• Orchid Muse

Maxillaria tenuifolia 'Edna'

Updated: Feb 4, 2019

I'm not generally a fan of coconut, but my Maxillaria tenuifolia 'Edna' HCC--the first scented orchid I ever owned--convinced me that specializing in scented orchids was the way to go for my collection. First, it doesn't smell like some syrupy sweet rum drink college co-eds giggle over. 'Edna', at least, smells deep, more like the toasted coconut that might appear on top of your favorite carbohydrate bomb. Scent gives the orchid an otherworldly dimension, filling the space with not just its beauty, but its delicious, hovering essence.

I bought "Max ten" in June of 2016. I am a fan of grassy foliage, and its thick, bright-red blooms and spotty little lip are delightful. It was an immediate favorite in my collection because it was just so dang adaptable. It took to repotting with ease--its tiny little white roots swiftly exploring the edges of the pot and greedily sucking up water and nutrients. I find Max ten to be one of the most forgiving orchids in my collection--it appreciates a bit of over-watering at times, which I am perennially guilty of. In its native environment, it receives 5-6 inches of rain per month in summer, dwindling down to 1 inch of rain for winter (and extending that drought for at least five months). I can't account for its adaptability, I can only enjoy it! Let us sing its praises!

In June of 2017, it bloomed again, but with only one flower. I believe this is because the orchid had put a lot of energy into root and foliage production to fill its new pot--but it could also indicate that my fertilizer regimen was a bit off.


Maxillaria tenuifolia hails from Mexico and Guatemala and the rest of Central America. In its natural environment, it receives about 80% humidity year-round, but I have found that it stays happy if the humidity is at least 40%. In summer, it appreciates highs in the mid-80s, with lows in the high-60s. In winter, highs hit the mid-70s, with lows in the mid-50s. I find that it likes to be behind a sheer-curtained southeast window in summer and under lights in winter; it is a medium-light orchid.

Large-specimen Max tens, to me, can look a bit floppy. All of that luxuriant foliage also tends to hide its blooms. So my suggestion is to offer a bit of training for your orchid in the way of a round metal plant stake that clips to the edge of the pot. You can buy them pre-painted at exorbitant costs, or you can buy them unpainted and do it yourself. This is my preferred option--I buy a can of spray paint, lay some cardboard down, and paint 'em my preferred shade.) Some growers buy the raw steel wire and bend them to their liking, but I prefer the middle ground on DIY. For inexpensive but high-quality staking and potting materials for your orchids, I recommend CalWest Tropical: http://www.calwesttropical.com/

If you're ever in Carmichael, CA (near Sacramento), I suggest stopping by. The owner is just about the friendliest guy on the planet.


One last word of warning--beware the Max ten: it is a gateway drug to other maxillarias and maxillariellas. Proceed with abandon.

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