The genus Elleanthus has about a hundred species of epiphytic or terricolous orchids, originating in South America. They develop erect stems, from twenty to eighty centimeters high, depending on the species, which bear long alternate leaves, ribbon-shaped or lanceolate, light green; at the apex of the stems a long panicle of small flowers blossoms, subtended by colored bracts.
Elleanthus flowers can be white, yellow, pink or red; they are very showy, also due to the fact that the plants tend to always produce new stems, constituting large tufts. These orchids are not difficult to cultivate, but they are not readily available on the market.
Flowering occurs in the winter period, for this reason, this plant is also called Christmas orchid.
Place the orchids of this genus in a very bright place, but away from the direct rays of the sun which, especially on the hottest days, can quickly cause burns on the leaves; they fear the cold and in winter they must be kept at home or in a temperate greenhouse, with a minimum temperature close to 10-15 ° C.
In summer it is good to shade the plant, to prevent excessive heat from ruining the leaves.
The minimum temperature should never fall below 5 ° C to prevent the plant from presenting problems and signs of suffering.
The growing medium must be kept constantly humid, but not soaked with water; water regularly, leaving to dry slightly between one watering and another to avoid the formation of water stagnation. To increase the environmental humidity, a very important factor for the well-being of Elleanthus orchids, it is good to vaporize the leaves of the plant often with water without limescale which, having no pseudobulbs, can hardly withstand even short periods of drought.
Epiphytic species must be grown in a generic substrate for orchids, consisting of sphagnum, shredded bark and vegetable fibers; for terricolous species it is advisable to add composting soil to the mixture indicated above. Wanting to grow elleanhus at home it is good to place them in a fairly large container, since fleshy roots tend to develop very much, although they should not be too large, as orchids tend to develop better in medium-sized containers. It will be necessary to plan to repot them often, at least every couple of years, so as to replace the substrate with a more fertile one and replacing the pot with a more suitable one.
The multiplication of these orchids generally occurs by division of the tufts; the new plants thus obtained must be immediately repotted in a single container using the same substrate indicated for adult orchids, which will vary according to whether the orchid is epiphytic or terrestrial.
Elleanthus: Pests and diseases
Pay attention to mites and cochineal that can rest on the leaves and cause damage to the plant. It is advisable to intervene promptly eliminating pests with a manual intervention with the aid of a cotton swab with alcohol. These orchids can also present root rot, deriving from an inadequate substrate that does not allow correct drainage, or from an excess of watering.