Guest Author - Susan Taylor
Ludisia discolor is the most common member of a small group of orchids known as Jewel Orchids which refers to their beautiful leaves. They are one of the only members of the orchid family with truly beautiful leaves.
Ludisia discolor is often sold in nurseries and you may be able to locate a plant in the house plant section of your local garden center. Very often they are not even labeled as orchids.
They are a terrestrial in nature and native to India, Southeast Asia and Indonesia. Although the plants bear small white flowers these are not the reason the plants are grown. They are mainly grown for their velvety leaves. Although there are several color variations, they usually are a dark, reddish black veined in gold. The growth pattern forms clusters of leaves in a rosette. The plants grow about 10 inches tall and the flower stems grow approximately 12 inches tall and will produce numerous small white flowers.
Various combinations of terrestrial potting mix or a combination of terrestrial and bark potting mix can be successfully used. In regular potting mix, peat moss, sphagnum moss, sand and small gravel can be added to the soil to ensure good drainage. They have no pseudobulbs and require even moisture. Too much light and the leaf color will start to fade and humidity must be kept high to keep the fleshy leaves in good condition.
Easy propagation is another advantage in growing the Ludisia discolor. Cuttings of the fleshy stems can be started in fresh potting soil or in a small container of water and will take root and grow quite quickly.
Two other genera in the Jewel orchid family are the Goodyera and the Macodes both of which grow under similar conditions. A grouping of members of these three families produces a wonderful background for any kind of flowers.