Masdevallias form the largest percentage of the genus Pleurothallis. The compact growing and sometimes colorful plants are found in a wide range of geographical locations starting in Mexico through South America. The climates that Masdevallia are found vary widely.
To generalize the culture of these jewels of the orchid world would be a profound injustice to their cultural habit. At Carter & Holmes we are forced to grow under extremely high humidity and very high heat. We have found some modest success controlling light and air movement during our sizzling summers.
To maintain the relatively stress free climate throughout the year, try to attain a night temperature of between 55 degrees to 60 degrees and a daytime temperature of 75 degrees to 80 degrees.
Water and humidity play a vital roll in good masdevallia culture. This group of orchids does not have pseudobulbs for storage of water and nutrition. Maintenance of a high humidity of 70% is vital. Good to excellent water quality is critical for good root formation. We can not stress these points more. Light amounts of fertilizer and ½ to ¼ strength every third time the plant is watered is beneficial.
It is critical to maintain a somewhat moist root system. Accidental drying of the medium is not harmful if you are experiencing low night temperatures. One of the drawbacks of maintaining such a moist root system is rapid breakdown of the potting medium. Frequent repotting is necessary. There are many mixes that are used for repotting. At Carter & Holmes we found Chilean sphagnum used exclusively in pots larger that 1-1/2” or 2” will sour and cause root loss. (Again, our high heat and humidity).
We use a mix as follows:
- 6 parts clean 1/8" x ¼" douglas fir bark
- 1 part sponge rock (#3 perlite)
- 1 part medium tree fern shredded
- ¾ part ground New Zealand or Chilean Sphagnum
- 1/3 part horticultural perlite
(Note: We only sell the components of this mix.)
Light and air movement go together and can work for or against the plants culture if not properly balanced. In nature this group of orchids experience medium to low light with good to almost rapid air movement. The rule of thumb here is the more light the greater the air movement. Up to 1500-foot candles is fine.
Care for Draculas and Dendrochilum are similar to above though most of these are grown in hanging containers.
Note: This guide is only applicable to Masdevallias. For other varieties, please click on one of these links: