time. These aren’t usually difficult to find in the marketplace, and make lovely plants to care for at home.  

Lycaste Orchids

Lycaste skinneri
Lycaste skinneri.

There are 30 species of Lycaste orchids, hailing from Mexico to Brazil. The characteristic that they have in common is their triangular look with sepals arranged around their petals and lip in that fashion. Most are shades of orange, cream, yellow, and rust red with purple markings. 

Lycaste skinneri is the most popular species. The lovely white flowers are so revered, they’re the national flower of the Republic of Guatemala. The blooms emerge from the base of the most external pseudobulb, and large leathery leaves surround them.  

Laelia Orchids

Laelia cinnabarina
Laelia cinnabarina.

These orchids are in another famous genus. They are distributed throughout Mexico, and parts of Central and South America. Most are found in Mexico growing on trees, with a few lithophytic species included as well. The petals and sepals are similar in shape and color, and the lip floats freely among them. Flower colors range from white to pink and purple. 

Pleurothallis Orchids

Pleurothallis orchid
Pleurothallis orchid.

The 1400 to 1500 orchid species of this genus are native to North and South America. Many hail from the jungles of Ecuador. Some have a large leaf that backs a small flower in the middle. The leaf seems to act as a frame for a small pink, red, or orange pollination center. Pleurothallis gargantua is the largest of this species with a fuschia flower in the middle.

Pleurothallis phalangifera is a species from Columbia that has spindly pale yellow flowers that resemble fingers. It diverges greatly from gargantua in its structure. Without the backing leaf, these flowers dangle from long stems. 

Holcoglossum Orchids

Holcoglossum kimballianum
Holcoglossum kimballianum.

These orchids are native to humid environments of China and southeast Asia. All are either lithophytic or epiphytic and have pronounced aerial roots. Many of the species in this genera have lovely white flowers with a yellow and maroon striped labellum. 

All of the flowers in this genus are white, with widely spreading petals. Some have a bright pink-purple labellum that stands out among the petals, while others are more gradient in their color scheme.  

Mediocalcar Orchids

These interesting orchids are native to New Guinea, Indonesia, and the western Pacific Islands. One really interesting species in this genus is Mediocalcar pygmaea, a native of New Guinea. It’s a matte or mound forming orchid with spiky leaves and small red-orange flowers. The flowers are so compact, they look almost symmetrical.

Masdevallia Orchids

Masdevallia orchid
Masdevallia orchid.

These orchids have some of the most striking flowers, and make up around 500 species. They are all native to Central and South America. One very cool species in this genus is Masdevallia wurdackii, a native of Peru. This species has a highly spindly-petaled flower that’s cream colored, with a brownish red speckled labellum.   

Dracula Orchids

Dracula hirtzii
Dracula hirtzii.

Some of the most sinister-looking orchids in the Epidendroideae family are those in the Dracula genus. Often donning blood red flowers, these are named after Count Dracula, or Vlad the Impaler, and hail from Central and South America. All Dracula species are neotropical, and look like little monsters or monkeys. That’s right. These flowers have faces! 

There are a few highly sought after species, but one of the most characteristic is D. chimera. It has blood-speckled cream petals that are wide at their base, and taper into spindly tentacles at their ends. The labellum of these species stands out with its protruding white chin-like structure.   


All the orchids in this subfamily are terrestrial, and have erect top petals. They are distributed throughout the world and comprise over 3000 species. Because we don’t have room to cover them all here, we’ve chosen a few to highlight. 

Ludisia Orchid

Ludisia discolor
Ludisia discolor.

The striking red leaves of the jewel orchid grow along forest floors in East Asia. Their flowers are white on columnar structures that twist on the branch. There are only two species in this genus, and L. discolor ‘Nigrescens’ is a striking example. Instead of donning the usual red or maroon leaves, they are so dark green, they’re almost black. The small white blooms form on branched bracts and don a yellow lip. 

Anoectochilus Orchids

Anoectochilus orchid
Anoectochilus orchid.

About 50 species make up this dark-leaved genus of orchids. Their rhizomatic roots remain above ground, and their leaves cluster in threes and fours at their base. The leaves usually have veins that appear in a contrasting color. Their large flowers are fuzzy and bloom in short spikes atop an erect stem. Most of these species are located in the Pacific region of the world. 

Spiranthes Orchids

Spiranthes spiralis
Spiranthes spiralis.

Native to Eurasia, America, and Australia, lady’s tresses stand out among other orchids. Their tiny flowers spiral up the sides of a spike, which emerges from leaves that have a tuberous root base. Most species in this genus have white flowers, but some have pink or greenish blooms. Primary pollinators of this genus are bees, and the shape of the flower gives a hint of that in their slightly closed structure. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the major types of orchids?

A: There are five subfamilies under which each orchid genus falls. You could also divide orchids by their preferred environment, as epiphytes, lithophytes, or terrestrial plants.  

Q: How do I tell what kind of orchid I have?

A: The botanical structure of the flower is going to be the greatest signifier of the species you have. Cross check that against orchid sites to see if you can ID the plant. 

Q: What is the most common type of orchid?

A: Phalaenopsis orchids are the most common of their kind. These are easy to find in grocery stores and floral shops. 

Q: What are the two types of orchids?

A: Orchids are mainly terrestrial or epiphytic. However, some are lithophytic.

Q: Which orchids bloom the most?

A: Moth orchids bloom most of all the Orchidaceae family.

Q: How do I tell if my orchid is male or female?

A: Often male flowers are larger and showier than female flowers. In some cases, male flowers bloom in lower light conditions than female flowers. 

Q: Which orchid is easiest to grow?

A: If you’re new to orchid growing, try a moth orchid!

Q: Do orchids Rebloom on old stems?

A: Only moth orchids do this. All other orchids bloom on new stems.

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