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What is a Christmas Orchid?

By Todd M.
Updated May 16, 2024
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Christmas orchid is an informal name for a handful of different orchids that blossom during the winter holidays. Some Christmas orchids are also used in traditional Christmas floral arrangements. Most of these types of plants are easy to grow but require unique conditions in order to blossom during Christmas. The three best known species of orchids that blossom during Christmas include Percivel's cattleya, winika and the star of Bethlehem orchid.

Percivel's cattleya, Cattleya percivaliana, is an orchid species that is native to Venezuela. This Christmas orchid has showy blossoms with large, ruffled petals. The notable bottom lobe of a Percivel's cattleya ranges from deep red in the center to light pink along the margin. Many orchid enthusiasts have remarked that the strong odor of these flowers can be found objectionable. This species can be raised as a Christmas orchid by allowing the soil to become completely dry before watering it again during the late fall.

Winika, Winika cunninghamii, is a species of epiphytic orchid that is native to the tropical rainforests of New Zealand. Epyphytic plants are able to survive on cliffs and tree branches without the need for any type of soil. The blossoms on this Christmas orchid consist of five white petals with fuscia tips and a center lobe of bright yellow and rich brown. There is a hybrid of this Christmas orchid available called Dendrobium Christmas Chime as well.

The Star of Bethlehem orchid, Angraecum sesquipedale is native to Madagascar and well-known amongst orchid lovers for its elegant, white flower and particularly long stem. Also known as the comet orchid, this Christmas orchid blossoms during the summer in the warm forests of its native habitat. In Europe, North America and other colder climates, the orchid is cultivated to blossom indoors during the early winter.

In addition to being a Christmas orchid, the Star of Bethlehem orchid is also at the center of a famous story concerning the theory of co-evolution. During the 1860s, Charles Darwin studied the orchid closely to determine how it was pollinated. He concluded that the flower could only have evolved its unusual blossom if a particular moth had evolved along with it.

According to Darwin, this moth would need a proboscis, or mouth-like appendage, that was 14 inches (about 35 centimeters) long. The moth was discovered 21 years later and video footage was taken of the moth pollinating the flower at the turn of the 21st century.

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Discussion Comments

By turquoise — On Dec 10, 2014

@ZipLine-- I love orchids too. Last year, my sister had a white Christmas tree and white orchids. They were so beautiful. It really was a white Christmas at her house.

I don't have orchids. I just have a Christmas cactus. It also blooms around Christmas time. It doesn't look like a typical cactus, it has long green stems that kind of look like leaves. And the flowers bloom at the end. Mine has pink flowers.

If it blooms a lot, the Christmas cactus looks pretty, if not, then not so much. They're definitely not as pretty as Christmas orchids.

By ZipLine — On Dec 10, 2014

I love Christmas orchids. Somehow, our home is not ready for Christmas without them and we end up buying more every year. Along with some candles and lighting, Christmas orchids make the house so festive and merry. I love them. Orchids and my traditional Christmas cinnamon cookies are must-haves for the holidays.

Does anyone else feel the same way?

By bear78 — On Dec 09, 2014

My mom has a Christmas orchid although I'm not sure what it's called. It blooms around Christmas time but sometimes it's a little bit late and blooms close to New Years. My mom gets very excited when she sees the first flowers popping up.

It does have very beautiful flowers but they last for only a week and then die off. We then do not see them for another year. It's actually a lot of effort to take care of orchids that only bloom once and for such a short period of time.

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