Zygopetalum (group)
Common Name: orchid 
Type: Orchid
Family: Orchidaceae
Zone: 9 to 10
Height: 0.25 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 0.50 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: Multicolored in purple, mauve, green, brown and white; with veins and blotches
Sun: Part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy, Fragrant


Zygopetalum orchids are easy to cultivate. Avoiding extremes in temperatures, light and humidity will satisfy the plants. They are cool to intermediate growing, preferring daytime temperatures in the 70 degrees F, and nighttime temperatures 10 to 15 degrees lower. They will tolerate higher and lower temperatures for short periods without damage. These plants prefer fairly bright light but not direct sun. Light green leaves indicate the proper amount of light. Adequate air movement is important because Zygopetalum orchids thrive in a fresh and breezy atmosphere. Water regularly with tepid water, never allowing the plant to completely dry out, but avoiding soggy conditions. Humidity should be 50%. Fertilize with a balanced fertilizer weekly diluted to quarter strength after thoroughly watering. Pot in a bark-based orchid potting mix with excellent drainage. Repot every two years in the spring in fresh growth medium.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Zygopetalum orchid flowers are extremely fragrant, long-lasting, and very attractive with their bold colors. They are carried on tall spikes that originate at the base of the new pseudobulbs (stems). Adequate light is the most important factor for successful flowering. The pseudobulbs are round or egg-shaped with two or three straplike, light green leaves at the apex. The plants produce a thick rooting system.

Genus name comes from the Greek words zygos meaning a yoke and petalon meaning a petal for the swelling at the base of the lip which seems to yoke together the lateral segments of the flowers.


Relatively trouble free, but check for scale. The only fairly common problem is black leaf spotting that usually occurs when temperatures are cool and air is stagnant. Keep leaves as dry as possible during colder times of the year and provide good air circulation. Assure that the leaves are not wet overnight.

Garden Uses

Zygopetalum orchids are ideal for cool sunrooms with high light levels. It is impossible to miss their fragrant scent.