Now that I’ve had some success with Dracula orchids, I’ve decided to take on a new challenge. In fact, this might actually be the challenge when it comes to orchid growing: Dendrophylax lindenii, better known as the ghost orchid.
Ghosts only grow in humid, swampy forests in Florida, Cuba, and the Bahamas, and are classified as endangered. In fact, there are only about 2,000 left in all of Florida, and the locations of most of the best specimens are kept secret in an attempt to prevent poaching.
Replicating the conditions of a swamp in southern Florida isn’t easy. Ghosts typically need:
- Very high humidity (I’m trying an average of about 80%). That’s a little lower than Dracula orchids, but still much higher than what most orchids require.
- Warm temperatures during the day with a 10-15 degree decrease at night.
- Very bright light (at least 3,000 foot-candles). Rather than leaves, ghosts photosynthesize through their roots, so they thrive in relatively bright environments.
- Reduced airflow. (Swamps tend to be stagnant.)
- A mount they can attach themselves to, and that will not decay significantly over time since it isn’t possible to transfer ghosts to new mounts once established.
What I find most challenging about ghosts is their limited palette for expression. Becoming a good grower of orchids (or any other type of plant) means observing tiny changes in behavior, sometimes over long periods of time, as expressed primarily through leaves, roots, stems, and blooms. However, ghost orchid seedlings have tiny roots, no leaves, obviously no blooms, and a dramatically reduced stem. And if that’s not challenging enough, they’re naturally very slow-glowing. That means by the time you’re able to observe a problem, it might very well be too late to correct for it.
I got my first ghost at the beginning of the year, and I’d classify it as “stable” (certainly healthy, but barely growing). I used to have two, but the second one I ordered was damaged in transit when it was delayed due to a snow storm and exposed to freezing temperatures for too long (they should be shipped with a chemical heat pack during the winter; this one was not). Now the trick will be to make small adjustments in light, humidity, temperature, fertilizer, etc. until I see it start to thrive.
Many updates to come (hopefully).