Logan and District Orchid Society  -  Bulbophyllum Orchids


Bulbophyllum is the largest genus in the orchid family Orchidaceae. With more than 2,000 species, it is also one of the largest genera of flowering plants, exceeded only by Astragalus. This genus is abbreviated in the trade journals as Bulb.

This genus was first described by Louis-Marie Aubert du Petit-Thouars (botanical abbreviation Thouars) in his book Histoire particulière des plantes orchidées recueillies sur les trois Iles Australes d’Afrique, de France, de Bourbon et de Madagascar, describing 17 Bulbophyllum species. There are now more than 2,800 records (accepted names and synonyms) for this genus.

The centre of diversity of this genus is in the montane forests of Papua New Guinea (more than 600 species) which seems to be the evolutionary homeland, though the genus is pan-tropical and widespread and  is found throughout most of the warmer parts of the world.


The general characteristics for this genus are : single-noded pseudobulbs, the basal inflorescence and the mobile lip. This genus covers an incredible range of vegetative forms, from tall plants with cane-like stems, to root climbers that wind or creep their way up tree trunks. Other members are pendulous epiphytes, and quite a number that have developed succulent foliage to a greater or lesser degree. Some species are lithophytic. One species has almost become leafless and uses its pseudobulbs as the organs of photosynthesis.

These orchids with a sympodial growth have rhizomatous stems with often angled pseudobulbs. The thin to leathery leaves are folded lengthwise


The fabulous and bizarre species that comprise this large genus have been the focus of orchid collectors for over a century. The plants require high humidity combined with good air movement and most of them are ever-blooming - flowering continuously throughout the year. They grow best at moderate light levels, but do not in deep shade. They are considered moderate to difficult in cultivation, and require a controlled growing environment to achieve some degree of success. They are not typically suitable as houseplants, and most will not thrive in a Wardian case (an early version of the terrarium) unless they receive adequate air movement.

The plants' growth habit produces widely spaced pseudobulbs along cord-like rhizome sections, and most of these plants are best accommodated on plaques. Some species in this genus can get very large, but most are small to medium-sized epiphytes from warm, moist, humid tropical forests. They can grow continuously year round with no apparent dormancy period if they are kept warm, are moderate feeders in cultivation, and must be kept moist all the time. They can tolerate dryness for short periods, but they have fine root systems which require moist conditions all the time.

Some of the smaller species do well in pots with small-diameter bark substrate. The plants produce very fine roots generally, and the roots are easily damaged. The plants react poorly to disturbance of their roots. They are easy to maintain once a good environment is established with high humidity and a fresh, buoyant, lightly circulating atmosphere being critical. Most of these species cannot tolerate cold temperatures or freezing.


The ideal day temperature is 20o-30o C, while the ideal night temperature is 16o-18o C . Occasional temperature extremes are tolerated if exposure is not prolonged.

Bulbophyllum enjoy full morning sun, but will require shading between 11am and 3pm - less shading will be needed in late afternoon. An overhead light source is most effective.

 Bulbophyllum grow best when their potting medium becomes dry between waterings. They are epiphytes in Nature,  and are accustomed to becoming fairly dry between the rains of their natural habitat. Some types may require a time of drought to initiate flowering.


 Bulbophyllum  enjoy moist air, requiring a minimum of 50-60% humidity in the immediate vicinity of the plant. Humidity should be increased with higher temperatures. The ideal humidity is between 60% and 85%, with as much ventilation or air movement as possible without any cold drafts. Humidity can be increased around the plant by placing the pot on an inverted saucer in a baking pan filled with pebbles, rock chips, etc., and water. Keep water level below top of pebbles so that the plant will not have "wet feet" from setting in water. Morning misting of foliage is also helpful, especially during periods of hot weather

Feeding & Repot

High nitrogen fertilizers should be used from August until January, while low nitrogen fertilizers should be used from February until July. Feed (at 1/4 strength once a week).

Repot every two to three years from August to January with a well-draining medium. Fine bark is suitable in mild summer climates, while a finer medium Orchid Mix works well in warmer summer areas.The flowers produce various odours resembling sap, urine, blood, dung, carrion, and, in some species, fragrant fruity aromas. Most are fly-pollinated, and attract hordes of flies. Bulbophyllum beccarii in bloom has been likened to smelling like a herd of dead elephants and both this species and Bulbophyllum fletcherianum are variously described as making it difficult to walk into a greenhouse in which they are being cultivated if the plants are in bloom because of their overpowering floral odours.

Thelymitra ixioides

Spotted Sun Orchid

Elanbee Orchids Bulbophyllum Culture Sheet

Queensland Orchid Society - Bulbophyllum pages

Bulbophyllum Orchid Care - Carter & homes Orchids


Bulbophyllum nocturnum was recently discovered on the island of New Britain (part of Papua New Guinea) and is the first known orchid with flowers that consistently open at night and close during the day.

Bulbophyllum medusae

Photocredit: www.orchids4u.co.il

Bulbophyllum frostii

Photo credit: en.wikicommons.org

Bulbophyllum macranthum

Photo credit: Orchids.wikia.com

Bulbophyllum falcatum var. velutinum (Lindl.) J.J.Verm.

Photo credit: www.orchid-africa.net/espece_detail.asp?