Herself's Houston Garden

Conservation through cultivation

Nun’s orchid ( Phaius tankervilliae )




Nun’s orchid is a shop stopping plant putting out 3′ long stalks of orchid flowers in areas that receive little sun. We first saw them growing wild along trails through the damp forests of Hawaii.

I purchased a nun’s orchid last spring and placed it in a average to dry area, that receives dappled light morning through early afternoon. It survived the winter. The first spring flower stalk first appeared mid March. It has yet to spread, it may do that this year, or it may need a damper location? ( I’m told by one of our local orchid growing experts (Orchid Obsession ) that it does prefer a moister soil and that each spring should bring 1 to 2 additional spikes. )

The beauty of this plant is not just its flowers, but the fact that the flowers are on 3′ tall stalks. It is truly an amazing plant while it is in bloom.

Others have grown these successfully in pots in Houston, and they bloom prolifically late spring. Each plant will send up several stalks of flowers.¬† It is rated for zones 9-10, I’m in 8b and last winter was one of our colder winters.

It should spread in your yard and would do wonderful any where hostas grow or mixed in with them.

I’ve found these to not be drought tolerant, keep the soil moist.

They all died back in the winter, a couple have poked back up.

Not a one of my books mentions this plant. Garden books always seem to be a season late and a plant short.

Propagation of Phaius tankervilliae, as with venus fly traps, can be done with the flower stem.

Cut the stalk after  the flowers fade. Be sure to have at least two nodes per section. Plant the sections in soil being sure a node is in the soil and the soil is against the stem with out air bubbles.

I’ve also read that you can leave the flower stalk on the plant, gently bend it down and cover a section of it with soil. It should root where it is buried in the soil.

I did very well cutting up the stem and planting the sections in pots. They took a very long time to root, but they did so.

Originally from Asia.

Note: Barely survived below freezing winter ’11 and drought and 3 months of 100’F plus heat summer ’11 but they did make it.