dendrobium spectabile - the alien orchid (baby clara)
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Dendrobium Spectabile is a Latouria type of Dendrobium orchid that is found as an epiphyte and sometimes as a lithophyte in the lowland swamps and mangrove forests of the jungle.

Dendrobium Spectabile long lasting flowers

We have prepared this holistic cultivation guide to help you know all about the ideal care for Dendrobium Spectabile.

What Is Dendrobium Spectabile?

Dendrobium Spectabile is an epiphytic orchid native to Australia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. It comes in different varieties such as Dendrobium Spectabile “Big Devil” and Dendrobium Spectabile “Tickle.”

Some of its common names include the Grand Dendrobium, Latouria spectabilis, Callista spectabilis, the Alien orchid, and Sayeria spectabilis. Friedrich Anton Wilhelm Miquel described it first in 1859.

– Size and Growth

Dendrobium Spectabile is neither obtained from the wild nor is it a hybrid. It is cultivated through propagation, seed propagation and cloning. It is a medium to large-sized orchid that grows in the rainforests as an epiphyte.

It is found in the lower elevations in the wild. It produces canes like other Dendrobium orchids that are thin at the base and plump up towards the upper part. Flower spikes emerge from the upper nodes. 

Dendrobium Spectabile is a sympodial orchid and, like other Dendrobium orchids, it produces canes that sprout from rhizomes. But it belongs to a peculiar family of Dendrobium orchids, called Latouria.

Healthy canes look thick and plump and have a reddish-brown color. New canes arise from the bottom of the plant. It produces one cane per year and each cane takes about nine months to mature. After it matures, in good conditions, it produces a flower spike.

This plant can get quite large, with the height varying between 12 and 48 inches. The cane length varies between 13 and 16 inches. You can propagate it using Dendrobium Spectabile seeds, but it is very difficult to do it at home.

– Foliage

Dendrobium Spectabile has showy leaves that have a bright green color. The leaves are thick and fleshy and remain bright green for quite a few years. Each cane has around four leaves at the top. The foliage is similar to that of the Dendrobium Phalaenopsis in texture. 

– Flowers

Dendrobium Spectabile flowers arise from a flower spike and look wild with thin and curled petals and sepals. They have broad and curled lips. The blooms also have a mild and soft fragrance like the spring flowers. The flowers are about 3 inches vertically and 1.5 inches horizontally.

The curliness of its sepals and petals is one of its distinct features. The petals have a pointed tip. The lip has a veining brown or burgundy shade. It can have a yellow or white background. The flowers have a honey-like fragrance and it gets stronger with high humidity and bright light conditions. Each cane continues to produce flowers for several years.

The flowers usually bloom in late winter and spring. But they can also bloom late in the fall. Each one of the 8 to 16 inches long inflorescences carries 10 to 20 flowers that come in different colors, from cream and white to mahogany and purple.

People find its honey-like fragrance quite attractive. It may take four to five years for a Dendrobium Spectabile to flower and it takes seven to 10 years for it to fully mature. Some varieties can flower in two to three years.

– Roots 

The roots of Dendrobium Spectabile are not white or green. They are brown, so do not cut them off thinking that they have died: it is just how they normally look!

 

Dendrobium Spectabile Care: Its Growth Requirements

By looking at its distinct appearance, if you think you cannot grow Dendrobium Spectabile, you are wrong. Follow our care tips to learn about Dendrobium Spectabile culture.

– Light Requirements

Similar to the Cattleya orchids, Dendrobium Spectabile likes bright light conditions. The leaves have a healthy bright green shade when kept in bright light. A south-facing window works well for its growth.

Provide curtain filtered sunlight at noon to protect the leaves from burning. They can survive full sun but, if the sunlight is too harsh in your area, avoid keeping them directly exposed to the light. Bright spots with sufficient air movement work well for their growth.

If you are planning to keep them in direct sun, make sure that the sun is not too harsh. Shift the plant gradually so that it gets time to acclimatize to the bright light conditions. Along with bright light, maintain good air circulation.

– Water Requirements

Dendrobium Spectabile does not like to dry out completely in between waterings. The canes shrivel and become thin when the soil medium is dry. So ensure that you water your plant abundantly during the growing season.

It likes to be watered well and also likes soil mediums that dry out quickly. Continuous watering during the growing season helps in promoting new growth and more blooms.

If you live in a cooler area, reduce watering when it gets cold. Water does not evaporate so fast in cooler temperatures. Keep the soil evenly moist as it cannot tolerate drought-like conditions. The canes should be plump and thick. If the canes become thin and shriveled, it is because the plant is dehydrated.

Water them every two to three days in the summertime if your area is hot and dry and once a week if the humidity is high. They do not like to be soggy for long. In the wintertime, they do not like to have moist soil for longer periods as it can cause root rot.

– Soil Mix

Dendrobium Spectabile needs an airy and well-draining soil mix to grow well. Use chunky, medium-thick bark chips if you are planting your orchid in a pot. You can add perlite or charcoal for extra drainage.

To further improve drainage, you can also add lava rocks to the medium. Add sphagnum moss to keep the soil mix moist. Sphagnum moss is optional in tropical and humid areas, but it works well in hot areas with dry air. 

The pseudobulbs are quite thick at the top and thin at the base. So be careful of this weak point. Make a support system to stabilize the canes when the plant is in bloom. It can fall easily without support as it can get quite heavy.

The plant blooms the best when it is in a pot or container. It likes to be root bound for a couple of years. As the plant gets bigger, it is better to shift them to clay or terracotta pots. A 10 to 12 inches long pot may be required for bigger plants.

Clay pots are better at balancing the top-heavy plants. Avoid using fine bark chips, as they can cause drainage problems. Thick bark chips work better at making the soil mix fast-draining. 

Dendrobium Spectabile is also grown on tree ferns and cork. However, mounted plants need more water than potted ones. We would recommend not growing them mounted if the air is dry in your area and prefer pots instead.

– Temperature

Dendrobium Spectabile enjoys warm temperatures. It is a hot-growing orchid and does not need a winter rest period.

They do tolerate cooler temperatures but cannot stay happy for long in the cold. It is a thermophilic plant and prefers an average daytime temperature between 84 and 89 degrees Fahrenheit and an average nighttime temperature of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

The slight difference between the day and night temperatures helps in initiating flowering. The winter temperatures of tropical and subtropical areas help in the blooming. 

– Humidity

Dendrobium Spectabile thrives in a humid medium. In the wild, it grows well in humidity levels above 75 to 80 percent. But it can tolerate lower levels as well. Try to maintain humidity levels higher than 50 or 60 percent.

If the air in your area is dry, keep humidifiers and humidity trays around the plant to keep the humidity levels at a satisfactory level. Prepare a humidity tray by filling a shallow tray with some pebbles and water. Keep the pot above the tray and, as the water evaporates, the plant will receive the required humidity.

– Fertilizer

Regular fertilizing from spring to late summer helps the plant to produce more blooms. Reduce fertilization of your orchid during the winter season, when the growth slows down a bit. You do not have to stop fertilizing the orchid in winter, as it does not need a dry rest period.

Use one-fourth to one-half of the recommended dose on a liquid orchid fertilizer. Apply it once every week or two weeks for the best growth. In winter, reduce the fertilizing to once a month.

Repotting Dendrobium Spectabile

Dendrobium Spectabile does not need frequent repotting. It likes to be root bound for a few years. It can stay in the same pot for five to seven years. So repot your plant when it has taken over the entire pot and there is no more space for it to grow. It can be done at any time when you notice the growth of new roots.

Before repotting, clean the plant roots and cut off the dead roots. Remove the old, decomposed soil mix and prepare a new medium. To prepare a new soil mix, use any thick bark chips combined with perlite or charcoal to make a well-draining medium. Use peat moss or fine bark chips if it gets too dry in your area.

Use a pot one size bigger than the previous one. Put some lava rocks at the bottom and fill the pot with the bark chips mix. Gently place the plant in the new medium and keep it in shade for a few days before it adjusts to the new environment. It should be good for another three to four years.

If your plant is large and has multiple growths, you can divide them and plant them in separate pots. Each division should have at least three to four canes. After repotting, do not water the plant for about a week and let it adjust in the new soil medium. Resume watering after seven to 10 days.

dendrobium spectabile - the alien orchid (baby clara)

Conclusion

To care for Dendrobium Spectabile is not too difficult, especially if you live in a warm area. The intricate blooms are its main attraction. If you are a fan of funky-looking flowers, this orchid is for you and should be a part of your plant collection. 

We have summed up all the crucial points you need to keep in mind before growing it. 

  • Dendrobium Spectabile is an epiphytic orchid native to Papua New Guinea. It has the most unusual-looking flowers that come in various colors.
  • Its growth pattern is sympodial, meaning it produces new growth from the base of the canes, from the rhizomes.  
  • It prefers bright, shady conditions to grow well, it enjoys direct sunlight in the morning and evening. It is a warm and wet grower and needs warm temperatures to thrive.
  • Water these orchids abundantly in the growing season and allow them to dry out in between waterings.
  • Use a fast-draining mix of bark chips and perlite to grow these orchids in pots.
  • The structure of these orchids is such that it is better to grow them in pots and containers instead of mounting over tree ferns and cork.
  • It grows well in humidity levels higher than 50 to 60 percent.
  • Fertilize your orchid evenly and regularly during the growing season and slow down in winter.
  • These orchids do not need a dry winter rest period but they do slow down their growth in winter. So cut back on watering and fertilizing. Light, watering, fertilizing, and humidity should be higher in summer.
  • Repot your plant every three to four years when it has taken over the pot and the old medium begins to decompose.

Add these distinct yet elegant flowers to your orchid collection. The fragrance is very mild and perfect for you if you want a non-fragrant orchid.

We hope our guide has helped you know how to grow these twisted orchids and you get one for yourself. You may love it or hate it, but you can never ignore this unusual-looking flower.