If you are up for a challenge and want to wow your family and guests – I have found a delightful plant to add to your indoor collection.
monkey face orchids require loads of attention and very specific growing conditions. But, with some effort, you will be rewarded with a rare and very special plant.
As the name implies, this fabulous orchid has a flower with uniquely shaped petals and a center that resembles a cheeky, grinning monkey face. They are fun and adorable and sure to put a smile on your face every time you look at them.
For those who love complex names – the Latin name for monkey face orchids is Dracula Simia.
They are found naturally in the very high cloud forests of Ecuador and Peru in South America. These forests are on average 3,200 feet to 6,500 feet (1,000m to 2,000m) above sea level.
Read on for a detailed guide on how to grow monkey face orchids in your home or greenhouse.
Monkey face orchid care
Plant monkey face orchids in special orchid-mix in cool, damp, shady, and very humid conditions. Ideal temperatures are 42°F to 46°F (6°C to 8°C) and 66°F to 68°F (19°C to 20°C). Your containers must allow for adequate drainage. Watering and mist spraying is vital and feeding can be done weekly.
Monkey face orchids cannot be grown in normal potting soil. They require a specific orchid mix that has a chunky consistency. You can purchase this mix or make it yourself using fir bark, perlite, and sphagnum moss. PH levels should be acidic to neutral, with a range of 5.5 to 7.0.
Monkey face orchids cannot be planted into your normal potting soil. They require very specific soil conditions.
The ideal type of soil for monkey face orchids is orchid-specific soil. Orchid soil does not contain soil or sand but is made up of a combination of chunky ingredients that are close to its natural environment.
You can possibly buy orchid soil at your local nursery if they are geared up for these specific plants. It is also sold at farmer’s markets and online.
If you want to make your own orchid soil there are a few recipes you can try.
This one is easy to make:
- 4 parts fir bark
- 1 part coconut husk chips or perlite
- 1 part chopped up sphagnum moss
- 1 part medium charcoal
Some gardeners make up this mix without the charcoal. It is up to you.
The mix has to be very well-draining. Water must not accumulate at the base of your pot. To help with this, I like to place small pebbles or bits of a broken terracotta pot at the base.
Monkey face orchids prefer soil that is acidic to neutral. Testing the PH balance of your potting soil mix is easy with a home testing PH kit.
Neutral soils have a PH of 7.0. Acidic soils show a value of less than 7.0 and alkaline soils show a value of over 7.0. monkey face orchids do best in soils with a PH range of 5.5 to 7.0.
Monkey face orchids grow naturally in dim cool misty conditions. They do not enjoy sun. Keep yours in a cool dark spot or in full shade. You do not need to place it near a window to get direct sun as it will damage the plant. Bright light is also not essential.
Monkey face orchids grow in very high cloud forests where the light conditions are dim. There is very little direct sunlight.
You need to create the same environment for your plant to flourish. Place it in a spot that is shady and cool. If it is indoors, you do not need to worry about it getting any sun at all during the day. So, unlike other plants, it does not need to stand close to a window. A darker spot is ideal.
If you are growing your plant outdoors, a spot with full shade is ideal. A north-facing patio will be fine provided that the plant is protected from the elements.
Growing your plant outdoors is more difficult than growing it indoors where you have better control over the conditions.
Check that the leaves of your monkey face orchid are cool to the touch. If they are in the sun and feel warm, the plant can suffer damage.
Monkey face orchids must remain damp but should not be overwatered. Water once every 7 days and mist spray regularly to keep the plant damp and cool. Do not use tap water. Rainwater or cooled boiled water is preferred. Choose a pot with drainage holes at the base and on the sides.
To recreate the damp misty conditions of its natural habitat, you should water your monkey face orchid once a week by giving it a good drench.
Try to use natural rainwater if possible. Tap water has chemicals that are foreign to these very fragile plants. The build-up of chemicals will eventually cause damage to your plant. If you do not have easy access to rainwater, use cooled boiled water or distilled water that you can purchase from a store.
The most important fact to remember is that these plants require air circulation. You can buy special pots for orchids that have drainage holes at the base and on the sides. This allows for maximum circulation and also allows the water to drain out.
Getting the correct moisture balance is vital. The plant must never dry out, but it must also not stand in wet soggy soil. That will cause root rot and your plant will die.
Water your monkey face orchid in the morning and do not overwater.
A great method for watering orchids is to fill a large container with rainwater or distilled water. Then place your orchid in its pot into the container. The water level should not flood into the pot! Allow it to stand for 15 minutes. Lift the pot up out of the water bath and let all the excess water drain off.
This plant does not respond well to temperatures that fluctuate a lot or are too hot. Ideal temperatures are between 42°F to 46°F (6°C to 8°C) and 66°F to 68°F (19°C to 20°C). Do not stand your plant in a draught or directly in front of an air conditioner.
Because the natural habitat of this plant is cooler high regions, your monkey face orchid does not want hot temperatures.
Ensure that your indoor plant has temperatures that are between 42°F to 46°F (6°C to 8°C) and 66°F to 68°F (19°C to 20°C)
To get the perfect conditions, you may consider growing your plant in a small greenhouse where you have better control over the environment. This plant does not enjoy temperatures that fluctuate too much.
Do not place it in the draught of an open window or directly in front of the breeze from an air conditioner.
As you can see, this is a very fussy plant that requires much care!
Monkey face orchids require very humid conditions of 80 percent or over. It is important to mist spray your plant daily to keep it damp and moist. Do not spray the flowers directly. You can create the best conditions in a greenhouse or in a small indoor plastic container.
Monkey face orchids require very humid conditions to flourish. Their natural habitat is cool mist forests where they are always damp.
The ideal humidity should be above 80 percent. An average home will range from 40 percent to 50 percent.
Creating these conditions may be difficult indoors.
Growing your plant in a greenhouse is ideal, but not possible for everyone. Keep in mind that creating an area of high humidity in your home can lead to the growth of mold and bacteria. So some thought and planning will be required to set up the best spot for your plant.
You could consider creating a mini greenhouse indoors, using a plastic box. There are many helpful videos on the internet showing you how to do this. You can also purchase mini greenhouse boxes that are ideal for growing orchids.
One way to increase humidity for your plant is to place shallow bowls of water around it.
Mist spraying is a must! Spray the plant daily to keep it damp. Make sure that you do not spray the flowers directly.
Choose a 20-20-20 balanced formula of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Feed weekly with a diluted solution or monthly with a standard solution. Do not feed when the soil or roots are dry. Do not give your plant excess nitrogen as it will damage the roots.
The best fertilizer for your monkey face orchid is a 20-20-20 mix. These numbers indicate the ratios of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the mix. As you can see, the mix is a perfect balance of all three.
monkey face orchids do not like too much nitrogen. Do not feed them with a fertilizer that has a high nitrogen component as it will harm the plant.
Feeding can be done weekly or monthly.
If you are feeding weekly, use a weak, diluted solution. For monthly feeding, mix and use according to the standard instructions on the package.
Ensure that the soil and roots are wet before adding fertilizer. If not, it will burn and destroy the roots.
Growth and flowering
Monkey face orchids wow with their unique flowers that resemble Simian monkeys with drooping Dracula fangs. They come in many shades including red, green, yellow, pink, purple, and lavender. A plant will flower through the year for up to 19 years under the correct conditions.
If you have green fingers and loads of patience, you will be rewarded with the most spectacular flowers on your monkey face orchid.
Monkey face orchids take up to 7 years from germination to start flowering, so you are best off buying a mature plant to start with.
The flowers have the unique appearance of a Simian monkey face. Three petals form the head. The lower two have long drooping spurs that look like Dracula fangs, giving it the name Dracula Simia.
Inside the petals are dotted details that create the eyes, nose, mouth, and long beard. A truly spectacular sight to see!
Flowers come in many colors ranging from red to lavender, pink, green, yellow, and orange. Some have striped designs and others have multi-colors.
Flowers can bloom at any time of the year. Once established, your plant can bloom for up to 19 years.
For added effect, the flowers have a strong smell of oranges.
When to plant your monkey face orchid
Monkey face orchids can be planted any time of the year. Because you are controlling the environment, you do not need to worry about outside influences like seasons, temperature, or humidity.
Provided that your indoor conditions are ideal, you can plant your monkey face orchid any time of the year.
Ensure that the temperatures do not fluctuate. Humidity must be above 80 percent. Ensure that the spot you have chosen is out of direct sunlight and is cool, damp, and shady. The shade of a closet is too dark! Your plant does enjoy a little bit of light.
How to plant your monkey face orchid
Choose a pot with drainage holes on the base and sides. Sterilize all your tools before starting. Fill the pot with an orchid mix and add fertilizer. Gently place the orchid into the mix. Mist spray and water daily for the first week. Stand it in a very humid, cool, shady spot.
Preparation is key when getting ready to plant or repot a monkey face orchid. You need greenhouse-type conditions that are humid and do not fluctuate too much in temperature.
If you do not have a greenhouse, consider setting up a small indoor container that will resemble a greenhouse.
Start by sterilizing all your tools and wear clean gloves to protect the plant.
Choose a pot with drainage holes on the sides and at the base. This is vital for correct drainage and air circulation. Place some pebbles or broken terracotta shards at the base to help with drainage.
Fill your pot with orchid-mix and water well. Add a diluted solution of 20-20-20 fertilizer. Make a shallow hole in the center of the new pot.
Very gently remove the plant from its bought container or current container. Check for any damaged or dead roots and trim them off.
Place the plant into the new pot working with light fingers. Do not plant it too deep into the soil. Fill in the hole with additional orchid-mix. Do not press the mix down tight, it must remain loose and aerated.
You can use a stake to hold up a new plant if it needs support.
Mist spray and water well. Allow the excess water to drain out. Stand it in its new home. Mist spray daily and water well for the first week. Do not fiddle too much with this plant. It is fragile and very fussy.
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Monkey face orchid problems
This is a sign that your humidity is too low. Increase it if possible. You can place open bowls of water around the plant and mist-spray it daily to try to get it to recover.
Roots are rooting
This is caused by water not draining out of your container fast enough. The roots of the monkey face orchid should be damp but never stand in stagnant water. Choose a pot with drainage holes on the sides and base. Ensure that your soil is a correct orchid mix.
Roots are white and not green
This indicates that you are not giving your plant enough water. Green roots indicate a healthy plant. White-colored roots or silvery-colored roots mean that you need to water it more frequently.
Frequently asked questions about growing monkey face orchids
Is the Monkey face orchid easy to grow?
Monkey face orchids are not the easiest plants to grow, but that does not mean you shouldn’t give it a try. If you spend time setting up the correct environment, you will be rewarded with stunning flowers from this unique plant.
Can the Monkey face orchid grow outdoors?
It can, but the conditions have to be perfect. Its natural habitat is high cloud forests that are cool, damp, and dimly lit. Growing a monkey face orchid indoors or in a greenhouse gives you a better chance of creating the perfect conditions for it to flourish.
Can I propagate monkey face orchids?
Propagation of monkey face orchids is very difficult. Many websites claim to sell monkey face seeds. But, people report that they are not the real thing.
If you can find a mature plant at a nursery, or get one from a green-fingered friend, that is probably the best way to acquire one.
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.