Dendrobium speciosum – The King of orchids
Dendrobium speciosum is a simply spectacular lithophyte type orchid from the coastal mountain ranges of Australia. Sometimes known as the King of Orchids or ‘Sydney Rock Orchid’, this is not a difficult difficult orchid to grow given appropriate conditions.
Found naturally in the coastal forest regions of eastern Australia from Queensland through to East Gippsland in Victoria. This is a large growing lithophyte or occasionally, epiphyte depending on location.
With such a wide natural range, a large number of sub-species are identified. Just to confuse the average gardener, Dendrobium speciosum has recently been reclassified as Thelychiton speciosus. And it lives up to its name, the second part means beautiful.
Easily identified by large dark green leaves and huge flower spikes (see picture right) often to over 1m, and flowering in late winter to spring Dendrobium speciosum is a spectacular Orchid.
It is sought after by orchid lovers around the world. Now grown in many countries, including southern Europe and America it is mainly the hybrids that we see for sale.
Being an orchid that naturally grows on rocks (lithophytes), it also like an open position with good sun for at least part of the day.
Sun is important for good flowering as is appropriate watering.
Generally watering should be less in winter and more during spring through summer. The root system is best if slightly damp. Watering does differ according to sub species.
D. speciosum do not like constantly wet root systems and are best grown in a specialist orchid potting mix or perhaps in a constructed rock formation where the roots may be pushed between rocks. Filtered light with part sun and good air circulation are beneficial.
Given that this is an easy plant to grow, and a beautiful orchid when in full flower the question is, why so rare in cultivation?
The answer is it can take 7 to 12 years to flower, so the commercial growers who only wish to pump out plants as quickly as possible do not bother much, but this wonderful orchid is well worth the wait.
If you are growing these as potted specimens, you must maintain a small pot size, the plant grows best when the roots are constricted. This may mean repotting every 12 months. We suggest using a mix with 33% rock, granite chips if you can find them.
With many sub species and numerous hybrids we list a few of the more popular forms.
- Dendrobium speciosum var. Speciosum ‘National White’ is one of the star cultivars and it has been around for nearly 50 years.
Wonderful white flowers and masses of them in the typical ‘foxtail’ type form.
- Dendrobium speciosum var. curvicaule ‘Daylight Moon’ is used widely as a parent plant for many cultivars. It is not only beautiful when in flower it is also hardy and easy care.
- Dendrobium speciosum grandiflorum tends to have more intense colour than most other sub species.
- Dendrobium speciosum var. hillii is another variety to look for, although somewhat more difficult to grow.
Dendrobium speciosum Varieties include:
D. speciosum var. speciosum
D.speciosum var. blackdownense
D. speciosum var. boreale
D. speciosum var. capricornicum
D. speciosum var. carnarvonense
D. speciosum var. compactum
D. speciosum var. curvicaule
D. speciosum var. grandiflorum
D. speciosum var. hillii
D. speciosum var; pedunculatum