Botanical name: Ansellia africana
Leopard Orchids 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. They 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. The pseudobulbs 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 Orchids are large, perennial epiphytes in their native habitat where they are found sometimes in spectacular clumps attached to the branches of tall trees. 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 Orchids 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 these 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 Orchids grow best in very bright light with some morning direct sunshine. The normal leaf coloration is yellowish-green. Dark-green leaves indicate that the orchid is not receiving enough light while yellow leaves indicate too much light. Keep them away from direct sunshine to avoid sun scorch on the leaves. Regularly turn the pot to ensure the plant gets adequate light on all sides. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants
For lush growth and regular blooms, water Leopard Orchids thoroughly during the growing period and allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Reduce watering in the cold period. Avoid waterlogging as it can cause the orchid to rot. Provide a dry spell of about 4-6 weeks, every 6 months to promote blooming as in their natural habitat, these orchids usually bloom at the end of dry spells. Use tepid, chlorine-free water as 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. Learn more on how to water houseplants.
The best temperatures for Leopard Orchids are between 16-290C. Warmer days and cooler night temperatures are ideal. Cool nights are essential to trigger flowering. Ensure there is good air circulation as orchids cannot tolerate hot and stuffy conditions. Protect them from draughts. Learn more on temperature for houseplants.
High humidity is essential for Leopard Orchids. Set the pot on a wet pebble tray to raise humidity. Occasionally clean the leaves by damp-wiping with a soft cloth. Do not mist the leaves as it can lead to fungal diseases.
Feed Leopard Orchids weekly with a nitrogen-rich water-soluble fertilizer. If these orchids are not receiving adequate nitrogen, they will start growing a trash basket with numerous non-absorbing roots growing upwards. Withhold feeding during the cold season. Do not feed an orchid that is in flower. In feeding, it is better to err on the side of underfeeding than overfeeding. Overfeeding may result in loss of roots thus death of the orchid. It can also lead to vegetative growth instead of flower production. Learn more on how to feed houseplants.
Leopard Orchids bloom best when they are pot-bound. Repot Leopard Orchids only when growth begins to suffer. 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. Repot only when new growth begins, shortly after blooming is over. Use 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. When repotting, shake off excess soil and trim off any dried and shrivelled pseudobulbs.
Pruning Leopard Orchids is easy. Remove dead and diseased leaves by cutting them at the base with sharp scissors or a knife.
Leopard Orchids can be propagated at the beginning of the growing season once flowering is over. Gently split the rhizome into sections. Leave at least 3 shoots on each section. Seperate the roots attached to each division from the mother root ball. Remove the old potting soil attached to the roots. Place each section in the center of the pot. Bury the roots in the soil while ensuring that the bottom of the pseudobulb is level with the top of the soil. The best pot 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 shaded place until they have established their own roots. Water the new Leopard Orchids lightly to enhance root development. Stake each newly repotted plant.
Brown soft spots on Leopard Orchid leaves are an indication of a fungal disease; remove the affected leaves immediately to prevent further spread.
Exposure of Leopard Orchids to direct sunshine will result in scorch marks which are brown hard and dry spots on the leaves. Move the orchid to a shadier spot or protect it from direct sunshine.
This is an indication of Powdery Mildew Disease. Misting the leaves in Leopard Orchids may lead to mildew growth if the water does not evaporate quickly. Ensure good air circulation and stop misting.
Limpy and droopy leaves in Leopard Orchid are caused by underwatering. Do not allow the soil to dry out completely. Water Leopard Orchid thoroughly, maintain the soil consistently moist and allow only the top half of the soil to dry out between waterings.
Dark green leaves in Leopard Orchid indicate that the plant is not getting enough light. Move the orchid to a brighter spot. The leaves of a Leopard Orchid that is receiving the correct light should be yellowish-green.
Yellowish leaves in Leopard Orchid indicate that the plant is getting too much light. Move the orchid to a shadier spot. The leaves of a Leopard Orchid that is receiving the correct light should be yellowish-green.
The cause of black leaf tips in Leopard Orchid is the presence of chemicals like chlorine and flourides in water. Use chlorine-free water only.
Too little light for Leopard Orchids will result in no blooms. Move the plant to a brighter spot. Underfeeding Leopard Orchids can also result in no blooms. Feed Leopard Orchid once weekly with a solution of a nitrogen-rich water-soluble fertilizer.
Leopard Orchids (Ansellia spp) are non-toxic to both humans and pets. They are safe to grow indoors.