Botanical name: Phaius spp
Common names: Nun Orchid, Swamp Orchid
Phaius Orchids commonly called Nun Orchids or Swamp Orchids are popular, easy to grow orchids that are ideal for a beginner.
Nun Orchids are evergreen, terrestrial herbs with thin underground rhizomes and crowded above ground and sometimes stem-like pseudobulbs.
The leaves in Swamp Orchids are several, pleated, stalked and emerge from the pseudobulb.
The Phaius Orchids were first formally described in 1790 by Joao de Loureiro (a Portuguese Jesuit missionary and botanist). The genus name Phaius is derived from the Greek word phaios meaning "dusky" or "brown" in reference to the brownish color of the flowers.
The blooms in Phaius Orchids are produced on tall spikes each bearing a cluster of 10-20 flowers. The flowers are long-lasting and delicately fragrant. The colors range from brown to maroon, often with a white or pink lip.
They are called Nun Orchids in reference to their curved upper sepal and petals that are white on the back side resembling a nun's cap.
Phaius Orchids are native to tropical parts of Africa, Asia, Southeast Asia, New Guinea, Australia and various islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans where they are found growing on the humid, tropical forest floors. They prefer moderate light and warm temperatures.
Nun Orchid (Phaius Orchid) thrives in bright, indirect light away from direct sunshine, warm and humid conditions and moderately moist, fertile, well-drained soil coupled with regular feeding during the growing season.
Phaius Orchid requires regular pruning to keep them neat as well as encourage flowering. Repotting is needed only when they become pot-bound or the soil becomes completely broken down. Keep reading for more on these growing conditions and how to achieve them.
Nun Orchid grows best in bright, indirect light away from direct sunshine. It can also grow under a grow light where the natural light is not adequate.
Keep it away from direct sunshine to avoid sun scorch on the leaves. Regularly turn the pot to ensure that the orchid gets adequate light on all sides for uniform growth.
For lush growth and regular blooms, water the Nun Orchid thoroughly during the growing period and allow the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings.
Reduce watering 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 Swamp Orchid, every 6 months to promote blooming. As in their natural habitat, Nun Orchids usually bloom at the end of the dry spells.
Use tepid, chlorine-free water as Nun Orchids are sensitive to chlorine and other chemicals dissolved in water. Avoid wetting the foliage as it can lead to fungal diseases.
Phaius Orchids are more tolerant of dry soil conditions due to the presence of pseudobulbs and their thick leaves.
The best temperatures for Nun Orchids are between 10-290C. Warmer days and cooler night temperatures are ideal for these Orchids as the cool nights are essential to trigger flowering.
Ensure there is good air circulation as they cannot tolerate hot and stuffy conditions.
Protect Swamp orchid from draughts to avoid sudden changes in temperatures as they can adversely affect the growth of the orchids.
High humidity is essential for Nun Orchids to thrive. Set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier to raise humidity.
Do not mist the orchids as it can lead to fungal disease infestations. Occasionally clean the leaves by damp-wiping with a soft cloth.
Feed Nun Orchid during the growing season with an orchid's fertilizer as per the manufacturer's instructions.
Withhold feeding during the cold season as growth is minimal at this time. Do not feed an orchid that is in flower.
In feeding a Nun Orchid, it is better to err on the side of underfeeding than overfeeding.
Overfeeding a Phaius Orchid may result in the loss of roots thus death of the orchid. It can also lead to vegetative growth instead of flower production.
Nun Orchid blooms best when they are pot-bound. Repot it 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.
It is advisable to repot a Nun Orchid only when new growth begins, shortly after blooming is over. Repot 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 current one. When repotting, shake off excess soil and trim off any dried and shrivelled pseudobulbs.
Use loose, free-draining bark soil like this quality orchid potting mix available on Amazon to avoid getting soggy soil which can cause rotting of the Phaius Orchid.
Pruning a Nun Orchid 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 the Orchid unnecessarily.
When flowering is over, cut the flower stalk 1 in. above the 3rd node from the bottom to encourage more flowers.
Phaius Orchid propagation can be done at the beginning of the growing season once flowering is over by rhizome division.
Gently split the Nun Orchid rhizome into sections. Leave at least 3 shoots on each section. Seperate the roots attached to each section from the mother's root ball.
Remove the old potting soil attached to the roots of the orchid section and place each section in the center of the pot.
Bury the roots of the section in the soil while ensuring that the bottom of the pseudobulb is level with the top of the soil.
The best pot for the Swamp Orchid section should be about 1-2 in. larger than the pseudobulb.
Ensure the pot for each orchid section has enough drainage holes and slits to prevent root-rot.
Place the set up in a warm, well-lit place away from direct sunlight until the new Nun Orchid section have established their own roots.
Water the new Phaius Orchids lightly to enhance root development. Stake each newly repotted plant to prevent it from toppling over.
Nun Orchid (Phaius Orchid) problems indoors include black leaf tips, lack of blooms, mold, drooping leaves, leaf spots, discolored leaves, pests and diseases among others. Keep reading for more on these problems, their remedies and solutions.
Exposure of Nun Orchid to direct sunshine will result in scorch marks which are brown, hard and dry spots on the leaves.
Move the Phaius Orchid to a shadier spot or protect it from direct sunshine to prevent it from getting the sunscorch marks.
This is an indication of powdery mildew disease in Nun Orchid.
Misting a Phaius Orchid may lead to mildew growth if the water does not evaporate quickly. Ensure that there is good air circulation for the Orchid and stop misting it.
Limpy and drooping leaves in Nun Orchid are caused by underwatering. Do not allow the soil to dry out completely.
Water the Phaius 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 Nun Orchid indicate that the orchid is not getting enough light. The leaves of a Phaius Orchid that is receiving the correct light should be light green.
Move it to a brighter spot where it will receive bright, indirect light away from direct sunshine or instal a grow light where the natural light is not adequate.
Yellowish leaves in Nun Orchid indicate that the orchid is getting too much light. The leaves of a Swamp Orchid that is receiving the correct amount of light should be light green.
Move the Orchid to a shadier spot where it will receive bright, indirect light but away from direct sunshine to prevent the change of leaf color.
The cause of black and dying leaf tips in Nun Orchid is the presence of chemicals like chlorine and flourides in the water that you are using to water it.
Water Phaius Orchid with chlorine-free water only as like other orchids, it is sensitive to chemicals in the water and the soil.
The cause for lack of blooms in Nun Orchid is too little light. If the light is too little, the orchid will not make adequate food for energy and other functions like blooming.
Move the Phaius Orchid to a brighter spot where it will receive bright, indirect light but away from direct sunshine or instal a grow light where the natural light is not adequate.
Brown soft spots on Nun Orchid leaves are an indication of fungal leaf spot disease. Remove the affected leaves immediately to prevent further spread.
Nun Orchids (Phaius Orchids) are non-toxic to both humans and pets. They are safe to grow indoors.