Orchids: Coelogyne cristata

Anyone who becomes interested in orchids and would like to try his hand at growing them will find the species an excellent one to start with. C. cristata is native to the Himalayas where it grows at elevations between 1,600 and 2,300 m (5,220 and 7,560 ft) as an epiphyte on the bark of trees as well as on rocks and the stone walls marking the boundaries of the local fields. They are typically found growing on rocks beside waterfalls.

This description indicates the orchid’s requirements in cultivation. The first and absolute must is overwintering in cool conditions, for without this the plant generally does not flower at all. The winter temperature should be between 5 and 7°C (41 and 45°F), but may also be lower, in which case the plant must be kept dry. In summer it may be moved to the balcony or to the garden, where it will thrive in partial shade under trees.

The magnificent flowers, produced in spring at the base of the pseudo-bulbs, are unfortunately shortlived, even though this orchid was at one time also used for cutting. One grower aptly compared the blooms to a soft-boiled egg — both in coloration and firmness!

The pseudo-bulbs are an important organ, for this is where food is stored, as with the bulb of bulbous plants. Old pseudo-bulbs, which as a rule are already leafless, may be used to propagate the plants by severing the creeping rhizome and putting a group of about three pseudo-bulbs to root in a plastic bag partly filled with sphagnum or in compost composed of one part cut sphagnum, one part orchid chips and one part a mixture of crushed oak bark, fern roots and a little sand.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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