Dove orchids are known for their immense beauty. When you look inside the blooms you see the shape of a beautiful tiny white dove.
Dove orchids are also called Holy Spirit orchids, or Holy Ghost Orchids.
They are a rare species native to Panama, Costa Rica, and Trinidad.
These plants are sought after by orchid fans and make a stunning addition to a collection.
They are not the easiest plants to grow and are better suited for more experienced gardeners. But, you can always give it a try!
Dove orchids belong to the genus Peristeria elata, from the Greek word Peristeria which means Dove.
These stunning plants grow in high-altitude cloud rainforests.
They can thrive as epiphytes, growing harmoniously on other plants.
They also grow in the ground in rich, damp humus and plant material that has decayed.
If you are up for a challenge, read on for a detailed guide on how to grow Dove orchids in your own home.
Dove Orchid Care
Plant your dove orchids in special orchid-mix in warm, moist, humid conditions with dappled light. Ideal temperatures are 60°F to 70°F (15°C to 21°C) year-round. Choose orchid-specific pots with adequate drainage holes. Water well and fertilize during the growing season. Reduce water in winter.
Dove orchids cannot be grown in all-purpose potting soil. They require a specific rich humus mix, preferably made up of sphagnum moss, peat, and decomposed leaves. You can purchase an orchid mix and enhance it by adding rockwool cubes or coco coir to create the best growing conditions.
When planting orchids, you cannot use an all-purpose potting mix. This will not be the correct type of soil and your plant won’t survive.
Dove orchids require very specific soil conditions. Ask your local nursery for orchid-specific soil.
You can also make up your own mix by using sphagnum moss, peat, and decomposed leaves.
Decomposed leaves are also known as leaf mold and offer a great source of nutrients for dove orchids. This soil is close to its natural habitat, where it thrives in humus-rich ground and decaying plant matter.
Adding rockwool to your mixture is also very beneficial for Dove orchids. Rockwool is made via a process that spins molten balsamic rock into fine fibers.
It is formed into small cubes that you can add to your soil mix. Rockwool enhances water retention and also aeration, which is vital for orchids.
Alternatives to rockwool are clay pebbles, perlite, vermiculite, and coco coir.
All these components will make the perfect growing medium for Dove orchids.
The mix has to be very well-draining and water must not accumulate at the base of your pot. You can place small pebbles or broken terracotta shards at the base to aid with water drainage.
Dove orchids grow in conditions with filtered light. They do not do well in direct sunlight. Keep yours in a semi-shade, semi-light spot. Do not place it near a window as the direct sun will damage the plant. Too much shade results in fewer flowers, so getting the correct balance is vital.
Dove orchids grow in very high cloud rainforests where the light levels range from low to medium. There is very little direct sunlight.
For your plant to flourish and flower, you need to create the same environment. Getting the correct balance of light is vital for Dove orchids to produce spectacular flowers.
Place it in a spot that is out of direct sunlight but is semi-bright with filtered light.
Many indoor gardeners love to put potted plants on a window sill. This is not ideal for Dove orchids. Too much direct sun will cause the leaves to burn or will result in very slow growth.
Keeping your plant in a dark corner is also not a great idea. Too much shade will result in the plant not offering flowers.
Water once a week and mist spray regularly to keep the plant moist. Rainwater is ideal if possible, if not, use cooled boiled water. Ensure that the soil does not become waterlogged. Dove orchids require heavy watering while growing. When the pseudobulbs are fully grown, watering can be reduced.
Dove orchids grow in a natural habitat that is very moist. You will need to recreate the same conditions to keep your plant happy.
Plan on watering it once a week by giving it a good drenching. The soil must be well aerated and well-draining. If water accumulates at the base of your pot, the roots will rot and your plant will die.
An orchid-mix of peat, sphagnum moss, and bark is the perfect type of growing medium. It allows water to drain out fast but retains moisture.
Dove orchids require heavy watering during the growing period.
Observe your plant and water up to twice a week if required. You can also mist-spray daily to ensure that the leaves and roots remain damp. Do not spray the flowers.
Rainwater is the best choice for sensitive plants like orchids. Tap water contains chemicals that will build up in the soil and eventually damage your plant. If you cannot easily collect rainwater, you can use boiled water that has been cooled.
Choose an orchid pot that has drainage holes at the base and on the sides.
This will allow the water to run out faster and not stagnate in the pot. Terracotta pots also breathe better than plastic pots and aid in the evaporation of water.
Water your Dove orchid in the morning. If the leaves look dry, do not hesitate to mist spray. Do not overwater.
In winter, watering can be reduced. Some orchid growers like to get their soil to an almost dry state before watering again in the cooler weather.
Dove orchids grow in intermediate to warm conditions. They do best in year-round temperatures of 60°F to 70°F (15°C to 21°C). If winter temperatures drop below 50°F (10°C) the plant will become dormant. Avoid placing your plant in a draught or directly in front of a heater or air conditioner.
Dove orchids enjoy intermediate to warm conditions. If you can create an indoor environment where temperatures range from 60°F to 70°F (15°C to 21°C) throughout the year, you will be rewarded with stunning flowers.
To create the perfect conditions, growing your plant in a small greenhouse is ideal. Not everyone has this luxury, but you can also consider an indoor container that mimics a greenhouse. They are easily bought at nurseries or on the internet.
Orchids are fragile and fussy plants. Make sure that your plant does not stand in the draught of an open door or window. Check that air conditioners and heaters are not blowing directly onto the plant.
Dove orchids require humid conditions of over 50 percent. The ideal humidity is around 70 percent. This is higher than a normal home, so you will have to create the perfect greenhouse-type environment. Mist-spraying can be done to increase the humidity around the plant during the growing season.
Dove orchids grow in very moist and humid high cloud forests. Dampness is required for them to flourish.
Your average home has a humidity of 40 to 50 percent. This may be too low for a dove orchid.
Increasing the humidity will require you to keep your plant in a special spot where you can increase it using a small indoor humidifier. The ideal humidity should be around 70 to 80 percent.
If you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse, this is easy to achieve. If not, you can consider planting your orchid into a small container that resembles a mini greenhouse.
One thing you do not want to do is increase the humidity of your living space where people sit and relax. High humidity can cause mold and bacteria to grow which is not good for humans.
Placing shallow bowls of water around your pot will help keep the air humid. Mist-spraying is vital and is an easy way to keep your plant damp. Remember not to spray directly onto the flowers.
Dove orchids are heavy feeders during the growing season. Feed every two weeks with a diluted solution. Choose a balanced formula of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, with NPK numbers of 20-20-20. Do not feed your orchid when the soil or roots are dry. Feeding can be reduced in winter months.
Dove orchids enjoy a balanced fertilizer. That means it will have the same ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the mix.
These numbers are known as NPK numbers. A 20-20-20 NPK solution has the same amount of all three ingredients.
Orchids do not want too much nitrogen. Nitrogen can harm the plant. So using a solution of 30-10-10, or 10-5-5 is not a good idea.
Feed your dove orchid every 2 weeks during the growing season. Use a diluted solution, water your soil well, allow it to drain, and then add the fertilizer. Be careful not to splash fertilizer onto the leaves or flowers as it can cause damage.
When you see that active growth is slowing down, you can reduce both watering and fertilizing. Over-fertilizer during this time can have adverse effects on your plant.
Adding a rich layer of decomposed leaves will increase the nutrients in your ground mix and give your plant natural organic food as a booster.
Growth and flowering
Dove orchids grow from pseudobulbs and bloom with beautiful white flowers. If you look into the middle of a flower, you see the shape of a lovely small white dove. Flowers have a waxy texture and are borne on upright thick green stems, which can hold between 4 to 20 flowers each.
Dove orchids are rare and beautiful flowers, grown for their distinctive feature that resembles a small white dove in the center of each flower.
The flowers are pure white and have 5 petals that form a shield around the dove shape.
They are long-lasting and bloom successively through the growing season.
This plant is a slow grower, so patience is needed. You will find that lower nighttime temperatures encourage blooming to start.
Flowers are about 2 inches (5cm) wide and the stems can grow up to 2 feet to 3 feet (60cm to 90cm) in height. The stems are strong and thick and each one can hold between 4 to 20 flowers.
This plant has distinctive pseudobulbs, or thickened stems at the base.
For added effect, the flowers give off a unique fragrance that resembles the smell of beer!
When to plant your dove orchid
Planting dove orchid pseudobulbs is best done in spring when the weather gets warmer. Ensure that your indoor temperatures remain between 60°F to 70°F (15°C to 21°C). Keep the humidity at above 70 percent and water well.
Spring is a good time to plant the pseudobulbs of your dove orchid plant as this is the start of the growing period.
Ensure that your indoor conditions are perfect when it comes to temperature, humidity, and light. This plant enjoys warmer conditions, no direct sunlight, and high humidity.
How to plant your dove orchid
Dove orchids need pots that drain, so choose a container with drainage holes on the base and sides. Fill the pot with an orchid mix, water well, allow to drain, and add fertilizer. Gently place the bulb into the soil, about 0.5 inches (1cm) deep. Stand it in a warm, humid spot with dappled light.
Planting is best done in early spring. Dove orchids take up to a few weeks before you see any new growth, so you will need to be patient.
If you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse, you can create the perfect conditions for your dove orchid. If not, consider setting up a small indoor container that will resemble a greenhouse.
Choose a terracotta pot with drainage holes on the sides and at the base.
This is vital for orchids, as it will allow the water to drain out faster. You can stand your orchid pot in a larger decorative container if the holes cause a problem with water leakage.
Place small pebbles or gravel at the base to stop the drainage holes from getting blocked.
Fill your pot with an orchid-mix. To recap, this mix should be made up of sphagnum moss, peat, and fir bark. Do not use all-purpose potting soil as your plant will not flourish in this type of sand.
Water well, allow the container to drain and then add a diluted dose of 20-20-20 fertilizer.
Make a small hole in the soil and place the pseudobulb into it, about 0.5 inches (1cm) deep. Make sure that the pointy side is facing upwards. The entire bulb does not need to be covered and can protrude out of the soil.
Place the bulb deep enough so that it can stand upright. Add some extra orchid-mix around the base for added support.
Water well during the first few weeks and feed weekly. You can keep the new bulbs in a slightly darker spot and increase the light as the plant begins to grow.
Dove Orchids Problems
Roots are rotting
This is an indication that your pot is not draining correctly. The plant enjoys being damp, but the roots must not stagnate in water. Consider replanting it into a pot with adequate drainage holes on the sides and base.
There could be several reasons for this, most of them related to the growing conditions. Ensure that your soil is the correct orchid-mix. Temperatures must be warm and the plant must not stand in direct sunlight. Your humidity must be above 70 percent.
Bulbs are shriveling up
This is a sign of too little moisture in your soil. Water well and keep the plant in a warm place. The soil must be damp but not waterlogged.
Leaves turn brown and look burnt
Your plant is getting too much direct sunlight. Dove orchids enjoy light but must not stand in direct sunlight. Dappled indirect light is ideal.
Frequently asked questions about growing dove orchids
Are dove orchids hard to grow?
Dove orchids are not the easiest plants to grow. However, they are somewhat easier than other rare orchid species. If you can create the perfect conditions, you should be able to grow a dove orchid in your home.
Can I grow dove orchids outdoors?
The natural habitat of dove orchids is high cloud rainforests that are damp, fairly warm, and filled with humus-rich decomposing soil. Creating these conditions in your outdoor garden will be difficult to get right.
A greenhouse is the ideal place to grow dove orchids. They can also be grown indoors if you create the correct conditions of temperature, light, and humidity.
Is the Dove orchid an endangered species?
Yes, it is. Sadly, this flower is over-picked in its natural habitat causing it to become part of the endangered species of the world. The beautiful flowers are sought after for both religious and medical reasons. Over time, this has greatly reduced the number of flowering plants found naturally.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.