How to grow and care for Spider Orchids Indoors

Indoor Orchid, Spider Orchid, Brassia Orchid

Botanical name: Brassia spp
Subfamily: Epidendroideae
Tribe: Cymbidieae
Subtribe: Oncidiinae

Spider Orchids are popular Indoor Orchids due to their spectacular, delicately fragrant and long-lasting blooms. These orchids are notable for their characteristic long and spreading tepals, which lend them the common name "Spider Orchid". The reason why they look like spiders is that they attract female spider wasps for pollination. Spider Orchids have large elliptic-oblong pseudobulbs with one or two leaves, a lateral unbranched numerously-flowered long-lasting flower-spike. The flowers can be spotted yellow, cream, brownish or green. Spider Orchids are native to the rain forests of Mexico, Central America, West Indies and northern South America where they grow epiphytically on tree canopies. They are named after William Brass, a British botanist and illustrator who collected plants in Africa under the supervision of Sir Joseph Banks, an English naturalist, botanist and patron of natural sciences. The genus name is abbreviated as Brs in horticultural journals. Spider Orchids grow best when hanging or mounted on a vertical surface to allow the roots free air circulation.

How to Grow Spider Orchids (Brassia spp)

Light

Spider Orchids grow best in partial light (semi-shade). Keep them away from direct sunshine to avoid sun scorch on the leaves. A Spider Orchid that is receiving the correct light has light-green leaves. Too little light will result in dark-green leaves. Too much light will cause the leaves to be more yellowish than green. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants

Water

Water Spider Orchids thoroughly during the growing season and allow the top half of the soil to dry out between waterings. Reduce watering in the cold period. 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. Spider 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.

Temperature

The best temperatures for Spider Orchids are between 16-290C. Warmer days and cooler night temperatures with a difference of 10-150C 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.

Humidity

Spider Orchids require a humid environment. Set the pot on a wet pebble tray to raise humidity for Moth Orchids. Occasionally clean the leaves by damp-wiping with a soft cloth. Do not mist the leaves as it can lead to fungal diseases.

Feeding

Feed Spider Orchids every 4 weeks during the growing season with a weak solution of a balanced water-soluble fertilizer. Withhold feeding during the cold season. Do not feed an orchid that is in flower. 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.

Repotting

Repot Spider Orchid 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. Basically repotting Spider Orchids every 2-3 years should be adequate. Repot only when new growth begins, shortly after blooming is over. Use a pot with proper drainage holes or slits; the roots need good air circulation. The pot should be large enough to accomodate the roots. Spider Orchids grow best when hanging or mounted on a vertical surface to allow the roots free air circulation. If growing in a hanging basket replace the potting medium regularly. Use loose, free-draining bark soil. When repotting, shake off excess soil and trim off any dried and shrivelled pseudobulbs.

Pruning

Pruning Spider Orchids is easy. Remove dead and diseased leaves by cutting them at the base with sharp scissors or a knife. When flowering is over, cut the flower stalk 1 in. above the 3rd node from the bottom.

How to Propagate Spider Orchids (Brassia Orchids)

Spider 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 Spider Orchids lightly to enhance root development. Stake each newly repotted plant.

Common Problems in Growing Spider Orchids (Brassia Orchids)

  • Brown soft spots on the leaves
  • Brown soft spots on Spider Orchid leaves are an indication of a fungal disease; remove the affected leaves immediately to prevent further spread.

  • Brown hard and dry spots on leaves
  • Exposure of Spider 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.

  • Mould on leaves
  • This is an indication of Powdery Mildew Disease. Misting the leaves in Spider Orchids may lead to mildew growth if the water does not evaporate quickly. Ensure good air circulation and stop misting.

  • Limpy and droopy leaves
  • Limpy and droopy leaves in Spider Orchid are caused by underwatering. Do not allow the soil to dry out completely. Water Spider Orchid thoroughly, maintain the soil consistently moist and allow only the top half of the soil to dry out between waterings.

  • Dark-green leaves
  • Dark green leaves in Spider Orchid indicate that the plant is not getting enough light. Move the orchid to a brighter spot. The leaves of a Spider Orchid that is receiving the correct light should be light-green.

  • Yellowish leaves
  • Yellowish leaves in Spider Orchid indicate that the plant is getting too much light. Move the orchid to a shadier spot. The leaves of a Spider Orchid that is receiving the correct light should be light-green.

  • Leaf tips turn black and die
  • The cause of black leaf tips in Spider Orchid is the presence of chemicals like chlorine and flourides in water. Use chlorine-free water only.

  • No blooms
  • Too little light for Spider Orchids will result in no blooms. Move the plant to a brighter spot. Overfeeding Spider Orchids can result in vegetative growth instead of flowers. Feed the orchid once monthly with a weak solution of a balanced water-soluble fertilizer.

Toxicity

Spider Orchids (Brassia spp) are non-toxic to both humans and pets. They are safe to grow indoors.

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