Orchids: Laelia pumila

Who has not at one time or another longed to have a house plant with flowers as spectacular as the cattleya? Laelia pumila will serve the purpose well, for besides matching it in beauty it is also a miniature plant which can be added to one’s collection without in any way limiting the space in one’s home. It does very well in modern centrally-heated homes that have plenty of light without having to be put in a plant-case or window glasshouse.

From each of the fairly small, cylindrical pseudo-bulbs, which are about 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 in) high, grows a single leaf, which is thick, leathery and about the same length as the bulbs. In September or October the plant bears flowers which are huge in relation to its size (they measure about 10 cm [4 in] across), very fragrant, and very long-lasting. There is usually only one flower to a pseudo-bulb, very occasionally there may be two. L. pumila is native to southern Brazil where it grows as an epiphyte or on the ground at elevations of 500 to 800 m (1,600 to 2,560 ft).

Also very beautiful, though not as small, are the other members of this genus, some 75 species altogether. Recommended for warm and sunny conditions are: Laelia xanthina from Brazil, a gorgeous golden yellow with narrow sepals; L. anceps from Mexico and Honduras, with scapes up to 50 cm (20 in) long, each bearing 5 flowers up to 12 cm across, similar in colour to the species; and the popular L. gouldiana (syn. L. autumnalis gouldiana) with large, deep violet flowers that have a lovely fragrance.

All laelias may be grown either as epiphytes, with a ball of light compost attached, or in the traditional manner as potted plants in a light compost (for example, sphagnum moss, peat, fern roots, bits of polystyrene and charcoal, crushed pine or oak bark, chopped beech leaves). In winter they require a brief period of rest with limited watering. The flowers are just as beautiful as those of cattleyas but are more suitable for cultivation in the home.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, House Plants | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Orchids: Laelia pumila

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