Learning the different terms used in this orchid hobby can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many words to wrap your head around, and I personally find it quite hard to remember them unless they are written down. There lies the inspiration behind this page – new terms will be added as my own knowledge expands.

Aerial Root – Typically seen in Phalaenopsis orchids, these roots grow into the air around the orchid. Aerials roots on epiphytic orchids can act as a backup system if the main root system is damaged or destroyed in some way.

Bi-foliate – An orchid with two leaves at the top of each new pseudo-bulb, such as a Cattleya orchid.

Desiccate – An orchid will demonstrate signs of dehydration and begin to lose moisture. Commonly seen in pseudo-bulbs that can severely wrinkle if left without water.

Dividing / Division – The process of separating a group of pseudo-bulbs or canes from the larger plant. Generally, orchids should be divided into clusters of three or more pseudo-bulbs to provide the each plant with a greater chance of survival after the separation.

Epiphyte – A type of orchid that grows in trees in its natural environment.

Hybrid – An orchid that has been bred from two or more orchid species.

Hydroton – A clay based man-made media usually in pellet form. This inorganic material is not as absorbent as Seramis.

Keiki – (Pronounced Kay-kee) From the Hawaiian for ‘baby’, a keiki is produced by an orchid as a means of ensuring its survival. Keikis are common on Dendrobium and Phalaenopsis orchids.

Lithophyte – An orchid that lives on thin layers of debris on rocks.

Media – The material in which the orchid is potted, for example bark chips or sphagnum moss. You can use organic (bark chips) or inorganic media (Hydroton or Seramis).

Mericlone – A plant (especially an orchid) that has been cloned via meristem propagation.

Meristem propagation – Creating clones of an orchid using a sample of its tissue. This is used when it would be difficult to reproduce a particular orchid through seedling propagation.

Monopodial – This refers to a growth pattern demonstrated by orchids that have a single stem from which all their structures grow, such as a Phalaenopsis or Vanda.

Node – An area on an orchid from which leaves or flower spikes can grow. By way of example, on a Phalaenopsis flower spike you will see it is made up of sections that are broken up by ‘bumps’. These are nodes, and can produce a secondary flower spike or sometimes a keiki.

Pseudo-bulb – A bulb-like structure that stores water and nutrients for certain types of orchids. ‘Pseudo’ means ‘fake’.

Rhizome – A horizontal ‘stem’ that grows continuously at soil level, creating roots and side shoots that develop into pseudo-bulbs. This structure is found in sympodial orchids.

Root rot – As the name suggests, this type of rot affects the roots. It is caused when roots are in wet media for long periods of time with little or no ventilation. The root structure begins to break down and they begin to decompose.

Seedling – An orchid that has been grown from seed. Seedlings take several years to develop into mature plants.

Seramis – A clay based man-made media that can be purchased in different sized chunks. It is highly absorbent and retains moisture longer than bark chips.

Species – A category of orchid that is taken directly from its natural environment and has not been altered or ‘created’ by humans.

Stem Rot – A type of rot that affects the stem of monopodial orchids (i.e. Phalaenopsis). It is caused by water accumulation on the stem which eventually causes the tissue of the plant to rot and turn black.

Sympodial – A type of orchid that has a linear growth pattern, typically possessing pseudo-bulbs or canes such as an Oncidium or Dendrobium.

Terrestrial – An orchid that grows in the soil in its natural environment.

Uni-foliate – An orchid with one leaf at the top of each new pseudo-bulb, as with some Cattleya orchids.

Velamen – The absorbent spongy outer protective coating on orchid roots. The function remains the same in any orchid, but the thickness of the root may vary.