Jewel orchid plants are very pretty specimens that people grow for their stunning marked foliage. Like a lot of orchids, jewel orchid care is specialized in order for your plants to flourish and survive. To care for your jewel orchid plant, you’ll need to consider the type of pot you have for it, the growing medium as it won’t do well in regular potting soil, and put it in a sheltered spot away from direct sunlight. This will prevent sun damage, and you have to be conscious of how you feed and water your jewel orchid plant to avoid root rot. We’ll outline all of the care requirements below.
Origin of Jewel Orchid Plants
Jewel orchid is a broad umbrella term that encompasses orchids with distinct markings on the foliage. Several species meet the classifications to be a jewel orchid, and they typically originate from the Pacific and southeast Asia. They are native to the Philippines, Indonesia, India, and Myanmar, but there are some jewel orchid plants that originate in eastern North America.
The rising popularity of these exotic plants for use as ornaments has depleted their numbers in the wild. To protect the jewel orchid plant, you should only buy them from a reputable seller.
Jewel Orchid Care Overview
People grow the jewel orchid plant for the beautiful foliage. They produce smaller white flowers with off-white coloring on the centers, and the striped foliage often steals the show. If you give them the right care, high humidity, and low light, these orchids can grow well placed in terrariums with several plants flourishing in a smaller space.
Jewel orchid plants are also terrestrial, and this means that they grow on the ground. This sets them apart from wild orchids that grow as epiphytes. The distinct feature of the jewel orchid plant implies that it falls into the orchid family, and this means it has strict care requirements.
Types of Jewel Orchid Plants
As a general rule, jewel orchids describe an orchid type with patterns on the leaves. Some varieties are native to southeast Asia, and you can find other ones growing in the eastern portion of North America. Specific types of jewel orchid plants require special care, so knowing which type you picked out will help you give them the best care to thrive. The most popular jewel orchids are:
This is an orchid genus that has very dark-colored leaves with contrasting veins. This genus is also known as the Marbled Jewel Orchid, and there are roughly 50 species in this category. They offer big velvety leaves with a purplish-brown or dark green color and reddish or silvery veins.
This tropical plant grows in Hawaii, Australia, New Guinea, Melanesia, China, and Southeast Asia, and they love to be in the shade. It requires more effort to maintain and grow, but it’s one of the easier types to try. The Hawaiian Jewel Orchid or Anoectochilus sandvicensis is vulnerable, locally referred to as Honohono, and it’s a critical part of the state’s flora.
Dossinia marmorata is the only orchid species in the Dossinia genus. This is a very rare jewel orchid plant, and you can find it growing in Borneo. It grows in the soil between leaf litter, moss, and rocks, and it offers greenish-black leaves with pink, gold, or yellowish-green veins.
This is one of the biggest jewel orchid plant genres, and it has over 100 species to date. You may hear it called the Jade Orchid. Each member of this genera has tiny white flowers. The green leaves have light green or white veins, and there are sticky hairs all over the plant. This genus grows in Madeira, Mozambique, Europe, Australia, Central and North America, and the islands in the Pacific Ocean to the western Indian Ocean.
This genus also has one species called Ludisia discolor. This jewel orchid plant features darker green leaves with bright red veins. This orchid is the most famous of the jewel orchids, and for very good reason. They tend to be more resilient, easier, and very beginner-friendly. These plants are native to Laos, Vietnam, China, Sumatra, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand. There are several variations of this jewel orchid plant you can get, including:
- Ludisia dawsonia
- Ludisia discolor var. ordiana
- Ludisia discolor ‘Alba’
- Ludisia discolor ‘Nigrescens‘
Jewel Orchid Care Requirements
To grow jewel orchid plants, you’ll have to try to replicate the rainforest conditions where they grow. This means humidity, warmer temperatures, and sunlight. The essential factors for jewel orchid care are as follows:
Jewel orchid plants are self-sufficient, but you can add a small amount of plant food to supplement their nutrition and help them be as productive as possible. You can add a regular orchid mix once a month or a few times a year, depending on the needs of your plant. Use your fertilizers sparingly for correct jewel orchid care, and try to use a liquid fertilizer when you do apply it in very accurate measurements.
Consider getting a fertilizer that has a 7-5-6 ratio instead of the traditional orchid flower food because it has a higher concentration of phosphorus to encourage the plant to bloom. You want to dilute it correctly and apply it in small doses. Try to avoid getting it on the leaves and give it small amounts to prevent chemical burns.
If you get a good balance for watering, you may not have to worry about maintaining the humidity levels as part of your jewel orchid care routine. Consider avoiding misting the plant to help boost the humidity because it only improves it temporarily and increases your risks of fungal infections. House plants, including jewel orchid plants, usually enjoy humidity levels between 50% and 70%.
Comfortable humidity levels allow your plant to lose heat and photosynthesize. If the conditions stay not favorable, the leaves will lose chlorophyll and burn. Houseplants need more humidity during the vegetative growth cycle, but you may want to slow down when it flowers to reduce bud rot. Your bathroom might not seem like the best location for your plant, but the humidity in here may just be enough to encourage healthy growth. Consider placing your jewel orchid plant in the bathroom on a shelf.
Plants require light to produce food, but how much light they need varies for each plant. Contrary to popular belief, jewel orchids won’t grow well in gloomy, dark areas. As part of good jewel orchid care, they need a decent amount of light to grow correctly. Jewel orchids also won’t grow well with direct sunlight exposure, so you want to put them away from the windows. A north-facing room or another location that is shielded from direct sunlight is a great choice. There’s a trick to ensure they’re getting enough sunlight, and we’ll touch on that next.
Put your hand over your jewel orchid plant. If you don’t see shadows, your plant isn’t getting enough light. If your hand casts a dark, strong shadow, the light is far too intense. You’re trying to get a light shadow as this tells you that you have the perfect light for it to grow. These plants respond very positively to LED growth lights set to a medium intensity for up to 12 hours a day. The artificial lights will help your plants stay healthy, especially if you live in a climate that doesn’t get enough sunlight or has darker winter months.
You’ll have to keep an eye out for clues to your plant’s needs while you learn jewel orchid care. If you see it starting to grow in a specific direction, it’s not getting enough sunlight and it’s reaching for more light. If you’re planning to plant your jewel orchid outside, put it in a sheltered spot to save it from scorching from the sun.
Soil or Growth Media
The first thing to note about jewel orchid care is the soil or growth media. Unlike a lot of cultivated orchids, these ones aren’t terrestrial, so they require soil to grow. Common orchids are epiphytes, and they usually get grown from the side of another plant. This explains why jewel orchid plants won’t do well if you plant them in a regular orchid mix that has mostly orchid bark. A few other suitable growing mediums for these plants include:
One growing media that is suitable for your jewel orchid plant is a layered substrate. You’ll create layers of different substrates for this plant. You could put a top layer of sphagnum moss followed by a layer of perlite and bark mix, and use a gravel or sand substrate for the base.
Orchid Mud Mix
This mix has 50% perlite and 50% peat moss. The perlite allows you to reduce how dense the media is and promotes circulation. This is a relatively dense growing medium, so you have to pay close attention when you use it as part of your jewel orchid care. Water it only when the top layer dries out. Persistently overwatering this plant with this medium would place the root system in a wet environment and increase the chances of root rot. Most jewel orchids thrive in this medium if you get the hang of watering it.
You can also get a mix of 20% bark, 30% perlite, and 50% sphagnum moss. It’s less dense than the other one, but you’ll need to water it a lot to keep your plant thriving. You have to pay close attention to the root system and ensure that they never dry out between watering sessions. You might want to water them every other day until you figure out a watering schedule.
There are a few different growing mediums or substrates you can use to grow your orchids, so you may have to experiment to find the perfect fit for your plant. Orchid Soil by Mark HCJ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
As the name suggests, this one was only sphagnum moss. When it dries, it needs a bit of effort to refresh it, so it’s essential that you never allow it to dry out. You want to keep it moist without soaking it. If you see the moss starts to dry out between watering sessions, mist it lightly. It gets more compact as it ages, and this makes the chances of root rot go up. To reduce this chance, repot your jewel orchid plant every 8 to 10 months. It work well with Ludisia orchids because they need more airy growing conditions.
Most jewel orchid plants are comfortable at room temperature. They grow in tropical regions, so you may have to invest in ways of keeping them warm if the temperature dips below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. At the same time, you don’t want to get them too warm, so don’t put them right in front of a radiator or heater. During the winter, put your plant at least four feet away from the heat source in your house. The most comfortable temperature for this plant is between 61 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit.
Jewel orchids need to be hydrated. Remember, in their natural habitat, they get enough water as it’s a rainforest. At the same time, this plant won’t tolerate the roots sitting in water. Soggy roots can lead to root rot, and your plant will eventually die. Check your growing medium every day as part of your jewel orchid care routine to ensure that the roots aren’t soaked or drying out and water them accordingly. Dry roots can cause your orchid to wilt and die.
As a general rule, water your jewel orchid plants every time you find the topsoil drying out. Consider using distilled water that is at room temperature instead of tap water as this can have heavy minerals in it that cause nutrient overload. During the winter, you should reduce how often you water your plant. There are two techniques you can use to water your jewel orchid plant, and they include:
- Top Down – Generously pour your water right at the root system on your jewel orchids and into the growing medium from the top. You’ll want to lift the foliage to avoid getting water on them. If your foliage gets wet, use a towel to pat them dry.
- Bottom Up – Put your potted orchid on a tray of water and let the water climb up your jewel orchid plant’s roots from the bottom. This is a very useful method if you’re using a classic orchid mix that has sphagnum moss. This medium tends to dry out quicker, and using a watering tray will reduce how often you have to water it. You’ll need to flush your pot periodically from the top down to flush out the minerals.
Repotting Jewel Orchid Plants
Generally, jewel orchid plants grow over the surface instead of below it, so you’ll want to get a very shallow, wide pot for it. Giving them fresh potting mix allows more nutrients in while promoting good airflow. Consider repotting your plant once a year or when it starts to show signs of distress. If you’re not sure if your plant needs to be repotted or not, the following can be good indicators:
- Brown Shoots or Falling Leaves – If it’s been a while since you repotted your orchid, you may notice that the roots start to retain more water and look brown and soft. The plant may start losing leaves too. Soggy roots are at a greater risk for fungal infections.
- Last Repotting Session – When did you last repot your orchid? You should repot them once a year. If you’ve gone over this mark, check for signs of distress and repot it as necessary.
- Tangled Roots – Tangled roots are a big sign that you have to repot the plan to give it extra growing room. They’ll appreciate being in a bigger pot.
Now that you know what indicators to look for with your jewel orchid plant, we’ll walk you through how to repot them.
- Pick out your preferred growing medium and soak it for 24 hours in water.
- Gently take your plant out from the pot and look at the roots. Trim off any dead or dying sections you see.
- Fill your new container with your growing medium.
- Put the main stem into the center of the pot and put the other stems into the pot as well.
- Cover the roots with your soil mix and water it generously.
Propagation for Jewel Orchid Care
You can propagate your plants as part of your jewel orchid care routine using asexual reproduction. A few techniques include:
- Air Layering – If there are leggy stems on your plant, consider creating new offspring with this method. Give the branch a small wound, apply rooting hormone, wrap it with sphagnum moss, and seal it until the roots form.
- Offshoot Separation – You might have to carefully remove your plant from the pot and carefully separate an offshoot from the parent plant. The offshoots can then go into a separate pot.
- Rhizome Cuttings – Go along the surface and cut off a few creeping rhizomes. Each section should have one growth node, and replant the rhizomes into the soil very lightly.
- Stem Cuttings – The stems on your plants are very fragile, and you can easily break them off. Cut a fair length of stem, dip it into rooting hormone, and put it into the soil. In a few months, you’ll see signs of growth.
Make a note to ensure that you use sterile equipment when you make your cuts to limit infection or disease spread. Dip the tools in rubbing alcohol between cuts to sterilize them.
Pruning as Part of Jewel Orchid Care
Pruning is necessary to keep your jewel orchids looking nice and tidy. You’ll want to snip away any dead, old leaves to keep it looking nice and the plant healthy. If the plant is starting to overgrow past the pot, pruning it will help keep it the desired size and shape.
Jewel Orchid Care During Winter
As a general rule, these plants adore warm weather, so it shouldn’t surprise you that they require special attention during winter. If your jewel orchid is outside, you want to bring it inside when the temperatures fall below 55.4 degrees Fahrenheit to keep it warm. Place them a minimum of four feet from the heat source.
You also want to adjust your watering schedule. To be safe, start by watering when the topsoil dries out. If you have limited sunlight, you’ll need to substitute artificial light for sunlight to keep the leaves looking nice. You also want to improve humidity levels. You can move it to the bathroom to help combat the drier winter air.
Jewel Orchid Care Problems
There are several issues you could run into with jewel orchid care, and we’ll outline the biggest ones below.
Bleached Crispy Leaves
You need to shield your jewel orchid from the direct sunlight to help them stay pretty. Persistent exposure to direct sunlight on the foliage can cause the leaves to lose some of the chlorophyll and get a bleached look. This will eventually lead to scorch or leaf burn. You can quickly fix this by moving your plant into a shaded area. Remember to try the shadow test to figure out if your plant is getting enough sunlight or not.
Striking a balance during watering is critical. Your plant requires water but not a huge amount. If you’re trying to prevent overwatering, you may under-water it. Not watering it enough could cause dry roots, and these roots get stunted and slow your plant’s growth. As a rule, water it each time you observe the topsoil starting to dry out. Next, set up a watering schedule for your plant.
It can be very challenging to keep your jewel orchid healthy, so you should make a point to monitor the root system to ensure it doesn’t get too wet or dry out. Jewel Orchid Roots by cskk / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
If you like how the flowers look alongside the pretty foliage, we understand why you’d be upset if your plant didn’t flower over the winter months. You may have to consider your general jewel orchid care during the active growing months. They have to get adequate feed, sunlight, and water during the active growing phase to have the plant flower during the winter months.
If you’re positive that your jewel orchid care was top-notch during this period, your plant could need some stress to encourage it to flower. Consider moving it to a slightly cooler spot, further away from the sun, or reduce how often you water to see how your plant reacts.
Overwatering is the biggest problem with jewel orchid care you can have. It’s easy to see why beginners tend to drench their plants as they’re native to rainforests. Unfortunately, drenching your plant can lead to fungal infections and root rot. Root rot is a very bad situation that can easily kill your plant, and it’s very challenging to fix. If you see soggy roots, bud blast, or soft, pleated yellow leaves, you’re overwatering your plants. To address this issue and potentially save your plant, you should:
- Repot – If you don’t see a huge amount of damage to your plant’s roots, you should repot it in fresh soil mix.
- Cut Damaged Roots – if you see damaged or dead roots, you’ll use sterilized equipment to cut off the damaged sections and repot it in fresh, dry soil.
- Adjust and Review the Watering Schedule – Adjust your watering schedule to protect your plant from future issues. You should also consider switching up the humidity and temperature too. Root rot and water damage can also result from temperatures that are too low too.
When it comes to pests, prevention is key for your jewel orchid care. You’ll want to routinely inspect your plant for pests. Detecting any infestations early means you can deal with them promptly and nurse your plant back to health. A few common pest problems include:
Pests can easily cusk the sap out of your plant and cause them to have curled leaves and be dehydrated. If you spot a pest problem, remember that you have a fragile plant, so you’ll need to use gentle means to control them.
The best way to control any pests is to dab at them with an alcohol-soaked towel. Another common thing you can do for jewel orchid care for pests is to hose the plant down. Pressured water can flush the pests from the plant. You can manually remove them too or apply neem oil. It’s also a good idea to isolate an infected plant to prevent the pests from spreading.
Every house plant you have is at risk for developing white mold due to very limited ventilation. You may see this cotton-like fluff around the roots or in the soil. It’s very easy to fix, and all you have to do is rake out any infected soil. You’ll also want to take steps to improve airflow. Consider moving your plant closer to a window but keep it out of direct sunlight.
Jewel orchids are a very nice addition to your living space. Now you know all about proper jewel orchid care, and you can buy one with confidence. Remember, you want to shield your plant from direct sunlight but make sure they get enough sun, water them only as needed when the topsoil is dry, feed them a few times a year, and give them a nicely humid and warm growing environment. Doing all of this can help ensure that your plant stays healthy and thriving for years.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.