How to grow and care for Leopard Orchid (Ansellia africana) Indoors

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Leopard Orchid, Ansellia africana

Botanical name: Ansellia africana
Tribe: Cymbidiieae
Subtribe: Cymbidiinae
Common names: Leopard Orchid, Trash Basket

Leopard Orchid Description

Leopard Orchids (Ansellia africana) also called Trash Basket are unique orchids whose white, needle-like aerial roots point upwards taking the form of a basket.

Leopard Orchids are so called in reference to their leopard-like spotted flowers. The common name "Trash Basket" is in reference to their habit of creating a makeshift container of aerial roots to catch falling leaf litter for nutrients.

The Leopard Orchids have white, needle-like aerial roots which point upwards, taking the form of a basket around large, yellow, cane-like pseudobulbs. This basket catches the decaying leaves and litter upon which the plant feeds.

Ansellia orchids are easy to grow requiring very bright light and a dry rest of about 4-6 weeks in order to produce blooms. They are very drought tolerant but they perform better if kept evenly moist throughout the year.

Leopard Orchid Medicinal Uses

Leopard Orchid is listed as an endangered species due to overexploitation and destruction of its natural habitats.

The orchid has been shown to have some medicinal uses in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

Leopard Orchid Flower

The pseudobulbs in Leopard Orchids give rise to the tall flower-spikes about 2.5 ft tall with many (upto 100) delicately scented flowers.

The flowers are short-lived, lasting about 10 days only but they are produced in abundance.

Leopard Orchid Size

Leopard Orchids are large, perennial epiphytes in their native habitat where they are found sometimes in spectacular clumps attached to the branches of tall trees.

Leopard Orchid Origin

Leopard Orchids (Ansellia africana) are native to tropical and southern Africa. They are found alongside coasts and rivers in the canopy of trees.

John Ansell, an English assistant botanist named Leopard Orchids in 1841 when he found the first plant in Fernando Po Island in West Africa. The genus name is abbreviated as Ansel or Aslla in horticultural journals.

Leopard Orchid, Ansellia africana

Leopard Orchids (Ansellia africana) Care Indoors

Leopard Orchid Light Requirements

Leopard Orchid (Ansellia africana) grows best in very bright light with some morning direct sunshine. It can also grow under a grow light.

The normal leaf coloration in Leopard Orchids is yellowish-green. Dark-green leaves indicate that the orchid is not receiving enough light while yellow leaves indicate too much light.

Keep your Leopard Orchids away from direct sunshine to avoid sun scorch on the leaves.

Regularly turn the pot for Leopard Orchid to ensure the plant gets adequate light on all sides. Check out this guide on understanding light for houseplants

How to Water Leopard Orchid

For lush growth and regular blooms, water Leopard Orchid (Ansellia africana) thoroughly during the growing period and allow the soil to dry out between waterings.

Reduce watering for your Leopard Orchid in the cold period as growth is minimal at this time. Avoid soggy soil as it can cause the orchid to rot.

Provide a dry spell of about 4-6 weeks for your Leopard Orchid, every 6 months to promote blooming. As in their natural habitat, Leopard Orchids usually bloom at the end of dry spells.

Use tepid, chlorine-free water as Leopard Orchids are sensitive to chlorine and other chemicals dissolved in water. Avoid wetting the foliage as it can lead to fungal diseases.

Leopard Orchids are more tolerant of dry soil conditions due to the presence of pseudobulbs and their thick leaves. Read more on how to water houseplants.


Temperature for Leopard Orchid

The best temperatures for growing Leopard Orchids (Ansellia africana) indoors are between 16-290C.

Warmer days and cooler night temperatures are ideal for Leopard Orchids. Cool nights are essential to trigger flowering.

Ensure there is good air circulation as Leopard Orchids cannot tolerate hot and stuffy conditions.

Protect your Leopard orchid from draughts. Check out this guide on Understanding temperature for houseplants.

Humidity for Leopard Orchid

High humidity is essential for Leopard Orchids (Ansellia africana) to thrive. Set the pot on a wet pebble tray to raise humidity for your Leopard Orchids or use a cool mist humidifier.

Do not mist the leaves of your Leopard Orchids as it can lead to fungal diseases. Check out these techniques on how to raise raise humidity for houseplants.

Occasionally clean the leaves of your Leopard Orchids by damp-wiping with a soft cloth. Read more on how to clean houseplants.

Leopard Orchid Fertilizer (Feeding)

Feed Leopard Orchids (Ansellia africana) weekly with a nitrogen-rich water-soluble fertilizer. If Leopard Orchids are not receiving adequate nitrogen, they will start growing a trash basket with numerous non-absorbing roots growing upwards.

Withhold feeding your Leopard Orchids during the cold season as growth is minimal at this time. Do not feed an orchid that is in flower.

In feeding your Leopard Orchids, it is better to err on the side of underfeeding than overfeeding.

Overfeeding your Leopard Orchids may result in the loss of roots thus death of the orchid. It can also lead to vegetative growth instead of flower production. Read more on how to feed houseplants.

Leopard Orchid Repotting

Leopard Orchids (Ansellia africana) bloom best when they are pot-bound. Repot Leopard Orchids only when growth begins to suffer.

Repot your Leopard Orchids when the orchid has outgrown its pot and the new growth reaches out over the edge of the pot or when the soil has broken down completely.

It is advisable to repot your Leopard Orchids only when new growth begins, shortly after blooming is over.

Repot your Leopard Orchid into a pot with proper drainage holes or slits as the roots need good air circulation.

The pot should be only 1 size larger than the previous one. Use loose, free-draining bark soil to repot your Leopard Orchid.

When repotting, shake off excess soil and trim off any dried and shrivelled pseudobulbs in your Leopard Orchid.

Soil for Leopard Orchid (Ansellia africana)

The best soil for Leopard Orchid (Ansellia africana) should be rich in organic matter, loose, free-draining bark soil to prevent it from getting soggy while providing the required nutrients.

Most orchid potting mixes are ideal for Leopard Orchid. Buy quality Orchid Potting Mix for your Leopard Orchid from Etsy.

Leopard Orchid Pruning

Pruning Leopard Orchid (Ansellia africana) is easy. Remove dead and diseased leaves by cutting them at the base with sharp scissors or a knife. Make clean cuts and avoid injuring your Leopard Orchid unnecessarily.

Leopard Orchid (Ansellia africana) Propagation

Leopard Orchid (Ansellia africana) propagation can be done from the rhizome at the beginning of the growing season once flowering is over.

How to propagate Leopard Orchid from rhizomes

Gently split the Leopard Orchid rhizome into sections. Leave at least 3 shoots on each section.

Seperate the roots attached to each Leopard Orchid division from the mother's root ball. Remove the old potting soil attached to the roots.

Fill the pot with Orchid Potting Mix and place each section of the Leopard Orchid in the center of the pot and bury the roots in the soil. Ensure that the bottom of the pseudobulb is level with the top of the soil.

The best pot for your Leopard Orchid should be about 1-2 in. larger than the pseudobulb. Ensure the pot has enough drainage holes and slits to prevent root-rot.

Place the set up in a warm shaded place until the new Leopard Orchids have established their own roots.

Water the new Leopard Orchids lightly to enhance root development. Stake each newly repotted plant.

Leopard Orchid, Ansellia africana

Photo credit: Twitter @ManuelHdezLaf

Leopard Orchid (Ansellia africana) Problems Indoors

Leopard Orchid brown soft leaf spots

Brown soft leaf spots in Leopard Orchid are an indication of a fungal disease. Remove the affected leaves of your Leopard Orchid immediately to prevent further spread.

Leopard Orchid brown hard and dry leaf spots

Exposure of your Leopard Orchid to direct sunshine will result in scorch marks which are brown hard and dry spots on the leaves.

Move your Leopard Orchid to a shadier spot or instal a sheer curtain to filter the light and protect the orchid from hot direct sunshine.

Leopard Orchid mold on the leaves

Mold on leaves in Leoparad Orchid is an indication of Powdery Mildew Disease.

Misting the leaves of your Leopard Orchid may lead to mildew growth if the water does not evaporate quickly. Ensure that there is good air circulation for your Leopard Orchid and stop misting it.

Leopard Orchid limpy and drooping leaves

Limpy and drooping leaves in Leopard Orchid are caused by underwatering. Do not allow the soil to dry out completely.

Water your Leopard Orchid thoroughly, maintain the soil consistently moist and allow only the top half of the soil to dry out between waterings.

Leopard Orchid dark-green leaves

Dark green leaves in Leopard Orchid indicate that your orchid is not getting enough light.

Move your Leopard Orchid to a brighter spot or instal a grow light. The leaves of a Leopard Orchid that is receiving the correct light should be light green.

Leopard Orchid yellowish leaves

Yellowish leaves in Leopard Orchid indicate that your orchid is getting too much light.

Move your Leopard Orchid to a shadier spot. The leaves of a Leopard Orchid that is receiving the correct amount of light should be light green.

Leopard Orchid black and dying leaf tips

The cause of black leaf tips in Leopard Orchid is the presence of chemicals like chlorine and flourides in the water or accumulation of salts in the soil.

Use chlorine-free water only to water your Leopard Orchid and flush out accumulated salts from the soil by running a stream of water through the soil for about 10 minutes until it comes out through the drainage holes.

Leopard Orchid not blooming or flowering

The reason why Leopard Orchid wil not bloom (flower) is too little light.

Move your Leopard Orchid to a brighter spot and ensure it is receiving very bright light with some direct sunshine.

Is Leopard Orchid (Ansellia africana) toxic?

Leopard Orchids (Ansellia africana) are non-toxic to both humans and pets. They are safe to grow indoors.

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