Growing Phalaenopsis honghenensis

Phalaenopsis honghenensis

Phalaenopsis honghenensis is an epiphytic orchid species, which is native to Honghe in Yunnan.  This is the region in China which gives this orchid species its name, but Phalaenopsis honghenensis can also be found growing in Myanmar, Vietnam, and Thailand.

Phalaenopsis honghenensis can be found growing at about 2000m above sea level, on the trunks and branches of mossy, lichen covered trees in Vietnam, Thailand, and China.

Phalaenopsis honghenensis is an epiphytic orchid. This plant is growing inside my Orchidarium, having been mounted onto cork bark.
Phalaenopsis honghenensis in flower, as pictured on the 28th March 2018.

Phalaenopsis honghenensis flowering

Phalaenopsis honghenensis is a spring flowering orchid.    The flower buds of Phalaenopsis honghenensis open first at the base of the flowering stem.  The flower buds at the bottom of the flowering stem open first, and then the flower buds open in sequence, starting at the base, then working up to the top – towards the tip of the flowering stem.  The flower buds at the tip of the flowering stem open last.

A closer look at my Phalaenopsis honghenensis plant’s flower buds as they develop.

Phalaenopsis honghenensis fragrance

The flowers of this Phalaenopsis honghenensis specimen produce a sweet and quite spicy fragrance, it’s a complex scent, which has definite similarities to the sweet, yet spicy, clove like scent produced by an old fashioned flower – the pinks, which are also known by their botanical name of Dianthus.

In this photograph you can see my Phalaenopsis honghenensis plant’s flowers from different angles.

My Phalaenopsis honghenensis flowers also have an unexpected and very dominant fragrance character – they smell like cooked bacon!  The fragrance is quite sweet in its nature, it reminds me of ‘Frazzles’, a bacon flavoured crisp, which was popular with children in the 1990s!  Phalaenopsis honghenensis flowers produce a sweet, spicy, bacon like fragrance, which also features citrus scent notes.

Phalaenopsis honghenensis.

My Phalaenopsis honghenensis plants produce flowers which seem to be fragrant each time I encounter them, whether day or night.  Although, I definitely notice that this Phalaenopsis honghenensis specimen’s flowers’ fragrance is at its most pronounced during the daytime, particularly during the afternoon.

Phalaenopsis honghenensis roots

Phalaenopsis honghenensis produces very long, flattened roots, which are beautifully silvery, shiny, and reflective when newly developed.  The newer Phalaenopsis honghenensis roots often display green or maroon-green coloured root caps.

A closer look at my Phalaenopsis honghenensis plant’s new roots. This young, newly developed root is silvery in colour: young roots are very shiny, they look as if they have been polished! This particular root has a green and maroon coloured root cap.

Older Phalaenopsis honghenensis roots have a rather more dishevelled appearance.  These mature roots remind me of extra long, white shoelaces, which were too long for their allocated running shoes, were run through a marathon of cold, wet, British weather, only to then be discarded in somewhat of a muddy tangle, to be discovered later in the shed, where they have discoloured and hardened.

Phalaenopsis honghenensis is an epiphytic orchid. This plant is growing, having been mounted onto cork bark.
A closer look at one of my Phalaenopsis honghenensis plant’s older roots. The older roots produced by this Phalaenopsis plant remind me of very long, old, greying and discarded shoelaces.
This Phalaenopsis orchid, which I believe to be Phalaenopsis honghenensis, has produced this 18cm (7.1 inches) long flowering stem.

The roots of Phalaenopsis honghenensis secure this orchid species onto the tree trunk and branches of the tree that the orchid grows upon.  My Phalaenopsis honghenenis specimen produces long shoelace like roots that grow up around the plant, they hang decoratively below this orchid and its cork mount.

A closer look at my Phalaenopsis honghenensis plant’s new roots. These young, newly developed roots are silvery in colour: young roots are very shiny, they look as if they have been polished! These particular roots have green and maroon coloured root caps.

Epiphytic orchids

Phalaenopsis honghenensis is an epiphyte – a plant that grows upon another plant.  Epiphytic plants are not parasitic, they don’t take any sustenance, energy, or nutrients away from their host plants.  Epiphytic plants simply use their host plant to raise them up, which enables the epiphytic plant to gain a better position, with the opportunity to grow in a more beneficial environment for the plant, without needing to grow so large themselves to get to that height, or to that position.  You could think of epiphytic plants as opportunists!

Phalaenopsis honghenensis is an epiphytic orchid. This plant is growing, having been mounted onto cork bark.

Epiphytic plants often grow on trees, but some epiphytic plants do grow on other, smaller plants, such as shrubs.  Phalaenopsis honghenensis grows on the tree trunks and branches of deciduous trees, where these orchids gain a higher position within the deciduous forest.  Here in this higher level of the forest, Phalaenopsis honghenensis orchids can receive more light, and enjoy better air circulation, both around the plants themselves and their extended root systems.  The plant’s raised position allows rainwater to run down the tree’s trunk and branches, washing over the plants and running down, or over the orchid’s roots, and then away from the plants.

It’s easy to picture epiphytic plants growing at the very top of trees, on top of the tree’s uppermost branches, facing the direct sunlight, but many plants, including Phalaenopsis honghenensis can be seen growing on the main trunk of a tree, where they are somewhat shaded by the branches and leaves above.  This orchid species can also be found growing underneath the union of a tree’s trunk and branch, in and on the underside of the fork between the main tree trunk and the branch of a tree, as well as growing on the more shaded sides of trees, away from the harsher and more direct of the sun’s rays.

A closer look at my Phalaenopsis honghenensis plant’s new roots. This young, newly developed root is silvery in colour: young roots are very shiny, they look as if they have been polished! This particular root has a green and maroon coloured root cap.

The moss, and to a lesser extent lichen, which often grow over the bark of the tree trunks and branches of the trees that Phalaenopsis honghenensis grows on, absorb rainwater.  The moss holds onto the moisture for longer, meaning the moss covered areas of tree bark offer a more amenable growing environment, therefore assisting this orchid in maintaining the necessary humid growing conditions that this epiphytic orchid species favours.

Due to Phalaenopsis honghenensis‘ epiphytic nature of growing raised up on the trunks and in the branches of trees, the rainwater washes over these plants and their roots, but thanks to the height of the trees, the plants and their roots are never submerged by the water, which could induce rotting or unfavourable growing conditions if the plants were to grow over the ground or in an area where the water could not escape so quickly.

Phalaenopsis honghenensis culture

Phalaenopsis honghenensis plants favour being grown in temperatures that range from a minimum winter, night time temperature of 10C (50F), to a high summer daytime temperature of 30C (86F).

A closer look at my Phalaenopsis honghenensis plant’s flowers.

I grow this Phalaenopsis honghenensis plant inside my Orchidarium, where the plant grows within its preferred temperature range, in an environment that is continually very humid.  This Phalaenopsis honghenensis plant is misted every morning.

I use Orchid Focus Grow and Orchid Focus Bloom, which I purchased from the gift shop at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, to feed my Phalaenopsis honghenensis plants.

A closer look at one of this Phalaenopsis honghenensis specimen’s leaves.

Buying Phalaenopsis honghenensis plants

Orchids suffer at human hands, due to over collection, deforestation, logging, human expansion, and other plant atrocities, this has had an incredibly damaging and often sadly irreversible effect on many orchids and other plant species, leading some plants to become extinct before they have even been recorded.  Whether a plant is recorded or not, I think it is just simply terrible for a plant to become extinct through the consequences of our own greed.  Please only purchase plants that are grown ethically and responsibly in cultivation, or in conjunction with conservation efforts.  Please never take orchids or other plants from the wild.

A closer look at my Phalaenopsis honghenensis plant’s flower bud as it prepares to open.

Phalaenopsis honghenensis identification

My Phalaenopsis, is it Phalaenopsis honghenensis?

Orchids are the most diverse plant species; with so numerous a group of plants and related species it is easy to misidentify an orchid species and to be growing a different orchid than you expect.  There is some ambiguity with the naming of a number of Phalaenopsis species.  I believe the plant I have shown you in this article to be Phalaenopsis honghenensis, but I could be wrong – the entry on orchidspecies.com lists Phalaenopsis honghenensis as producing racemose inflorescences, which are shorter than the raceme that my plant has produced.  Orchid Species lists Phalaenopsis honghenensis as producing racemes comprised of three to six flowers, whereas my Phalaenopsis plant’s current flowering stem has produced nine flower buds.

These Phalaenopsis honghenensis flowers are pictured with a British five pence piece, to more clearly show the size of this orchid’s flowers.

What do you think?  Is this Phalaenopsis honghenensis?  The flowering stem of my Phalaenopsis honghenensis specimen, the flowering stem you see pictured here with open flowers, measures 18cm (7.1 inches).  I have taken this photograph using a British five pence piece for scale to more clearly show the size of my orchid’s flowers.

A closer look at a Phalaenopsis honghenensis flower, showing the inflorescence’s column and lip.
A closer look at the back of a Phalaenopsis honghenensis flower, there is a small spur at the back of the flower, which is also noticeable on this Phalaenopsis’ flower buds.
This Phalaenopsis honghenensis specimen is pictured in bloom, on the day that the first flower of this plant’s second flower spike opened. Pictured in bloom on the 6th April 2018.

Phalaenopsis honghenensis and Phalaenopsis braceana – similar orchid species

A number of botanists consider Phalaenopsis honghenensis plants to be Phalaenopsis braceana.  These separately described species are indeed similar.  Some orchid specialists believe these plants should be grouped together as one orchid species.  There are also similarities between a number of other closely related Phalaenopsis species, including Phalaenopsis honghenensis, Phalaenopsis hainanensisPhalaenopsis braceana, Phalaenopsis stobartiana, and Phalaenopsis wilsonii.

Other articles that may interest you……….

To read about how my Orchidarium was created, please click here.

To read the first part of my White Orchid Trial, please click here.

To read the first part of my Madagascar Orchid Trial, please click here.

To read the first part of my Miniature Orchid Trial, please click here.

To see a planting list of ideal terrarium plants, please click here.

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