Bulbophyllum Care, Culture and Tips: The Basics
Bulbophyllums to me are to the orchid world, what reptiles and frogs are to the pet world. They’re weird, unique, oddly fragrant, and individually unique; they’re also “love or hate” by most. From my experience, Bulbos are easy to care for. They can be remarkabley fast growing under ideal conditions. What does that mean? Well, I had a 3-pseudobulb plant become an over 14 pseudubulb plant in under a year; FAST GROWING, right? Generally yes, but there are a few considerations to achieve those “ideal conditions.” I should also warn you, individual species may have specific temperature restrictions which can make some species more challenging than others—especially if you’re not moderating their temps and just growing them in your home.
Bulbophyllum Temperatures – It Matter, here’s why…
Bulbophyllums come from a wide range of conditions; from cloud forests (constantly wet) of various altitudes in the mountains to more seasonal and varied habitats with periods of drought and/or monsoon. There are cool (10C) growing species from high elevations (~1,000-2,000m) and there are hot (30C) growing species from deep in the jungle closer to sea level. Trying to keep a hot-growing species, or a cool-growing species at room temperatures generally doesn’t work out because it causes issues with the plant’s metabolism and they may decline over a period of months.
So how do you know which Bulbophyllums requires which temps? You have to research the species you have (or look at the parents of the hybrid you have).
Tip: Researching temperature & culture requirements of Bulbophyllum species
The easiest is to use Google to search OrchidSpecies.com. There’s a trick in Google, you can specify the site you want to search…type: “site:orchidspecies.com bulbophyllum [SPECIES_NAME]”, example: Bulbophyllum cumingii. You can see that Bulbophyllum cumingii grows in a “warm to hot climate.”
For most indoor conditions you want to target Bulbophyllums that fall in the “intermediate to warm” range. If you’re close to the equator and your home averages 25C+, then opt for “warm-to-hot” growers.
Bulbophyllum Care – Potting Mix / Medium
I use sphagnum moss and perlite (50:50)—and a very bottom layer of charcoal or straight perlite. If your humidity IS HIGH you could always mount it and have a fancy-looking orchid on bark…but up here in Canada where the weather is harsh and the winters are very dry, I don’t mount anything.
Humidity Requirements of Bulbophyllum
Despite the claim that they require high humidity, I’ve found my Bulbophyllum manage low humidity fine so long as I provide them the above-mentioned water-retentive medium and maintain consistent waterings. My humidity can be as low as 18%, but averages around 45-50 and I don’t notice any issues. I should note: sometimes on new plants that are establishing a root system the pseudobulb will shrivel, to mitigate this, I’ll soak them longer (20-30mins) during watering…
The key to keeping bulbos is to keep them moist between waterings. Water as the moss becomes dry—if the moss feels crispy/crunchy, you should have watered yesterday (and do so immediately), if the moss feels cool or damp to the touch, wait longer. For me, with the sphagnum moss and perlite mix, I only have to water once per week…BUT I NEVER SKIP A WEEK OF WATERING. Another trick to watering bulbos—let them sit in a tiny bit of water at each watering…or soak for 10 mins and fully drain.
Bulbophyllum Fragrance…or Smells?
Bulbos are renowned for their…unique smells here are some smells I’ve heard of (or experienced):
- Bulbophyllum cumingii (like earthy fish)
- Bulbophyllum fascinator (like garbage)
- Bulbophyllum lasiochilum (like candy)
- Bulbophyllum phalaenopsis (rotting meat/mice)
Bulbophyllum cumingii Photos
I grow in low humidity and this is 6-months of growth…I’m going to need to repot ASAP 🤷🏼♂️.