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Orchids: Miniatures are in high demand

Credit: Arthur E Chadwick

Oncidium Twinkle is popular in winter and can dazzle with its blooms.


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Q: I just bought an oncidium Twinkle that is the cutest thing I've ever seen. The whole plant fits in a tea cup! Do they come in other colors besides white? - Kristi G.

A: Miniature orchids are in high demand at this time of year because indoor plant growing space is at a premium during the winter.

All major orchid genera offer diminutive versions.

How small is small when it comes to miniatures? The blossoms can be the width of a dime and the foliage just a few inches high.

Here are three of the best miniature orchids on the market:

  • Oncidium Twinkle. Originally bred as white only, varieties now include red and yellow. The flower spikes themselves seem to take forever to develop — several months — as the branches and buds form, but then the blossoms finally open and shine for another two months.

This plant gives big bang for the buck and even provides the highly coveted "wow" factor — a spicy fragrance. This hybrid will spend its life in no more than a 3-inch pot. The name Twinkle is fitting because the tiny white blossoms seem to twinkle like stars in the night sky. Its blooming time cooperates nicely with the holidays — beginning around Halloween and running through New Year's.

  • Oncidium "equitant type." Imagine an orchid even smaller than Twinkle. Full-grown plants of this genera reside primarily in a 2-inch pot. All the petal shades of the autumn color wheel are represented here — rusts, plums, cranberries — many with polka-dots.

Botanists recently reclassified these plants into a new orchid group called Tolumnias — though most enthusiasts will forever refer to them as Equitants. The flowers are large in relation to the triangularly-shaped foliage — measuring a little smaller than a quarter. There might only be a dozen blooms but they stand perfectly erect 8 inches above the foliage. These dancing ladies are fall bloomers but older plants can bloom multiple times a year.

  • Dendrobium Betty Nakada. Multiple sprays of lavender blooms adorn this miniature whose green leafy pseudo-bulbs are less than 6 inches tall. The sprays arch gracefully in all directions under the weight of each delicate 1-inch blossom. As the plant matures and grows additional pseudo-bulbs, this hybrid could top out at a 4-inch pot, but the overall height of the flowers remains compact. Like all dendrobiums, this hybrid is free-flowering, which means it blooms whenever the mood strikes.

Care for all oncidiums and dendrobiums is filtered light and watering several times a week.

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