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How To Grow and Care For Zygopetalum Orchids

The Zygopetalum orchid is a perennial flowering plant native to the southern parts of America. The genus Zygopetalum is part of the Orchidaceae family of orchids and has 14 recognized species. Some popular species include the Zygopetalum mackayi and Zygopetalum maxillare species.

Zygopetalum spp.

The flowers of Zygopetalum produce a sweet fragrance capable of enveloping an entire room, making them great indoor plants. Zygopetalum is capable of blooming up to four times per year, with each flowering section lasting for about six weeks. Their blooms are spectacular, making them great options for cut flowers.

Zygopetalum is considered an evergreen, with its leaves having bright green color and can reach a height of 60 cm. Their flowers grow on upright stems, having a combination of green, violet, white, or burgundy colored patterns on their petals.

Zygopetalum is epiphytic in its natural habitat. They grow on tree trunks, between plants, and on rocks while getting nourishment from the air. For this reason, most species of zygopetalum are best grown in shallow pots.

Scientific nameZygopetalum spp.
OriginSouth America.
SizeBetween 12 to 24 inches high.
LightingIndirect sunlight.
SoilMoist but also well-draining soil.
Temperature70 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit ( 21 – 27 degrees Celsius). 
FertilizerDiluted well Balanced fertilizer.
ToxicityNot toxic.

Zygopetalum Care

The natural habitat of the zygopetalum orchid is mostly humid and brightly lit. Zygopetalum grows in-between trees and is shaded from direct sunlight. Zygopetalum is mostly found growing in tropical rainforests. So, to properly grow Zygopetalum at home, we will need to replicate its natural habitat by supplying the plant with enough light and water.

Light Requirements

Light Requirements

When growing Zygopetalum at home, ensure it is placed in a brightly lit area. Provide the plant with filtered or indirect sunlight. You can also grow under partial shade or partial sun.

Do not expose the plant to full or direct sunlight. Doing this will damage the plant; direct sunlight causes leaf burn and the formation of brown patches or spots on its beautiful foliage. Also, growing under full shade can delay blooming.

When growing outdoors, try to locate the plant between trees so as to be sheltered against direct sunlight. For indoor cultivation, try placing the plant close to a south-facing window with a filter.

Soil Requirements

Zygopetalum orchids are epiphytes, so they mostly get their nutrients from the surrounding air. Their roots will not fare well in soggy or waterlogged soil. Zygopetalum will also perform better when grown in shallow pots.

When growing zygopetalum in pots, make use of orchid potting mix. This can be made by using one part sphagnum moss, one part perlite, one part sand, and one part bark fines as ingredients to make your potting mix. This mixture will aid in fast drainage of water and, at the same time, have the ability to retain the needed moisture.

Water Requirements

Zygopetalum needs lots of water for it to bloom continuously. During its blooming season, watering can be carried out every 2 days. And when blooming stops, you should reduce the frequency at which you water the plant.

The best time to water the plant will be when the soil is almost completely dry.

Use distilled water or filtered water when watering, as the salt and minerals present in tap water can react with the root of the plant.

Fertilizer Requirements

Fertilizer Requirements
Gardening Know How

To feed the plant, make use of a standard well-balanced fertilizer dissolved to half its strength. Apply this mixture during watering every two weeks for repeat blooming.

You can also feed the plant by using slow-release fertilizer applied at the base of the plant. Avoid directly fertilizing the plant’s leaves as this can cause leaf burns.

Avoid fertilizing during the dormancy period so as not to stress the plant’s roots. 

Temperature And Humidity

Tropical rainforests are mostly warm and humid. So, to effectively grow the Zygopetalum orchid, we need to create an enabling environment.

Zygopetalum loves a warm and humid environment. Grow the plant under temperatures of around 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit at night.

As for humidity, grow in a room with a humidity level above 50%. Make use of a humidifier or a pebble tray to add more humidity. You can also grow Zygopetalum alongside other plants to help maintain high humidity.


Pruning is not really necessary when growing zygopetalum. But you can prune off old and dead leaves for beautification purposes. This should be done using a clean and disinfected pair of scissors or pruning shears.


The easiest method of propagating zygopetalum is through division. Here, we will be dividing the offset, or rather, child plant, from the parent plant.

Start by soaking the plant in water so as to loosen its soil. The pseudobulbs of the plant can be easily damaged, so dividing them while still in strong soil can damage the plant.

Gently remove all the surrounding soil, making sure not to damage the root system. Separate the offset from the mother plant. Ensure some pseudobulbs are still left on the master plant.

Using a clean knife, remove all dead-looking roots.

Proceed to place both plants in a potting mix made from perlite and orchid bark. Water the plant and locate it in an area with access to filtered sunlight.

Common Health Problems/Pests And Diseases

Common pests that can attack your zygopetalum orchid include:

  • Spider mites
  • Aphids
  • Mealybugs
  • Scales
  • Thrips

To eliminate this pest, wash the leaves of the plant with running water. Spraying the plant with insecticidal soaps and neem oil is another good way of handling pests.

Diseases associated with zygopetalum include

  • botrytis 
  • cercospora 
  • anthracnose


Is zygopetalum toxic to pets?

No, zygopetalum is not toxic to pets or humans.

How can I handle pests disturbing my plants?

Use running water to wash the plant. Insecticidal soaps can also be useful.

Can Zygopetalum bloom multiple times a year?

Yes. The Zygopetalum orchid can bloom up to four times per year when provided with the optimum growing conditions.

How often should I water the Zygopetalum plant?

Water when the plant is almost dry.

How do I propagate zygopetalum?

You can propagate Zygopetalum orchids through division.