Macodes petola Jewel Orchid Care & Culture

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Orchid Species Name: Macodes petola

Care Group: Jewel Orchids

Arguably the most coveted of all jewel orchids, Macodes petola is a stunning plant year-round. Their leaves have crystalline and sparkly veins – it literally looks like gold flecks have been woven into the leaves. They can be difficult to find and it took me over 8 years to find a seller. J&L Orchids had come to Canada for our local Orchid Society meeting during May of 2018. I jumped at the opportunity and purchased two plants from them just in case I accidentally killed one.

Photo of my Macodes petola (and a couple other jewel orchids)

Please note: the following information about Macodes petola and their care is based on my experience and understanding of the species based on my discussions with others. I have been growing my two plants for a little over a year in front of an East-facing window. The info below is simply my observations and perspectives on what I feel they need to grow well in our homes.

Overview: EVERYTHING I read online harps incessantly on the need for Macodes petola and other jewel orchids (such as Ludisia discolor) to have HIGH HUMIDITY to do well. I have killed many orchids stuffing them into terrariums and this includes many jewel orchids. I have come to understand that the reason orchids don’t do well in terrariums is because they need good airflow to prevent rot, leaf and root issues; Macodes petola is no different. AND I have learned that proper hydration with many orchid species can take the place of high humidity.

Background: Before I first got my plants I did as much research as possible. I found there wasn’t a lot of “experiential advice” available about growing Macodes petola (or other jewel orchids for that matter), so I watched the orchid forums like a hawk and kept an eye out for very-well grown jewels. I also avoided advice from people who had newly-acquired plants (because it really takes a few months to know if the plant is doing well or not). Two growers who had specimen-sized (BIG) jewel orchids told me they simply grew them like houseplants…which was shocking to me. Funnily enough, those best-grown jewel orchids were also grown indoors by Canadians!

A photo of an established Macodes petola grown by the window

Macodes petola Care

As per the recommendations noted above, I have found that jewel orchids grow well as a houseplant provided they are given good light, mild temps and the roots are kept continuously moist. In nature they are widely distributed. “Found from Borneo, Java, Malaysia, Sumatra, the Phillipines and the remote islands of Japan in lowland and lower montane forests at elevations of 100 to 1500 meters”   OrchidSpecies.com. The broad range of the species may indicate there is variation of care required for individual plants, or that may be why they seem more tolerant of a broad range of conditions.

Jewel Orchid Care Tips

  1. Humidity isn’t a big deal – sure, it’s better…but as I can attest based on experience, it’s not a fundamental requirement. Both of my plants grow in my dry climate with little issue; my humidity is often as low as 18% for many days and I don’t use any humidifiers or humidity trays. As you can see they don’t appear to be suffering. While higher humidity may slow transpiration (the rate at which water is lost through the plant’s leaves), low humidity doesn’t affect the plant’s ability to live and grow provided you can keep it continuously hydrated.
  2. Hydration IS a big deal – DO NOT LET THE ROOTS DRY OUT! I tested two types of media for my Macodes petola (based on recommendations from fellow Canadian growers). The takeaway is that dry roots or a dry plant will make it sulk, wilt, and possibly abort root tips. You want the roots of your plant evenly moist, but in a potting mix that allows for good airflow.
  3. Macodes petola potting media – I tested both of these and found them to be equally valuable; I liked the first option more initially, because it took longer to dry out and bought me time if it was an exceptionally hot or dry week. However, after 6 months the second media had better performance (likely because of better airflow). In the end, both potting mixes worked well and I still one pot of each media:
    1. 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 well for my plant. 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. That said, this plant also had a red mite infestation so the setback could be due to that and unrelated to the media.
    2. 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. Like I mentioned above, if the roots get too dry, the plant sulks and you can set it back.
    3. A note about Ludisia discolor: if you’re growing Ludisia discolor (NOT Macodes petola), you may want to provide a more airy potting media as they tend to be more succulent.
  4. 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 non-organic (water-soluble) fertilizers, I spray the leaves because jewels are foliar feeders, which simply means they take in nutrients through their leaves. Because they are common in limestone regions, you may want to consider dosing with calcium often (calmag), or adding eggshells or oyster shells to your potting mix to ensure a regular supply of calcium is available to the plant.
  5. 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 Macodes petola. Their dark-green leaves may make them more susceptible to leaf burn, so use caution when trying to get them to bright enough conditions.

 

 

Macodes Petola Photos

June 18, 2019
Jewel Orchid – view from the top – Mar 25
Macodes petola plants 9 months later (Mar 22, 2019)
4 months later – see the offshoots?

Progress update – haven’t killed them!
Macodes petola – freshly repotted
The day I got my Macodes petola – May 28, 2018

 

Video of my newly acquired Macodes petola Jewel Orchids

 

Update Video One-Year Later – Macodes petola

 

More About Macodes petola