Ludisia discolor Jewel Orchid Care & Culture

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Orchid Species Name: Ludisia discolor

Care Group: Jewel Orchids

Overview: Jewel orchids rock! You can’t see it in photos, but they have these crystalline veins running through the leaves that sparkle as they catch the light! The nice thing about Jewels, unlike many orchids their care is more similar to houseplants so I feel they’re a good transition into the orchid world if you’re getting a bit bored of regular houseplants. Ludisia discolor specifically is kind of like the “introduction to Jewel orchids plant”; so, if you’ve just bought one recently, welcome to the jewel orchid club.

The nice thing about Ludisia discolor is it’s a bit more drought tolerant than other jewel orchid species (like for example Macodes petola) and it’s an all-around easy houseplant provided you do your best to keep it consistently moist (not sopping wet and not bone dry). I should mention, “drought tolerant” does not mean it prefers dry conditions, so do you’re best to water it as the potting media dries or you’ll risk setting the plant back. If kept too dry, the plant can go into a dormancy and start dropping leaves – if this happens, don’t immediately start watering more. Slowly increase your watering and just focus on keeping the potting mix continuously moist between waterings.

Ludisia discolor Care

These are my perspectives on care after growing my plant for over 2 years. I have had the best success in the last year since applying these recommendations to my own plant. If you want to see photos of my plant over the year, scroll to the bottom.

Jewel Orchid Care Tips

  1. Humidity isn’t a big deal – it’s not. If you disagree, no prob – grab your pitchfork and get in line. I grow all of my Jewel orchids by the window in my dry-ass Canadian climate and they look great. My humidity is often as low as 18% for many days, I just make sure I water them before the roots go bone dry. If your climate is dry, I promise you, you can grow Ludisia discolor in your home. While humidity helps slow transpiration (the rate at which water is lost through the plant’s leaves), it doesn’t directly-affect this plant’s ability to survive (provided you keep it and the roots hydrated).
    Unfortunately, EVERYTHING you read online nags about how jewel orchids MUST HAVE HIGH HUMIDITY to do well and the biggest problem with this general information about “high humidity” is that people assume that high humidity is more important than good airflow and adequate light. Then they do crazy things like try to grow their jewel orchids in a terrarium with minimal airflow and a few weeks or months later the plant has gotten bacterial rot and is dead. I have killed my share of jewel orchids trying to get that “ideal humidity” a terrarium offers and I nearly killed my Ludisia discolor this very same way.

    Terrarium w/ live moss, nepenthes, and my Ludisia discolor – Photo from Jan 2017

    I had it in this 120 gallon terrarium (which I genuinely thought would have enough airflow to keep the plant happy) but it did poorly and after 6-months of struggling, all but one cutting had died. December 2018 I took it out and started growing it more like my Macodes petola and I haven’t looked back since.

  2. Hydration IS a big deal – DO NOT LET THE ROOTS DRY OUT! Use a potting media that retains water but is light and airy. I have tested two potting mix recipes for my Ludisia discolor. The second more-airy media has had slightly better results; however both worked and it really is more about how often you water than one being superior than the other.
  3.  Ludisia discolor potting media
    1. Orchid Mud Mix: Peatmoss (50%) + Perlite (50%) – It’s basically tropical plant potting soil with extra perlite added to increase structure and aeration at the roots. It works well because it’s water retentive but airy. However, because this mix is more dense than the next recipe, you should only water as the media is approaching dryness, NOT whenever you feel like it. A dense potting media like this, if allowed to stay too wet (or if watered too often), risks root rot from lack of airflow. You should only need to water your plant in this mix once every 5-12 days…but figure out the drying period for your climate, pot size, and conditions, and then water before the potting media goes bone dry. This mix worked well for all three of the jewel orchids I keep including: Ludisia discolor, Macodes petola, & Dossinia mormota—or a hybrid therein.
    2. Classic Orchid Mix w/ more Sphag moss: Bark (20%) + Sphagnum Moss (50%) + Perlite (30%) – if you’re a person that likes to water often, this is a better option than recipe #1. When using this mix, avoid letting the moss (and roots) go bone dry—it tends to dry a lot faster (as short as 2 days). If you find this mix is drying too quickly, you may want to sit the pot in a shallow tray of water for at the first 1-3 months. You’ll still want to water weekly and flush the potting mix thoroughly with fresh water, but then leave the pot siting in 1/4″ tray of water. After that period the sphagnum and bark tends to break down enough that it holds water longer (so you won’t need to continue leaving it in water or watering it as often).
  4. Fertilize – weakly every week. I use a high-nitrogen soluble fertilizer (12-8-8 or MSU orchid fertilizer) at a rate of about 1/8-1/4 tsp of fertilizer per gallon of water. When using fertilizers in your water, spray the leaves and potting mix because orchids (including jewel orchids) are foliar feeders (meaning they take in nutrients through their leaves). It’s good practice to flush the potting mix once a month with regular water to prevent the build-up of fertilizer water. Tip: I also add organic fertilizer to the potting media 2-3 times per year, or whenever I repot. This organic fertilizer is either bloodmeal or a balanced organic product I like called, Gia Green (all-purpose fertilizer, 4-4-4). A very small amount is needed – less than 1/8 tsp per pot.
  5. Light – bright filtered sun but not so hot that it cooks the leaves. I know this is a crappy explanation of light…but it’s because “low light plants” often need more light than ambient room lighting and it’s really difficult to explain. An East or West window may be good, or near a window that has a sheer curtain that filters light. If your plant isn’t getting enough light, you’ll probably find that it gets lanky, or doesn’t grow much at all. Typically light that is appropriate for “summer blooming phalaenopsis” will also be a good intensity for Ludisia discolor.
  6. Growth Cycles – most jewel orchids follow a seasonal rhythm. They grow through late winter, spring, and summer, and then come late-fall/winter, they bloom. Ludisia discolor specifically, can be heavily seasonal to the point that if conditions are not ideal, it will stop growing and just “sit there” – you need to have faith that your conditions are correct and wait it out…just make sure your conditions are correct so that the next growth cycle optimized to the needs of the plant.
  7. Looking for more about jewel orchid care? Check out the info on Macodes petola – they’re pretty much the same for requirements but a bit more challenging and less forgiving.

 

Related Content Jewel Orchid Repot

That’s it for my experience with this plant; if you’d like to know more about jewel orchids and their care, hop over to YouTube and check out Orchid Dee’s great video on the topic. If you want to see more photos, keep scrolling down and check out the reverse timeline (most-recent first) of my plants over the past year and a bit.

 

Ludisia discolor Photos

July 2020 Update

 

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I know some of you have come to my page because of my #jewelorchid articles (including #ludisiadiscolor and Macodes petola). In my article on #Ludisia, I bark about how much I don’t like terrariums for jewels and that I nearly killed my plant trying to grow it in a primo, 120 gallon terrarium. I lost most of the divisions of that plant, and in December 2018, took the remaining piece out and potted it up to grow the same way I have my Macodes petola. 17 months later, check out that plant nowl! The last photo is the photo I took January 2019, a month after I took it out of the terrarium and potted it. PS—#jewelorchids are the coolest and grow very well just like a regular houseplant provided you can keep them evenly moist and avoid too wet for too long or too dry.

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Ludisia discolor w/ seedpod and all flowers open (Jan 28, 2020)
Ludisia discolor – seed pod

Ludisia discolor flowers – Jan 2020

Ludisia discolor recovering from red mites
Ludisia discolor June 2019 after being repotted into sphag & orchiata

January 2019 - after removing from the terrarium

 

Other Ludisia discolor Info and Photos

Check out this beast of a Ludisia discolor on Instagram….

More About Ludisia discolor