Orchid Species Name: Ludisia discolor
Care Group: Jewel Orchids
Jewel orchids rock; they have sparkly crystalline veins that run through the leaves and their care is fairly similar to houseplants. Ludisia discolor is kind of like the “introduction to Jewel orchids plant” too, so if you’ve just bought one, welcome to the jewel orchid club. Ludisia discolor is more drought tolerant than other jewel orchid species like Macodes petola, and it’s an all-around easy to care for plant provided you do your best to keep it consistently most (but not sopping wet and not bone dry). Drought tolerant does not mean it prefers dry conditions, so do your best to water it as the potting media dries or you’ll risk setting the plant back.
EVERYTHING online nags about jewel orchids requiring HIGH HUMIDITY to do well; which is true…but it doesn’t mean you cannot grow Ludisia discolor if you have a dry climate. The problem with this general information about “high humidity” is that many people assume that high humidity is more important than good airflow and they try growing their jewel orchids in an enclosed terrarium and a few weeks or months later…the plant is dead. I have personally killed many jewel orchids this way and the Ludisia discolor I have now nearly died in a 120 gallon terrarium (which I genuinely thought would have enough airflow to keep the plant happy). I took it out after it struggling in the terrarium for over a year. I had started growing my Macodes petola by the window in my dry apartment and it did so well that I figured Ludisia discolor would be just as happy.
Ludisia discolor Care
These are my perspectives on care after growing my plant for over 2 years. I have found that jewel orchids grow well as a houseplant provided they are given good light but with cool temps (18-25c). Their dark-green leaves may make them more susceptible to leaf burn, so use caution when trying to get them to bright enough conditions.
Jewel Orchid Care Tips
- Humidity isn’t a big deal – it’s not. If you disagree, no prob; my plants are proof enough for me. Give me a couple more years and I’ll have a specimen sized Ludisia discolor and I’ll really be able to back this statement up; in the meantime, I encourage you to hop over to my caresheet on Macodes petola and check out how well they’ve done in my low humidity.While humidity helps slow transpiration (the rate at which water is lost through the plant’s leaves), it doesn’t affect the plant’s ability to survive (provided you keep it hydrated). Both of my plants grow in my dry climate with little issue. My humidity is often as low as 18% for many days, but as you can see they don’t appear to be suffering.
- Hydration IS a big deal – DO NOT LET THE ROOTS DRY OUT! I tested two types of media for my Ludisia discolor the second more airy media seemed to have better results; however both worked. You want the roots evenly moist, but in a potting mix that allows for good airflow.
- Ludisia discolor potting media – I tested both of these and in the end, though both potting mixes worked well, I prefer the second for jewel orchids like Ludisia discolor which have thicker roots:
- Orchid Mud Mix: Peatmoss (50%) + Perlite (50%) – It’s basically tropical plant potting soil with additional perlite added to increase structure and aeration. I was skeptical, but it worked for all three of the jewel orchids I keep (Ludisia discolor, Macodes petola, & Dossinia mormota—or a hybrid therein). During the winter it may have stayed too wet for how cool my temps were (16c); this didn’t kill any roots, but overall the growth seemed slower than the other pot.
- Classic Orchid Mix w/ more Sphag moss: Bark (20%) + Sphagnum Moss (50%) + Perlite (30%) – you want this to sit in a tray of water for at least the 3-4 months. After that period the sphagnum and bark breaks down enough that it holds water longer. If you’re finding the media is drying too quickly (within days) then I’d recommend letting the tray sit in 1/4″ of water. Again, do your best to avoid letting the moss go bone dry.
- Fertilize – weakly, weekly…and use a high-nitrogen organic fertilizer in the media (about 1/8th of a tsp); I like bloodmeal or a balanced organic fert called Gia Green – all-purpose fertilizer (4-4-4). When using fertilizers in your water, I spray the leaves as I’ve heard that jewels are heavy foliar feeders (take in nutrients through their leaves).
- Light – bright filtered sun but not direct mid-day sun – keep the leaves cool. If the plant isn’t getting enough light, they get lanky. Light that works for “summer blooming phalaenopsis” seemed to be a good intensity for my Ludisia discolor.
Ludisia discolor Photos