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  • Writer's pictureOrchid Muse

Bulbophyllum biflorum

Updated: Nov 19, 2018

To my eyes, Bulbophyllum biflorum is one of the most elegant bulbos around--I'd go so far to call it the Audrey Hepburn of the genus. I fell in love with this specific orchid even before I knew what the flowers looked like. This is because of its gorgeous lime green (almost neon green) pseudobulbs, topped with its grass-green leaves. It is a species--can you believe these colors aren't the products of hybridization?--and it's held its original name since 1854. Talk about a classic. And I haven't even described its flowers yet.

These bulbos are straight chillin'.

Bulbophyllum biflorum grows miraculously quickly, like most bulbos. I bought it in March of 2017 and it had grown out of its 4-inch pot by June. I planted it in a heavy ceramic hanging basket, hoping that its long-legged flowers would bloom over the edge of the pot. (It worked!) Like all the bulbos I know, it loves to keep its feet moist, but likes a shallow pot for its short roots. (I have a ceramic water holder inside the pot that delivers moisture slowly and constantly.) Biflorum has been happy in a mix of small bark, sphagnum, and perlite. I train its pseudobulbs to run in circles around the pot. If you want your bulbophyllum to not crawl out of its pot at light speed, make sure to buy one whose space between its pseudobulbs is short. Lengthy spaces between pseudobulbs will mean your bulbo will quickly crawl into it's neighbor's pot (and then the one down the block, and around the corner, and so on!).

Why, hello, twinkle toes!

This species is endemic to Thailand, Malaya, Bali, the Philippines, and other nearby nations. It grows on tree trunks at roughly 2,000 to 4,000 feet in anything from shady forests to brighter locations. I offered it cattleya light in the summer in a sheer-curtained southeast window, and it winters under lights--its leaves are just an inch away from the florescents in these pictures. I've experimented with higher light levels under T5HOs, but contrary to most other orchids, I didn't like the result. The light was far too high for them, creating unslightly anthocyanin spotting, and while it grew and flowered quickly, the flowers that time around stank! So I've moved it back to lower light.

Ideal high temps run in the high 70s to low 80s F year round; low temps average in the mid- to high-60s.

I was thrilled to see her in spike in March 2018--the first bulbo to bloom in my collection. Go girl, go! Water B. biflorum intensely June through September (in its native habitat, it can receive up to 20 inches of rain per month in summer). December through March is a drought season, averaging 0.5 to 3.5 inches of rain per month. But, remember to keep up the humidity year round! It prefers humidity at 80%, and that only drops to 65% in winter months in its native habitat. Mine is doing fine indoors with 60% humidity days and 40% nights.

As you can see, the flowers are the essence of elegance. When you get a chance to see one in person, make sure to check out--and play with--its hinged lip! It's wild! That little triangular lip is so luscious--fleshy, mobile, fun. It's the flower's way of delivering its pollinators (mostly small flies) to the reproductive zone.

Some people describe the scent as "foul" and "like rotten meat." It's not heinously stinky like other bulbos can be. I prefer to describe it as earthy, perhaps muddy, with a hint of cut grass. OK, so the Audrey Hepburn comparison isn't perfect, but this girl is showy and yet forgiving. Only her flowers reveal that she can turn on the diva act when she needs it. Otherwise, she's a beauty to keep around the house, even out of bloom.


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