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Growing Masdevallia and Dracula orchids in the UK

Some people may think growing orchids at home can be tricky but given the correct conditions they can thrive and bloom a colourful and varied display of unusual flowers year after year.

Masdevallia and Dracula flowers are stunning and if you are interested in growing and collecting these types of orchid please read on.

Masdevallia and Dracula orchids are cool growing and it is important to understand their original habitat. Think of cloud forests of South America where iorchids grow in moist cool mountainous evenings and warm days under the canopy of large foliage and trees, as small epiphytes and terrestrial plants. Clouds may envelope the habitat for days and keep the area moist but not sodden. The warm sun burns off the cloud to lift the dappled light to 20c. Nights in the clouds could drop as low as 6 to 7c.


If these conditions are met in a cool growing greenhouse here in the UK Masdevallia and Dracula orchids will grow really well.



The History of Masdevallia orchids is fascinating and there was huge demand for them at the turn of the 1900's.


In 1896 The Genus Masdevallia book, issued by Florence Woolward and F. C Lehmann together with the Marquess of Lothian, K.T., chiefly from plants in his own collection of orchids was published. This book turned out to be hugely popular with its beautiful plated botanical paintings by Florence Woolward inspiring new growers.


As a result the Victorian Masdevallia collecting frenzy begins and more commissioned plant hunters were finding and sending back plant material to nurseries and enthusiatic cool orchid breeders. There are now many different Masdevallia and Dracula to purchase as a result of these early expeditions.


Masdevallia orchids do not need much space at all. In fact, you can keep 50+ Masdevallias in a 6x4 greenhouse in a shaded part of the garden here in the UK.

I keep my cool growing Masdevallia and Dracula (used to be Masdevallia) in a 6'x4' greenhouse under a large deciduous tree. This works well because it shades the greenhouse in summer and lets the light in when the leaves drop in winter.


I bubble wrap the inside twice over (large bubbles) and have a horticultural fan and heater for air flow and heat. The temperature control is minimum 8c. A biogreen palma 2kW fan works very well.



For humidity, Masdevallia and Dracula orchids prefer above 70rH. This can be achieved by filling the floor with small pebbles or horticultural grit and if this is watered it helps raise the humidity. A small humidifier can work well too and you can create your very own cloud forest at home!


So, why not give it a go and start your own collection! Create your own cloud forest habitat at home and grow some of the most stunning and unusual orchids on the planet.

Masdevallia and Dracula orchids are available to buy from the orchid plant shop.



 

For specific growing factsheets for Masdevallia and Dracula orchids please see below, these are also available on the website under orchids


Masdevallia Orchid Factsheet

These Pleurothallids have a reputation for being difficult to grow, but nothing could be farther from the truth. They are fussy if the temperatures are too warm, though, hence the bad reputation. Give them cool temperatures and they are quite easy to grow. A dark shady greenhouse in the heat of summer and a bubbled wrapped greenhouse in winter keeping temp above 7c with a heat tube will be fine.

Culture of Masdevallia Orchids

Temperature

They need cool growing temperatures. Keep the daytime temperatures below 25C. At night, temperatures should drop at least 8C. They care a great deal about leaf temperatures, so respect this. The plants also dehydrate quickly if temperatures are too high, as they cannot close their stomata to retain moisture. Oncidium can cope with less water due to the psuedobulbs.

Light

Shaded light only. Tend to be happy at 600 - 1500 ft candles of light (very winter Temp is 7C.shady). The higher the lighting, the cooler the temperatures need to be.

Fertilization

A very light feeding of a well balanced fertilizer will keep them blooming. Too much fertilizer will cause the tips of leaves to turn brown or black. Bloom feed August to April.

Water Quality

Require high quality water. Rain water is ideal. Do not over water, keep lightly moist

Humidity & Air

Humidity is very important for all Pluerothallidinae, as they come from cloud forests in the Andes. Try for 70 to 80% humidity. Good air circulation (from a fan) will help prevent issues with rot. The grower may want to invest in a humidifier to keep humidity up, but only necessary on hot days, misting down, or damping of the floor can suffice.


 

Dracula Orchids Factsheet

The orchid genus Dracula consists of 118 species. The strange name Dracula literally means "little dragon", referring to the strange aspect of the two long spurs of the sepals. They were once included in the genus Masdevallia, but became a separate genus in 1978.


Culture of Dracula Orchids

Temperature

Dracula need cool growing temperatures. Keep the daytime temperatures below 22C. At night, temperatures should drop at least 8C. They care a great deal about leaf temperatures, so respect this. The plants also dehydrate quickly if temperatures are too high, as they cannot close their stomata to retain moisture. The minimum winter Temp is 7C.

Light

Shaded light only. Dracula tend to be happy at 600 - 2000 ft candles of light. The higher the lighting, the cooler the temperatures need to be and vice versa.

Fertilization

A very light feeding of a well balanced fertilizer will keep Dracula blooming. Too much fertilizer will cause the tips of leaves to turn brown or black. Bloom feed August to April.

Water Quality

Dracula require high quality water. Rain water is ideal.

Humidity & Air

Humidity is very important for all Dracula, as they come from cloud forests in the Andes. Try for 70 to 80% humidity. Good air circulation (from a fan) will help prevent issues with rot.

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