How to Grow and Care for Nun Orchid (Phaius Orchid) Indoors

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.

Nun Orchid, Phaius Orchid

Botanical name: Phaius
Tribe: Collabieae
Common names: Nun Orchid, Swamp Orchid


Phaius Orchids are native to tropical parts of Africa, Asia, Southeast Asia, New Guinea, Australia and various islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

They they are found growing on the humid, tropical forest floors. Nun Orchids prefer moderate light and warm temperatures.


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.

Is Nun Orchid toxic?

Nun Orchids (Phaius Orchids) are non-toxic to both humans and pets. They are safe to grow indoors.

Where to Buy

If looking to add orchids to your collection, they are readily available online on Etsy.

Phaius Orchid Care Indoors

Nun Orchid (Phaius Orchid) blooms 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, Phaius Orchid

Light Requirements

Nun Orchid grows best in bright, indirect light away from direct sunshine to avoid sun scorch on the leaves.

Regularly rotate the pot to ensure that the orchid gets adequate light on all sides for uniform growth.

Phaius Orchid can be grown under a grow light where the natural light is not adequate. Check out this link to Amazon for full spectrum grow lights.


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 to keep the soil moderately moist.

Cut down on watering in the cold period as growth is minimal at this time to keep the soil slightly moist but do not let it dry out completely.

Avoid soggy soil by ensuring that the soil is properly drained 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, therefore, take care not to overwater.

Temperature and Humidity

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 that there is good air circulation for these orchids as they cannot tolerate hot and stuffy conditions.

Keep the Swamp orchid away 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 elevate 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 to discourage pest and disease infestations. Learn more on how to raise raise humidity for houseplants.


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 and feeding can cause fertilizer burn. 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.

Potting Medium

Use loose, free-draining, bark mix like this quality orchid potting mix available on Amazon to avoid getting soggy soil which can cause rotting of the Phaius Orchid.


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 the orchid into a pot with proper drainage holes or slits as the roots need good air circulation. Check out these Ceramic Orchid Pots with a free Slotted Orchid Pot Liner available on Amazon.

The pot should be only 1 size larger than the current one. While repotting, shake off excess soil and trim off any dried and shrivelled pseudobulbs.


Pruning a Nun Orchid is easy. Remove dead and diseased leaves by cutting them at the base with a sharp, clean pair of pruning 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.

How to propagate Nun Orchid by rhizome division

Gently split the Nun Orchid rhizome into sections. Retain 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.

Ascertain that the pot for each orchid section has enough drainage holes and slits to prevent root-rot.

Position 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

Phaius Orchid Problems

Nun Orchid (Phaius Orchid) growing problems 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.

No blooms

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.

Place the Phaius Orchid in a brighter spot where it will receive bright, indirect light or instal grow lights where the natural light is not adequate. Take a look at these full spectrum grow lights on Amazon.

Dark-green leaves

Dark green leaves in Nun Orchid indicate that the orchid is not getting enough light as the leaves of an orchid that is receiving the correct light should be light green.

Position the Phaius Orchid in a brighter spot where it will receive bright, indirect light or instal a grow light if the natural light is not sufficient.

Yellowish leaves

Yellowish leaves in Nun Orchid indicate that the orchid is getting too much light as the leaves of an orchid that is receiving the correct 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 leaves from turning yellowish.

Brown hard, dry leaf spots

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

Place the Phaius Orchid in a shadier spot or shield it from direct sunshine to prevent it from getting the sunscorch marks.

Mold on the leaves

Mold on the leaves in Nun Orchid are an indication of powdery mildew disease which is prevalent in damp conditions coupled with poor air circulation.

Misting or wetting the foliage of a Phaius Orchid may lead to mildew growth if the water does not evaporate quickly due to poor air circulation.

Improve ventilation to ensure that there is good air circulation for the orchid and stop misting it or wetting the foliage during watering.

Limpy and drooping leaves

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 during the growing season while allowing the top half of the soil to dry out between waterings and maintain the soil moderately moist.

Decrease watering in the cold period and keep the soil slightly moist but do not let the soil dry out completely.

Black and dying leaf tips

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 the Phaius Orchid with chlorine-free water only to prevent the orchid from developing black and dying leaf tips.

Brown, soft leaf spots

Brown soft spots on Nun Orchid leaves are an indication of fungal leaf spot disease. Remove the affected leaves immediately to prevent further spread.

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