The jewel orchid is more famous for its foliage than its flowers.
But that doesn’t mean you won’t be sublimely impressed with its flowers. Sweet and petite white flower buds with a bold yellow center make them stunners.
Those blooms are numerous and last 4-6 weeks, too! Winding in tiny bouquets, I counted 22 tiny flowers on my plant!
Unlike the flowers we traditionally think of as orchids, the jewel orchid is eye-popping year-round even when not in bloom.
The jewel orchid just might become the crown jewel of your plant collection. Native to the tropics, jewel orchids have a way of taking you on vacay.
And yes, if I’m being 100% honest, this isn’t the plant or orchid for beginners. The natural habitat of the jewel orchid or Ludisia discolor must always be considered. Failure to do so will result in a dead plant. I’ve done it myself.
But that’s how I know how not to kill a jewel orchid. Practice makes perfect.
Here’s how I found success with the jewel orchid!
How not to kill your jewel orchid
The easiest way to not kill your jewel orchid is to use the right potting mixture. Regular potting mix won’t do the trick.
In a regular potting mix, the roots of the jewel orchid end up rotting, predicting the plant’s early demise. So the key is the right mix coupled with good drainage.
Using some organic potting mix is fine as long as you stir in plenty of perlite and peat moss for good measure.
Over 50% of the mix should be perlite and peat moss. Otherwise, the soil becomes too waterlogged for the plants liking.
I use 50% soil, 25% perlite, and 25% peat moss.
Both perlite and peat moss will aid the aeration of the soil not allowing those roots to rot away. Rotting roots is the ultimate plant slayer.
Be mindful that jewel orchids aren’t like “regular” orchids in the sense that you wouldn’t add orchid bark to the potting mix as it’s a terrestrial, not an epiphytic orchid.
Terrestrial means that the jewel orchid grows from the ground, not from a tree requiring no soil.
Watering advice and a plant to pot in!
I have killed far more plants by overwatering them than by underwatering them. Fact. In my experience, plants would rather be dry than suffer by having “wet feet.” Excessive water at a plant’s roots is a sure way to kill any plant.
Jewel orchids dislike consistently wet soil. Think of it this way: soggy soil = sudden death. Goodbye jewel orchid.
I have no fixed schedule for watering my jewel orchid. I stick my finger in the pot and if it’s bone dry, I give it a good watering.
I refuse to water again until the soil is bone dry. The plant gets the water it needs but never sits in the water.
Terra cotta pots with a nice drainage hole are preferred. Even though they aren’t the most attractive pot around, most plants thrive in terra cotta pots and planters.
Ceramic pots are fine too, even plastic, but there’s something about a terra cot pot that my plants love.
Since jewel orchids tend to spread sidewise rather than grow upward, wide-mouthed pots are best for jewel orchids since they provide room for the plant to grow.
Don’t worry about plant depth as much as pot circumference. Re-potting once a year is adequate. Never reuse your mix, dump it in your landscaping, and start fresh.
Let’s talk about lighting requirements for the jewel orchid
My first jewel orchid died within a few short months. Tom builds terrariums and he wanted my plant for one of his displays. (Insert big sigh here.)
Tom’s terrariums have super bright lighting 12 hours a day that the jewel orchid didn’t appreciate. Too much light also washes out the vibrant color of the leaves.
In fact, the jewel orchid downright bulked….then died. It also didn’t appreciate that high of humidity. Even though it’s a tropical plant, humidity at 90% was way too high.
So a terrarium might be the ideal spot for your jewel orchid but with lower light and lower humidity than what Tom and I had in ours. Another option is using a cloche to lock in some humidity for that jungle feel.
Because this plant won’t tolerate cold. So if you feel cold in your house, chances are, your jewel orchid plant is cold too. Aim for 65 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
The jewel orchid also hates cold drafts. I tried one on a drafty windowsill and moved it quickly when I noted it dropping leaves. Jewel orchids don’t like big temperature fluctuations.
Since this bad experience, I’ve learned that some bright light is fine when considering plant placement, but bright light all day every day is a no-go.
Bright, indirect light is the right move. Some shade is fine! A plant living under the canopy of a curtain receiving dappled light is ideal.
A dark room will never do. The jewel orchid is certainly not a low-light plant. Good lighting conditions are directly tied to the jewel orchids ability to bloom.
The bathroom can be the ideal spot for a jewel orchid. Dappled light and medium-high humidity.
The bloom dilemma
When my friend Cheri first sent me the jewel orchid, as much as I appreciated the beautiful foliage, I couldn’t wait for it to bloom.
And when I say beautiful foliage, I mean it. The long, curvy leaves are a vibrant red with glimpses of green. Unexpected pink stripes run lengthwise on the leaf for a stunning display.
But still…the bloom! So I babied the plant and waited. Finally, a tall stalk emerged which would yield the much-anticipated bloom.
The delicate white flowers with yellow centers are a marvel and last 4-6 weeks.
That’s the struggle. My plant got leggy with the bloom as all its energy was going into the flowers. Yikes.
In fact, the plant was down to just three leaves. This is when full panic mode set in. If I allow myself to enjoy the blooms for the full 6 weeks, I could lose the plant entirely.
But if I cut off the bloom after just one week, I’m missing out on 5-6 weeks of blooming beauty. Tough call!
I ended up letting the bloom live and as the top buds started to die off, cut the spike down all the way to allow the plant to rejuvenate.
Green fingers crossed.
How-to acquire a jewel orchid
Depending on where you live, acquiring a jewel orchid could be tricky. As much as I frequent local garden centers, I have never seen a jewel orchid for sale where I live.
This means you either have to order online, or purchase one when you visit an area that sells them.
This is also tricky. We like to drive to Florida once a year. It’s roughly a 24-hour drive from where I live.
Any plants I buy have to tolerate a lengthy journey, not to mention four kicking kids in the car.
Tom’s tolerance for bringing home exotic plants from Florida can only be stretched so far!
He argues that plants have no room in the precious little space we have to spare. Men! And I can’t deny that plants tend to get pretty beat up on the ride home.
So for me, it has to be a reputable online nursery. I also have a wonderful friend (Cheri) who has been overwhelmingly generous in sending me plants from Florida when she visits.
Sometimes you can score several jewel orchids cheap from a garden center if they have just finished blooming and their “peak” is over.
But I hope you can get your green thumb on a jewel orchid because it will quickly win your heart!
Last bit of advice, fertilize the jewel orchid once a month for the best results!