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Growing Orchids

Orchid Vocabulary

A good way to begin any new project is by learning the language associated with it, and growing orchids is no exception. Once you've mastered -- or at least had a look at -- this orchid vocabulary, you should feel more confident discussing your new plants, and you'll be better able to follow the instructions this article will present.

This fire coral dendrobium orchid is a rich example of the results you can achive when you start growing orchids.
Get inspired! Beautiful blooms like this fire coral dendrobium orchid
await when you begin your orchid-growing adventures.

AERIAL ROOT: an orchid root high on the plant stem or growing outside the pot.

This helpful drawing illustrates an orchid's aerial roots, flowers, and leaves.

ANTHER: the part of the flower that carries the pollen.

BACK BULB: an old pseudobulb, often without leaves, that can be encouraged to start growing again.

BOTANICALS: the name used for orchids species not too well known and not commercially grown for cut flowers.

BRACT: a modified leaf or leaves, often very colorful, that grows around flowers or stems in bromeliads.

CLONE: an individual plant and all its offspring that are reproduced by cuttings and by division rather than from seed.

COLUMN: the reproductive organ unique in the orchid family that contains both female and male parts.

DECIDUOUS: the losing of leaves at certain periods.

EPIPHYTE: a non-parasitic plant that grows perched high in the air or on other plants -- such as an orchid; roots are used for attaching the plant to a surface.

GENUS: a grouping of distinct but closely related species (plural is genera).

INFLORESCENCE: the flowering part of the plant.

KEIKI: an orchid offset; the Hawaiian word for baby.

These drawings label the different parts of an orchid's bloom.

LABELLUM: the orchid lip.

LEAD: the growth on sympodial orchids.

LIP or LABELLUM: a modified petal. In orchids, it is usually different from the other two petals.

MERISTEM: actively growing tissue in plants, usually at the tip of a stem or a root.

MONOCOTYLEDON: a plant that has only one seed leaf, such as bromeliads, orchids, and corn, rather than two, as in cabbages, roses, and beans.

This drawing illustrates a variety of different parts found on an orchid plant.

MONOPODIAL: a form of growth in orchids where the plant keeps growing from the tip; hard to divide.

OSMUNDA: the fibrous roots of osmunda ferns; used for potting bromeliads and orchids.

PETAL: the flower parts, often brightly colored, that are inside the sepals.

PISTIL: the seed-bearing organ of the flower.

PSEUDOBULB: a thickened bulblike stem.

PUP: a bromeliad offset.

RHIZOME: the horizontal, modified, rootlike stem.

SCAPE: a stalk that comes up from the ground and has no true leaves.

SEPAL: a part of the flower envelope; the outside of the flower.

SPECIES: a subdivision of genus. Plants in the same species have the same distinctive characteristics (plural is species).

SYMPODIAL: a form of growth in orchids where the plant produces new shoots that grow up from the root-bearing steam; easy to divide (see drawing at right).

TERETE LEAVES: the leaves that are circular in cross section.

TERRESTRIAL: a plant that naturally grows in the ground. In bromeliads and orchids, these plants have well-developed root systems.

VELAMEN: a thick, corky layer of cells that covers aerial roots and is able to condense moisture and absorb it.

Rather than commit all these terms to memory, keep this page bookmarked for handy reference and continue to the next page to learn about the temperatures orchids like to live in.

Check these resources to find more ideas and information on placing plants around your house:

  • Gardening: Whether it's vegetables, flowers, or foliage you're considering, the facts you'll need are here. Learn all the basics of successful gardening.
  • House Plants: Wondering what might look nice in your kitchen window? Find out which plants are happiest inside the house.