Orchids are the most abundant plant family in the world with over 30,000 different species and even more hybrids. Almost all of these are popular as exotic indoor and outdoor plants, mainly for their unique flowers. One of the defining characteristics of an orchid flower is the presence of three petals and three colorful sepals that might easily be mistaken for petals. The three basic types depending on their growing habits are:

  1. Terrestrial or ground orchids grow directly in soil with proper underground root systems.
  2. Epiphytic orchids grow on some other surface instead of soil, collecting moisture and other nutrients from the air.
  3. Lithophytic orchids grow in rocks.

Below is a list of some of the most popular orchids with necessary care information:

Orchid Flower

List of Common Types of Indoor and Outdoor Orchid Plants with Their Varieties

1. Cattleya Orchids

Cattleya Orchids

The fragrant lilac/purple flowers are probably the most recognizable. Easy to take care of and suitable for beginners. When growing in a pot, make sure to use a potting mixture that drains well. Also, the roots should get a chance to dry between watering sessions as these orchids don’t do well in standing water.

Type: Epiphytic, terrestrial

Popular Varieties: Ruby-lipped cattleya, Easter orchid, Cattleya iricolor

Colors: Yellow, pink, lavender, reddish

Light Requirement: Filtered sun indoors (2,000 to 3,000 foot-candles)

Humidity: 40-70%

Blooms Last: 3-6 weeks

2. Dendrobium Orchids

Dendrobium Orchid

One of the most diverse genera, these orchids are native to Asian countries like China, Japan, India, and Vietnam, as well as Australia. The roots of these orchids tend to grow on to the soil surface, and they can tolerate hot climates if they get proper ventilation and enough moisture. Mature plants may need repotting once every year.

Type: Epiphytic, lithophytic

Popular Varieties: Dendrobium nobile, Pink rock orchid, dendrobium Bae Yong-joon, dendrobium Margaret Thatcher

Colors: White, yellow, pink to purple, green

Light Requirement: Lots of filtered sun (2,000 to 4,000 foot-candles)

Humidity: 40-60%

Blooms Last: 4-8 weeks

3. Cymbidium Orchids (Boat Orchids)

Cymbidium Orchid

All the varieties in this genus flower just once a year. You cannot make them re-bloom like some other orchids. Boat orchids are known for being hardy to cold, dry conditions, but still, need weekly watering if grown in areas with a hot summer. They do well in lots of light, but exposure to hot afternoon sun can turn the leaves yellow.

Type: Epiphytic, lithophytic, terrestrial

Popular Varieties: Iris-like cymbidium, red column cymbidium, aloe-leafed cymbidium, two-colored cymbidium, green-flowered cymbidium, C. canaliculatum ‘sparkesii’/black orchid

Colors: Comes in almost any color, except blue

Light Requirement: Bright morning sun (up to 6,000 foot-candles)

Humidity: 40-60%

Blooms Last: 8-10 weeks

4. Miltonia Orchid (Pansy Orchid)

Miltonia Orchid

Native to Brazil, these orchids are a popular choice for producing hybrids. It once formed a single genus with the similar-sounding ‘Miltoniopsis’, and still shares the common name ‘pansy orchids’. Miltonia orchids are absolutely intolerant to salts from fertilizers. The leaves may take on a crinkled appearance unless they get enough water.

Type: Epiphytic

Popular Varieties: Outstanding miltonia, Clowes’ miltonia, yellowish miltonia, snow-white miltonia

Colors: White, pink, dark purple, lilac, pale yellow

Light Requirement: Indirect sunlight (1,200 to 2,000 foot-candles)

Humidity: 70-75%

Blooms Last: 4-6 weeks

5. Miltoniopsis Orchid

Miltoniopsis Orchid

Native to Central and South America, these orchids are sometimes confused with the Miltonia species both due to the same common name, and their similar appearance. The attractive fragrant blossoms look like huge pansies. The plants can bloom twice a year if taken proper care.

Type: Epiphytic

Popular Varieties: Flag-Like Miltoniopsis, Miltoniopsis roezlii

Colors: Pink, purple, red, yellow, and white

Light Requirement: Filtered low light (1,000-1,500 foot-candle)

Humidity: 50-70%

Blooms Last: 4-8 weeks

6. Vanilla Orchids

Vanilla Orchid

Being native to tropical and subtropical climates of America, Asia, and Africa, vanilla orchids need high humidity levels, and excellent ventilation to grow and stay healthy. So, it might be challenging to grow them without a greenhouse. Even if grown as a houseplant, the evergreen plants would not produce flowers.

Type: Epiphytic

Popular Varieties: Flat-leaved vanilla (source of the flavoring agent), leafless vanilla, Chamisso’s vanilla, pompona vanilla

Colors: White, cream, yellow, light green

Light Requirement: Bright indirect sun (1500 to 3000 foot-candles)

Humidity: 80-85%

Blooms Last: Around a day

7. Lady’s Slipper Orchids

Lady's Slipper Orchid

Named after the unique pouch at the center of the flowers, this is one of the most recognizable orchid genera with stunning flowers. These plants grow in North America, Europe, and Asia, being able to tolerate various climatic conditions. Some of the Lady’s slipper varieties are considered endangered at present.

Type: Terrestrial, epiphytic

Popular Varieties: Pink lady’s slippers, showy lady’s slippers, ram’s-head lady’s slipper, White lady’s slipper

Colors: White, yellow, pink, purple

Light Requirement: Filtered sun (1,500 to 2,000 foot-candle)

Humidity: 40-50%

Blooms Last: 6-8 weeks

8. Vanda Orchids

Vanda Orchid

These are native to Asia, mainly from China, Japan, and India. Can easily grow in warm, humid areas, also tolerate moderately cold climates. Best grown in a greenhouse so they can get enough humidity. Blooms 3-4 times a year. Some vandas have broad flat leaves (strap-leave), while others have fleshy cylindrical leaves (terete). These are a popular choice for hybrids.

Type: Epiphytic, lithophytic, terrestrial

Popular Varieties: Blue orchid, Deare’s vanda, wind orchid, vanda ‘Miss Joaquim’ (National Flower of Singapore), Mrs. Javier’s vanda

Colors: Yellow, brown, white, green, red, burgundy, orange, pink

Light Requirement: Filtered sun for strap-leave vanda (1,000 to 2,000 foot-candles); full sun for terete vanda (3,000 to 5,000 foot-candles)

Humidity: 80%

Blooms Last: 3-4 weeks

9. Catasetum Orchids

Catasetum Orchid

One of the genera to contain some of the most popular and bizarrely attractive types of orchids, these come from the southern parts of North America as well as Central and South America. They are quite easy to take care of as well, needing standard humidity levels and lots of light. Most plants have large pleated leaves and striking fragrant or non-fragrant flowers. Unlike most other orchids, these grow separate male and female flowers.

Type: Epiphytic

Popular Varieties: Sack-shaped catasetum, mother of pearl flower, pale-yellow catasetum, monk’s head orchid, smooth head catasetum

Colors: Male flowers can be of any bright color; female flowers are green-white

Light Requirement: Lots of bright partially filtered sun (3,000 to 6,000 foot-candles)

Humidity: 40-70%

Blooms Last: 2-3 weeks

10. Ludisia Orchids (jewel orchid variety)

Ludisia Orchid

This one includes just one species, the jewel orchid, native Southeast Asia and China. Apart from its small white flowers, its deep purple velvety leaves contribute equally to its popularity, making it a common choice for hybrids. These are suitable for beginners best grown indoors

Type: Terrestrial

Popular Varieties: Dossisia dominyi ‘Judy’, Ludisia discolor ‘Alba’, Ludisia discolor ‘Nigrescens’

Colors: White flowers, dark red/purple to black leaves

Light Requirement: Shade (1,000 to 1,500 foot candles)

Humidity: 70-80%

Blooms Last: 3-4 weeks

11. Brassavola Orchids

Brassavola Orchid

A relatively smaller group, containing 21 types of orchids native to Mexico, West Indies, Central, and South America. Though they grow better in high humidity, they can tolerate drier conditions for a few days. Suitable for growing in a greenhouse, especially if you are growing it mounted. The night fragrant flowers often have a citrus note in their scent.

Type: Epiphytes, lithophytes

Popular Varieties: Lady of the night, daddy-long-legs orchid, Brassavola ‘little stars’

Colors: Mostly white with or without a greenish or pinkish tint

Light Requirement: Lots of indirect sun (2,000 to 3,500 foot-candles)

Humidity: 50-70%

Blooms Last: 1-4 weeks

12. Oncidium Orchid (Dancing Lady Orchids)

Oncidium Orchid

Often shortened as ‘Onc.’, the common name of these orchids comes from the unique appearance of their flowers. They grow mainly in Central and South America, as well as the West Indies. They make low-maintenance indoor plants but need night temperatures below 65°F to produce flower stalks.

Type: Epiphytes (majority), lithophytes, terrestrials

Popular Varieties: Wydler’s dancing-lady orchid, Florida orchid, Onc. sharry baby ‘chocolate orchid’

Colors: Golden yellow, red, brown, white, pink (often with spots and markings)

Light Requirement: Filtered sun (1,500 to 2,000 foot-candles)

Humidity: 40-50%

Blooms Last: 4-6 weeks

13. Brassia Orchid (Spider Orchid)

Brassia Orchid

Referred to as ‘Brs.’, plants in this genus produce flowers with elongated tepals that make them look like spiders. One plant can produce up to 20 blooms, depending on the type. These are native to Mexico, Central America, and north of South America. They grow well in warm climates but need a resting period after each blooming season in cool, low-light conditions.

Type: Epiphytic

Popular Varieties: Tailed Brassia

Colors: Yellow, reddish-brown, purple, cream, green

Light Requirement: Bright filtered sun (2,000 to 3,000 foot-candles)

Humidity: 50-60%

Blooms Last: 3-5 weeks

14. Calypso Orchid (Fairy Slipper Orchid)

Calypso Orchid

This genus comprises of just one true species known by the same name, and its hybrids. It grows near the Arctic regions of North America, Scandinavia, Canada, Russia, and China. The plant is quite fussy about its surroundings and does not tolerate even a minute change or disturbance. This is why it is not commonly grown in gardens.

Type: Terrestrial

Popular Varieties: Hybrids

Colors: Purple, pink, red, with white/yellow markings

Light Requirement: Shade (1,000-2,000 foot candles)

Humidity: Low

Blooms Last: Several weeks

15. Epidendrum Orchid

Epidendrum Orchid

A large genus, also called ‘Epi.’ In short, these grow in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the Americas. Their natural growth habits make them unsuitable for outdoor gardens, but they do well indoors, or in a greenhouse. Most epidendrums are short plants with small strongly fragrant flowers.

Type: Epiphytic (majority), terrestrial, lithophytic

Popular Varieties: Fire-star orchid/crucifix orchid, night-scented orchid

Colors: Red, orange, yellow, purple, pink, white

Light Requirement: Indirect sun (1,500 to 3,000 foot-candles)

Humidity: 50-70%

Blooms Last: 4-6 weeks

16. Angraecum Orchid (Comet Orchid)

Angraecum Orchid

These come from dry tropical woodlands, have dark green fleshy leaves, and sweetly scented flowers. The most recognized variety in this genus is the snowy white star-shaped Christmas orchid. Most Angraecum orchids prefer their soils lo dry out sooner compared to other orchids, so medium/coarse fir bark suits them.

Type: Epiphytes (majority), lithophytes.

Popular Varieties: – Darwin’s orchid/ Christmas orchid/Star of Bethlehem orchid

Colors: Mostly white; some are yellowish, cream, or green

Light Requirement: Medium to bright filtered sun (2,000 to 3,000 foot-candles)

Humidity: 50-60%

Blooms Last: 4-5 weeks

17. Paphiopedilum Orchid (Venus Slipper Orchid)

Paphiopedilum Orchid

Originally from Southeastern Asia, Venus slippers are among the most sought-after orchid varieties for the unusual shape and attractive colors of their flowers. Unlike most other orchids, these grow robust shoots with succulent leaves, instead of pseudobulbs. This also means they may need more frequent watering (every 4-5 days) than other types.

Type: Terrestrials (majority), epiphytes, lithophytes

Popular Varieties: Silver slipper orchid, Paph. insigne, Paph. Hennisianum, Paph. armeniacum

Colors: Comes in any color except true red, and blue

Light Requirement: Low (1,000-1,500 foot candles)

Humidity: 40-50%

Blooms Last: 6-8 weeks

18. Dracula Orchid

Dracula Orchid

Native to Central and South America, it gets its name from the blood-red or black color of the flowers produced by most species in the genus. As the name suggests, it grows in cool climates and shaded humid conditions. The plants remain rather short, with a single flower stalk. The monkey face variety is the most popular.

Type: Epiphytic, terrestrial

Popular Varieties: Monkey-face orchid, frog’s skin orchid, clown Dracula orchid, Dracula bella

Colors: Red, black, dark purple, yellow

Light Requirement: Low light (1,000 to 1,500 foot candles)

Humidity: 75-80%

Blooms Last: 4-6 weeks

19. Encyclia Orchid

Encyclia Orchid

Abbreviated as ‘E’, these come from the tropical American regions of Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean. They prefer their soil to dry out very quickly and are easily overwatered. They take most of their moisture from humidity in the air. Flowers of the fragrant varieties often have a fresh lemony or vanilla scent.

Type: Epiphytic

Popular Varieties: Large-lipped encyclia, Tampa butterfly orchid, oncidium-like encyclia

Colors: Purple, brown, yellow, fuchsia, green

Light Requirement: Medium to bright filtered sun (2,500 to 3,500 foot-candles)

Humidity: 50-70%

Blooms Last: 4-6 weeks

20. Lycaste Orchid

Lycaste Orchid

Known in short as ‘Lyc’, these plants are native to Central and South America. Most varieties of Lycaste has small to medium fragrant flowers, with the ‘sweet-scented lycaste’ being most famous for its cinnamon-like scent. These orchids are quite hardy, but best grown in a greenhouse so you can easily meet their high humidity requirement.

Type: Terrestrial, epiphytic

Popular Varieties: Lyc, skinneri, sweet scented lycaste, Lyc macrophylla

Colors: White, yellow, orange, reddish-brown, green

Light Requirement: Filtered sun (2,000 to 3,000 foot-candles)

Humidity: 50-80% (high humidity during the night)

Blooms Last: 4-6 weeks

21. Psychopsis Orchid

Psychopsis Orchid

Known as ‘Psychp’, it is another genus from the humid regions of Central America, northern South America, and Trinidad, it consists of 5 species and some hybrids. These plants have bright butterfly-like flowers, earning them the common name ‘butterfly orchids’. Among the most popular orchid varieties, the flowers have a unique look with their long erect petals. Flowers are smaller if plants get too much light.

Type: Epiphytic

Popular Varieties: Psychp papilio, Psychp krameriana, Psychp sanderae, Psychp versteegii

Colors: Yellow, cream, white base color with purple, brown, pink, red markings

Light Requirement: Shade to filtered sun (1,800-3,000 foot candles)

Humidity: 70-80%

Blooms Last: 3-4 weeks

22. Masdevallia Orchid

Masdevallia Orchid

These grow at elevations over 2,500m in the Andean regions of Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru. These can be slightly difficult to grow as they only survive in cold conditions, needing you to maintain temperatures below 68°F along with high humidity levels at all times. The colder it is around them, stouter the plants will be, growing larger flowers.

Type: Epiphytes, terrestrials, lithophytes

Popular Varieties: Davis’ masdevallia, Veitch’s masdevallia, Christmas masdevallia, nesting masdevallia

Colors: Almost any color in pale to neon shades, with spots and markings

Light Requirement: Varies with type, but most need shade to moderate sun (1,000 to 2,000 foot-candles)

Humidity: 60-80%

Blooms Last: 2-4 weeks

23. Bletilla Orchid (Urn Orchid)

Bletilla Orchid

Originally from East and Southeast Asia, the 5 orchids in this genus are all quite popular, commonly used for hybrids as well. Abbreviated as ‘Ble’, these plants grow dark green long pleated leaves that add to its attraction in addition to the large, showy unscented flowers.

Type: Terrestrial

Popular Varieties: Hardy orchid/Chinese ground orchid, Chinese butterfly orchid

Colors: White, cream, pink, purple

Light Requirement: Bright filtered sun (2,000 to 3,000 foot candles)

Humidity: 40-60%

Blooms Last: 4-6 weeks

24. Phaius Orchid (Swamp Orchid)

Phaius Orchid

Native to the tropical regions of Asia, Africa, and Australia, these plants do best in well-drained potting mix in moderate to warm temperatures. The plants produce 2-3 feet tall flower stalks, and yet they do not take much space as they do not grow more than 6 inches wide.

Type: Terrestrial

Popular Varieties: Nun’s-hood orchid, forest swamp orchid, Borneo phaius

Colors: White, purple, pink, brownish, yellow

Light Requirement: Medium to bright filtered sun (2,500 to 3,500 foot-candles)

Humidity: 40-70%

Blooms Last: 3-4 weeks

25. Zygopetalum Orchid

Zygopetalum Orchid

Another genus native to South America, Zygopetalum plants produce large waxy flowers with a strong sweet fragrance. The inflorescence usually grows longer than their broad waxy leaves. These plants need low nighttime temperatures around 50-60°F, but cannot tolerate frost. Some varieties may be susceptible to leaf-spotting, though newer hybrids are less likely to have the problem.

Type: Epiphytes (majority), terrestrials

Popular Varieties: Mosen’s zygopetalum

Colors: Green, burgundy, purple, raspberry, fuchsia, indigo

Light Requirement: Bright filtered sun (3,000 to 4,000 foot-candles)

Humidity: 40-70%

Blooms Last: 4-6 weeks

26. Phalaenopsis Orchids (Moth Orchids)

Phalaenopsis Orchids

A large genus from East and Southeast Asia, New Guinea, and Australia, these plants prefer relatively warmer temperatures, making it ideal to be grown indoors in pots. ‘Phal’ or moth orchids are considered one of the easiest to take care of while producing long inflorescence of stunning butterfly-shaped flowers.

Type: Epiphytes, lithophytes

Popular Varieties: Moon orchid, Aphrodite’s phalaenopsis, Phal bellina, Phal micholitzii ‘Glen Ridge’

Colors: White, pink, salmon, purple, yellow

Light Requirement: Bright shade (1,500 to 2,000 foot-candles)

Humidity: 50-70%

Blooms Last: 9-12 weeks

27. Coelogyne Orchid

Coelogyne Orchid

Also referred to as ‘Coel’, it contains about 200 orchids found in the Himalayas, and certain regions of Indonesia, and Fiji. Some of these are also known as necklace orchids because of their long clustered inflorescence. Since these grow in cool humid conditions, water them 1-2 times daily during the hot summer months. Though make sure to use a potting mix with excellent drainage.

Type: Epiphytes

Popular Varieties: Coel cristata, lute-shaped coelogyne, Usita’s coelogyne, Coel flaccida

Colors: White, yellow, brown, green

Light Requirement: Filtered sun (1500 to 2000 foot-candle)

Humidity: 50-70%

Blooms Last: 4-6 weeks

28. Cycnoches Orchid (Swan Orchid)

Cycnoches Orchid

Originally from Central and South America, these orchids usually grow male and female flowers on separate plants. The gender of your plant somewhat depends on its surrounding temperature, but there is no certain way to know or control it. They shed all their leaves after a blooming season. The flowers have a strong sweet scent

Type: Epiphytic

Popular Varieties: Five fingered cycnoches, Loddiges’ cycnoches, Haag’s cycnoches, golden cycnoches

Colors: Red, pink, bronze, yellow, white, and green

Light Requirement: Bright shade (1,500 to 2,000 foot-candles)

Humidity: 50-70%

Blooms Last: 4-6 weeks

29. Orchis Orchid

Orchis Orchid

One of the rarer orchids native to Europe, Northwestern parts of America, and Tibet, it includes 21 different types. Most of these grow striking flowers in clusters on a long inflorescence, with each flower resembling a human outline. These orchids do not do well if the temperature gets too high, so keep it within 65-68°F on average.

Type: Terrestrial

Popular Varieties: Naked man orchid, early purple orchid, military orchid, pale-flowered orchid

Colors: Purple, red, yellow, cream

Light Requirement: Bright, partially filtered sun (3,000 to 6,000 foot-candles)

Humidity: 50-60%

Blooms Last: 4-6 weeks

30. Grammatophyllum Orchid

Grammatophyllum Orchid

These produce brightly colored showy flowers, often having a fresh scent. Native to the tropical rainforests of China and Southeast Asia, these plants need a lot of humidity to grow well, making them more suitable for a greenhouse.

Type: Epiphytic

Popular Varieties: Giant/tiger orchid, Marta’s gramamatophyllum, Multiflowered grammatophyllum, Grammatophyllum ‘Tiger’s paw’

Colors: Greenish-yellow, green, brown

Light Requirement: Bright light, but protect from hot afternoon sun (4,000 to 6,000 foot-candles)

Humidity: 50-70%

Blooms Last: 4-8 weeks

Some Other Rare and Unique Orchids

  • Ghost orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii)
  • Flower of the holy spirit (Peristeria elata)
  • Large duck or flying duck orchid (Caleana major)
  • Coconut pie orchid (Maxillaria tenuifolia)
  • White egret flower (Pecteilis radiata)
  • Bamboo orchid (Arundina graminifolia)
  • Mokara orchid (cross between Vanda, Ascocentrum, and Arachnis)

Most of the blue-flowered varieties available today, like the ocean breeze, royal blue phal, blue mystique, and pale blue orchid, are actually dyed to achieve the colors.

Basic Tips to Take Better Care of Your Orchids

Watering: Find the perfect balance between watering so frequently that the soil becomes soggy, and so rarely that the soil gets too dry. For terrestrial and lithophytic varieties, just wait long enough to let the soil drain out before you water again. For Epiphytes, mist 1-2times a day depending on the plants’ needs.

Humidity: Since orchids don’t always get their water from the soil, maintaining the right humidity levels is instrumental in keeping their stunning look. In dry areas, placing the plants in a humidity tray, or installing a humidifier near them can work.

Ventilation: The more humid the conditions are around your orchid, the better ventilation it will need to avoid insects, fungus, and rotting. On the other hand, if a houseplant gets too much ventilation in dry conditions, it might dry up too quickly.

Fertilization: Nitrogen fertilizers are usually recommended, while those with urea are best avoided. A balanced one such as a 20-20-20, or any urea-free fertilizer suitable for houseplants may do the job. Some people prefer fertilizing once a month, while others dilute it to apply weekly with water.

Repotting: Most types need repotting once every 2-3 years, with a few exceptions that need to be repotted once a year. If any roots are growing out of the pot, or having issues with adequately draining the water, it might be time to repot.

Just keep a careful eye on your orchid, and it will tell you if you are doing anything wrong. For example, if you see the leaves of your orchids turning dark green, it means it is getting less sunlight than it needs. Yellowing of the leaves means they are getting too much sun. So, you can adjust its growing conditions accordingly so the plant can get what it needs.