So you want to know the answer to the question, can orchids grow on palm trees?
Well, first things first a great proportion of orchids are epiphytic.
Epiphytic plants are also known as air plants and they draw upon the moisture and nutrients in the surrounding environment to thrive.
Also, epiphytes grow on other plants.
So to me, that would suggest they can grow on palm trees right?
Let’s take a closer look.
Can Orchids Grow On Palm Trees?
Yes, palm trees are a great place to grow epiphytic orchids. All you need to do is to remove your orchid from its pot and dispose of all the potting material. Then use something like fishing line or nylon stockings to attach it to the palm tree and allow its roots to take hold of the trunk. Once that is done it is virtually maintenance-free.
If you think about it, it makes sense that orchids can grow on palm trees.
In nature, most orchid species grow in tropical forests or semi-desert regions.
Orchids are air plants and the trees they grow on provide nitrogen, water and minerals for them.
And in the natural habitat of orchids, these tropical forests and semi-desert areas, there also tend to be lots of palm trees.
So you have a plant that likes to grow on trees and a lot of palm trees.
You don’t have to be a genius to work out the result!
It Depends on the Type of Palm Tree
If you have palm trees and are considering growing orchids on them, some varieties of palm make better hosts for orchids than others.
If the palm tree has a smooth trunk (ie Veitchia, Ptychosperma, Roystonea, etc), then the orchid will find it more difficult to take hold.
That isn’t to say it is impossible to grow orchids on these palms, just that they prefer trees with rough bark.
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It Depends on the Species of Orchid
Again, you shouldn’t have too much trouble growing a range of orchids on a palm tree, but some are better suited to it than others.
For instance, Dendrobium Nobile hybrids and Oncidium hybrids are commonly available orchids and are great for growing on palm trees.
Both can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, right down to freezing, and both have similar light requirements. In fact, Dendrobium Nobile can tolerate quite a lot of full sun for an orchid.
Both have similar water requirements, attaching orchids to your palms that have similar watering requirements does make things much easier.
In general Vandas and Cattleyas are the varieties that like the most sun, with Phalaenopsis preferring a much shadier environment.
How Do You Put An Orchid On A Palm Tree?
The first step will be to select a suitable location (if you have a number of palm trees of course).
Consider the light requirements of your orchid. As we know some can deal with more sun than others.
A space that gets sun in the morning is preferable, as in the afternoon the heat from the sun is less forgiving.
Also in the ideal scenario, you will want a spot where the blooms of your orchid are easily visible.
Remember once the roots of the orchid take hold of the tree, they will be very difficult to move!
Then follow the guidelines below:
- Remove the orchid from the pot and get rid of all the potting material.
- There should be almost a natural fit, with the orchid leaves against the tree and the roots closest to the surface of the trunk. Find this fit.
- Attach the orchid to the tree using your preferred method (more about this below). Try attaching at two points, first across the area where the leaves are attached to the roots and then across the roots themselves.
- Allow enough space beneath the crown shaft to remove spent fronds from the palm tree without damaging the orchid.
- Mist the plants a couple of times a week if it is particularly dry. You can spray the roots with fertilizer occasionally, although this isn’t necessary.
- Keep a close eye on the orchid whilst it attaches itself to the palm tree trunk. This usually takes around six months.
- When the process begins you should see the roots expand quickly and begin to circle the tree. When this happens you are good to remove the tape.
- Once it is attached, the orchid is almost maintenance free and you can enjoy its blooms for many years!
Remember the higher up on the palm tree you attach your orchid, the harder it will be for pests to get to it.
You should not need to use any kind of potting medium on your orchid.
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In fact, doing so, may keep the surface too wet and not only prevents the roots from attaching themselves to the tree, but might also induce root rot.
What Do You Use to Attach Your Orchid to a Palm Tree?
So going back to point 3 in the list above, you need to decide what you are going to use to attach your orchid to the tree.
When I was researching this article I found people had had success using a whole variety of methods:
- “I use Vigoro ‘Sturdy Stretch Tie’ plastic tape to attach the orchid to the tree.”
- “I would avoid using stiff plastic tie wraps, they are very inflexible and could strangle your orchid as it grows.”
- “We spread out the roots and used yarn or twine to attach them.”
- “I’ve tied about seven different orchids to palm trees with fishing string, as that is what I saw my neighbors do.”
- “Nylon stockings are great for attaching orchids to trees as the material doesn’t damage the plants and they root before the stocking deteriorates.”
- “I bind mine with aluminum wire or plastic rafia rope.”
- “I use thin nylon fishing line to attach orchids to my palm trunks. By the time the roots have taken hold the fishing line generally either breaks off as it stretches or just disintegrates from sunlight exposure.”
- “For me, a fabric mesh or pantyhose work great. They allow moisture to get to the roots and the mesh then usually rots away.”
Alternatively, this is what the American Orchid Society recommends:
“Attach with cotton string that will eventually decompose and not harm the environment. It fades in a few weeks, blending in with its surroundings, and the plant will have rooted in place when the fibers deteriorate one year later.
Plastic ties and monofilament are alternatives. But since these synthetics are not biodegradable, it is necessary to loosen them as the stems grow, and eventually remove them once the roots form.”
“Hot-glue guns are another choice; take care not to injure new leads. Place a dab of glue on the rhizome or pseudobulb and hold against the tree for a few seconds.”
Can Orchids Grow On Any Tree?
Epiphytic orchids can grow on any tree, as long as the outside conditions are right and they get enough water and sunlight.
The roots of epiphytic orchids hug the tree trunk and use the trunk as an anchor to get nutrients from moisture in the air.
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The trunk itself also provides nutrients for the orchids in the form of the organic matter on it and whatever is washed down the trunk of the tree when it rains.
Around 70% of orchids are epiphytes.
The majority of the remaining 30% are either terrestrials, they grow on the ground and in swamps and on sands, or lithophytes that grow in small crevasses often on mossy rocks.
Orchids and palm trees are a great match.
The process of getting an orchid to grow on a palm tree is actually pretty straightforward and once it is established, there is very little for you to do.
With many orchids’ blooms lasting for two months or longer, then it is a beautiful sight to see them blooming on a palm tree.
They should last for years as well.
It is a simple way to create your own tropical paradise.