The common name “lavender orchid” is used in reference to two very different plants. One is an orchid in the Phalaenopsis genus. The other is a climbing vine native to Central America, Mascagnia lilacina. The application of the same common name to multiple plants is a common phenomenon and if people are in doubt about which plant is under discussion, it can help to ask about the scientific name. The physical differences between these particular plants are obvious and the plant under discussion should be apparent when viewed in person.
Phalaenopsis is a genus of around 60 orchid species widely used in the orchid trade, especially in the development of hybrids. Miniature Phalaenopsis orchids with small purple flowers are sometimes referred to as lavender orchids. Like other orchids, they need humid, warm conditions during their flowering period, followed by a cool, dry resting period to allow the plant to recover.
The lavender orchid is a popular plant for gifts, as it holds up well during shipping and is relatively easy to care for. Living plants are carefully cultivated and shipped right before the blooms hit their peak, so consumers receive a plant with vivid, colorful flowers. With some care, the lavender orchid can be maintained and kept as a houseplant. Living plants sent as gifts often come with a care card so people know how to keep the plant alive. In the case of the lavender orchid, the plant should be misted to maintain humidity and allowed to rest after flowering before being watered and fertilized to coax it into entering another blooming cycle.
In the case of Mascagnia lilacina, the lavender orchid is a woody vine that produces delicate, orchid-like flowers in pale purple shades. The vine is evergreen in warm, humid climates like its native tropics and can also be grown in slightly cooler regions, where it will turn deciduous. This ornamental vine can be used on arbors, trellises, and other structures and likes full to partial sun and medium, well-drained soil. Some cultivars are drought tolerant.
The blue orchid vine, as it is also known, can be a good selection for a garden in a tropical or subtropical climate. The flowers are colorful and profuse on a healthy vine and it will bloom into the fall. This plant is also suitable for container gardening, and can be grown indoors in greenhouses, atriums, and sunny areas of the house, for people living in climates too cold to sustain tropical and subtropical plants outdoors.