Most people thought that orchids need low light conditions and are best grown indoors. In fact, once they are acclimatized to live outdoors, many orchid species actually love being under the full sun, be it Mediterranean sun, subtropical sun. No shade cloth whatsoever!
Given the natural rain and better ventilation outdoors, orchids that can take full sun are low maintenance. In fact, they actually require a very bright sun to produce the best growth with intense colors.
All you need is to put your orchids in a stronger but filtered light environment to acclimatize them for a couple of months or until they grow new roots or a new structure before moving them under the sun.
Stay tuned for the list of species that love the full sun outdoors.
1. Can orchids grow in full sun?
The orchids you get from the shops and nurseries cannot take the full sun without acclimatization. This is because they are raised under a shadecloth in a greenhouse or are kept inside a store before they are sold and so they are adapted to the filtered lighting.
Even for sun-loving orchids like vandas, those from a store or nursery could easily get sunburnt and damaged if they are put under full sun.
They need to be trained and acclimatize over a period of time slowly before they are introduced under the sun.
2. Bright light vs. Full sun
It is important to mention that when people say they have successfully grown orchids under the sun, you would need to know whether the location of the orchid is receiving direct sunlight on a balcony under a roof, or on the side of a tree, or against a wall receiving direct sunlight for only a few hours a day.
Also, the sun versus the sun in more temperate climates is not the same.
3. How to transition orchids outdoors?
To transition orchids from the store and nursery, they need a transition period of one to a few months before they can be adapted to stronger lighting outdoors.
First, move them to a location with a shade brighter than their previous location for a couple of weeks. It could be by an east-facing or west-facing window or on a balcony, where they get half day of sun.
Gradually, move them to stronger light. This could be outdoors under a tree or in a screened patio with filtered sun. Let the plants spend a couple of months or until they develop new roots and a new structure, e.g. a new leaf, psuedobulb. They would then be fully acclimatized and can be moved to a spot under full direct sun.
Maintain good moisture level and ventilation during the transition.
4. When is the best time to acclimatize orchids outdoors?
The end of winter is spring is the best time to change the growing environment (including lighting) of orchids because the sun is not the strongest and they begin an active vegetative growing phase.
5. What orchids can handle full sun?
After being acclimatized, all high-light orchids, namely Vandas and Cattleya alliance plants (Cattleya, Epidendrum, Laelia, Encyclia, and the like), can thrive and grow vigorously with more vibrant colors under the full sun.
Even the medium-light orchids, such as Oncidiums and Dendrobiums may be able to take the full sun although their leaves may turn a bit yellow and become rough-looking.
The only orchids that cannot adapt to the full sun and would get sunburnt are the low-light ones, e.g. the variegated orchids, Phalaenopsis, Miltonopsis, Jewel orchids, Paphiopedilums.
Below is a list of some common species that can thrive under the full sun.
– Vandaceous orchids
–Terete leafed Vandas. Many vanda species with round pencil-shaped leaves, also known as “terete” leaves, thrive under full sun. In fact, the stronger the sun, the more intense the colors of their flowers are.
For example, Papilionanthe teres, Miss Joaquin. They can get quite tall, up to 30 feet, such as the “Singapore orchid”
– Semi-terete leafed Vandas
For example, Vanda Velthuis, Josephine van Brero, Vanda Emma Van Deventer, Ruby Prince.
– Vanda Taib
Vanda denisoniana and Vanda merrillii begin to flower in the spring and will continue in the summer. Vanda coerulea will reach their peak in August.
– Hard-Cane Dendrobium
Hard-cane dendrobiums (e.g. Dendrobium Phalaenopsis) are evergreen and can handle warm to hot temperatures up to 30 degrees. No problem in the sun for 3-4 hours. Their leaves are rather rigid and could snap when they are bent and the flowers appear only at the tip of a mature cane.
They are not to be confused with soft-cane dendrobiums (e.g. Dendrobium Nobile) which are deciduous and can handle cool to warm temperature up to 25 degrees and their flowers appear along the cane.
– Anselia africana
This is a tropical orchid native to South Africa. 55-60 F (13-16 C) nights, 80-90 F (27-32 C) days.
– Brassavola nodosa
These sun-loving orchids are originally from Florida, Central America and South America. They are adapted to warm and high temperatures.
Commonly known as “scorpian orchids”. Native to Himalayas and Southeast Asia to the Philippines, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. Requires the sun.
– Rupicolous Laelias
These orchids are tiny but robust and very easy going that can take full sun without damage.
– Laelia Briegeri
– Cattleya Skinneri
Native to the wet mountain forests in Central America, Cattelya Skinneri is one of the easiest Cattleyas for cultivation. They love the sun: the brighter the sun, the more vigorous they grow. The best temperature is 85F (29C) in the day and 58 to 60F (14-16C) at night.
– Cattleya Maxima
Cattleya Maxima is native to the north of Peru through Ecuador and Columbia, as well as Venezuela. It stands 28 inches (70 cm) tall and has the ability to adapt to many climates. They have been found growing outdoors under full sun in California (USA), Florida (USA), Guayaquil (Ecuador), Lima (Peru) as well as cool nights of 40F (5C).
– Cattleytonia Why Not
This is a cross between Cattleya aurantiaca x Broughtonia sanguínea. It is considered a miniature that blooms in clusters of small red flowers with a yellow center.
– Oncidium Flexuosum
Miniature Cymbidiums are more heat tolerant and will flower from midsummer through Christmas. Look for varieties such as Golden Elf, Maureen Carter, and Tender Love.
Which is your favorite full-sun orchid? Tell us below in the comments.