Black jewel orchid (Ludisia discolour) is a terrestrial orchid species that hails from Malaysia, Indonesia and Burma. The plant is characterised by its remarkable dark maroon foliage, which has silver, pink or red veins. Black jewel flowers in late winter or early spring, producing small white orchid blooms. The orchid is a common houseplant that requires a moderate amount of care.
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Black jewel orchid prefers low light levels. Too much light will cause the flower's brilliant leaves to fade and become dull. Leaves receiving too much light will often become yellowish or reddish. If the leaves feel warmer than the surrounding air, the plant is receiving too much light. Place behind a thin curtain to shield the plant from excess light. Humidity is also important to keep the fleshy leaves looking their best.
The black jewel orchid requires a well-draining potting medium. A mixture of fine bark, shredded isolite and coconut peat works well. The plant may also be grown in regular potting soil mixed with peat moss, sand or fine gravel. During the growing season, the plant does best with regular watering and fertilising. Fertilise freely during the growing season to enhance flowering. Water before fertilising, as fertiliser may burn the roots otherwise.
Water early in the day so that the orchid dries out before nighttime. Plants watered in the afternoon are more likely to have wet leaves that can catch nighttime chills during the evening. Wet leaves are susceptible to fungal disease. Water approximately once a week in the winter, and twice a week during warm, dry summer conditions. Aim to keep the potting media moist, but not wet, to the touch at all times. Use rainwater rather than tap water, which contains fluoride.
Orchids grown indoors are susceptible to a wide range of pests, particularly spider mites, mealy bugs and scale. As an alternative to harsh chemical insecticides, soapy water may be used to control pests. Spray solution directly on insects to kill them. Rubbing alcohol is effective against mealy bugs and scale. Swipe infected growth with a cotton swab dabbed in rubbing alcohol to clear away insects. Wipe away alcohol with a rag dampened with water.
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