Nun’s Orchid (Phaius tankervilliae)

It’s winter outside, and nothing is blooming since the deer devoured the flowers on the Mahonia ‘Winter Sun’ last month. I’m counting the days (months, years) until those plants are taller than the deer!  Narcissus foliage is peeping up, earlier than usual after the warm winter we’ve had, but those flowers are still a long way off.

Thankfully, there’s consolation inside the house.  My faithful Nun’s Orchid (Phaius tankervilliae) started blooming around the first of the year.  Unlike the orchids I buy in weak moments, plan to coax into blooming, and never quite manage to master, this big beautiful houseplant reblooms every year.  I bought it from a local nursery three years ago, and have been blessed with more flowers every single year.  Here are a couple of pictures from last year when the blooming was at its peak.

Nun's Orchid in Bloom, 5 Feb 2011

Blooming Nun's Orchid, Plant Habit, 5 Feb 2011

Remember this plant is a baby relatively speaking.  It will just keep getting bigger and better.

Here’s a closeup of this year’s bloom scapes:

Nun's Orchid, 20 Jan 2012

Gorgeous aren’t they?  As you can see from the picture, there are more flowers at the top of the scape waiting to open up.  This puppy blooms for a month or two during the coldest time of the year.

I had this plant in a south window during 2010-2011 cold weather, but it seems just as happy in a west window this year.  It likes to be fertilized a couple of times a year, but has done okay without it so far.  I repotted it in September after summering it outdoors, but the leaves were pretty beat up after a summer outside, so I think it will spend next summer inside.

The only problem I see with this plant is that it’s fairly expensive and hard to find.  I paid about $40 for mine, three years ago, and it’s grown, but not a ton.  I suspect it takes several years to grow a blooming size plant.  It’s also most interesting in January and February when most people aren’t thinking about gardening. Stoke’s Tropicals ( does carry it.  Logee’s ( carries several varieties even showier than the species shown here.

Propagation is by seed, division or rooting bloom stems after bloom season is over.  I have a very small baby plant started from a bloom stem last season and plan to try again this year, probably with the stem cuttings in an enclosure to avoid over and under watering, both of which happened last summer.  I suspect it will be a few years before any of the babies are blooming size though.

There are hybrid and selected varieties with even showier flowers available occasionally.  Last spring, the Logee’s catalog included a few.  I think it’s worth a little trouble and expense for this beauty because she’s such a reliable bloomer at such a gloomy time of year.



Filed under Gardening

4 responses to “Nun’s Orchid (Phaius tankervilliae)

  1. What a gorgeous orchid ! And loads of blooms too !


  2. Hi Peggy!
    It is fun. I’m used to it in the living room.


  3. Pingback: I’m Waiting Patiently… | Garden In The Woods

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