Coelogyne cristata would definitely be the most popular and most widely grown of all the Coelogynes.The large (8cm +) wavy, pristine white, long lasting and sometimes fragrant flowers, with their beautiful clear yellow gold markings, are an instant hit with orchid growers and the general public. Large specimens with dozens of pendulous spikes, each with up to 10 flowers, make a sight never to be forgotten.

Coel cristata grows on trees and sometimes rocks in cold high altitudes (up to 2500m) of the northeast of India, Tibet, Nepal and into China where they may experience wet summers and cold winters. Some areas may be quite bright in winter but many areas a covered in fog or cloud and sunlight is much lower. I would still recommend avoiding all direct light.

Some varieties comprise many small rounded compact psuedobulbs while others have more elongated psuedobulbs. The 'Alba' varieties tend to be more rambling with a wider spacing between psuedobulbs. Not all cristata specimens have perfume so always seek one that does (they don't cost any extra and will give more pleasure for the same amount of space).

On a technical note - the flower develops on a new shoot from the base of the old psuedobulbs (this is called a heteranthous growth habit). At the end of flowering this growth simply dies away. I mention this because there are a few variations on this theme and they can sometimes be useful in helping to identify which Coelogyne you have. For example, Coel lawrenceana grows a whole new psuedobulb and the flower then grows out of the top of the new psuedobulb (called hysteranthous). In others, e.g. Coel pandurata, the flowers develop in a new growth at the same time the leaves and psuedobulb are growing (called synanthous). In the fourth group (called proteranthous) the flowers are produced and then afterwards, it keeps on developing until leaves and a psuedobulb are finally produced on the same growth e.g. Coel fuscescens.

Growing Suggestions: Although Coelogyne cristata is a cold growing orchid it can tolerate hot conditions if it has sufficient moisture and humidity. Humidity in this case means around 85% in summer and 60% in the dry season. It is sometimes said that it is an easy orchid to grow but a hard plant to grow and flower well.

Many sources suggest that it should be dried out in cold conditions in winter to the point where the psuedobulbs shrivel. I totally disagree with this approach. The plant will look terrible and will spend a lot of its resources restoring itself to enable flowering. I do believe that the plant needs a large drop in temperature between summer and winter but this could be from 30°C to 15°C and watering should be reduced as with all plants over winter to prevent the roots rotting in dank badly drained soil/media.

Like all Coelogynes it should be fertilised in autumn and spring with any commercial slow-release fertiliser. To feed Coelogynes and many other orchids continuously only produces lots of leaf growth at the expense of flowers. Feeding continuously is very legitimate if you have small plants and you are trying to force some size into them over their developing years. This way you will end up with a good size, good flowering plant much sooner.

Because of the pendulous nature of the flowers Coel cristata should be grown in hanging baskets in free draining but moisture retentive medium. Medium size coco chips are excellent for all Coelogynes. They hold moisture well, last a long time and breathe well. The psuedobulbs will pile up on top of each other and the majority of the plant will soon appear too large for the pot. The plant seems quite happy to be in this condition.

It hates being disturbed and also the 'runners' take a long time to start a new division plant. Try to cut off as many psuedobulbs on the one piece as possible when making a new division (e.g. more than 4 bulbs) and always do this at the start of the growing season so that the new plant can put maximum effort into re-establishing itself. New cuttings should be potted into a moisture retaining mix such as sphagnum moss. When repotting an established plant, a good suggestion is to simply place the smaller pot inside a larger pot. This causes no disturbance. Alternately, tip the plant out of its pot and place in a larger pot without disturbing the roots at all.

A note on propagation, cuttings from most Coelogynes in the rambling group (i.e.with long runners) are slow to take off. You need a long runner with several psuedobulbs but this is difficult to fit into a normal round pot without burying the first couple of psuedobulbs and/or having some of them sticking out in mid air. I have two suggestions. Method 1: use a lot of sphagnum moss on a long wooden mount. I find mounts hard to keep moist and your new cutting will need a lot of moisure for at least 12 months! When it does establish you will be stuck with an ever increasing plant on a mount. Method 2: Get a much larger than normal pot for cuttings i.e. up to 150mm, fill it with a mix containing a fair bit of sphagnum moss and then use as many clips as necessary to wind the cutting around the inside edge of the pot so that the full length of the runner is held securely in contact with the potting mix. All new cuttings should be really securely fixed with clips. Any looseness or movement of a new cutting in its pot will spell disaster.

Negatives: This orchid demands to be grown into a specimen size to highlight its beauty. The plant quickly gets to be very heavy and difficult to move about, especially to orchid shows. Hanging structures need to be very strong. Coel cristata resents disturbance. It only flowers once per year. The bracts (which protect the new baby shoots in nature) stay on the base of shoots and flowers and as the flowers die can look untidy. The same applies to the old flower spikes. Some people prefer to pick/prune them off but this is unnatural and can be tedious (Some judges don't like plants to be natural!).

Rating: ♦♦♦♦♦

Sometimes sold as: No other labels

Varieties: There are many named as varieties but these are mainly only colour variations. The main variation is the lemon coloured var. lemoniana (which is name after Dr Charles Lemon - not its lemon colour!) and also known as var. citrina. There are pure alba varieties called var. hololeuca or var. alba. Other labels, such as 'major' or 'majus' simply refer to someone's. perception of size. They may have more to do with nutrition, etc. than genetics.

Hybrids: Registered

  • 1.     Coelogyne Colmanii (Sir Jeremiah Colman, 1907) - using Coelogyne speciosa as the pollen parent
  • 2.     Coelogyne Cosmo-Crista (Kokussai, 1996) - using Coelogyne Intermedia as the pod parent (see Coel Intermedia below)
  • 3.    Coelogyne Intermedia (James Cypher and Sons, 1913) - using Coelogyne massengeana (now Coelogyne tomentosa) as the pod parent (Questionable - see Hybrids)
  • 4.    Coelogyne Linda Buckley (R Hull, 1989) - using Coelogyne mooreana as the pod parent
  • 5    Coelogyne Memoria Fukaba (Suwada Orchids, 2001) - using Coelogyne Shinjuku as the pod parent
  • 6.    Coelogyne Noel Wilson (Geyserland Orchids, 1984) - using Coelogyne mossiae (see notes under Hybrids)
  • 7.    Coelogyne Spring Showers (RHS, Wisely Gardens, 2006) - using Coelogyne lawrenceana as the pod parent
  • 8.    Coelogyne Orchideengarten K R Gessert (M Karge-Liphard 2014) using Coelogyne usitana as the pod parent.
  • 9.    Coelogyne Marei (M Karge-Liphard 2014) using Coelogyne xyrekes as the pod parent.
  • 10.    Coelogyne Orchideengarten Marei Saskia - using  Coelogyne pandurata as the pod parent (K Karge Orchideengarten - Aug 2015).

Unregistered:

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