Clear Mountain Garden Treasures

Clear Mountain Garden TreasuresCulture and Germination - Crucifix Orchid

A flowering shoot with more than one flower.
Inflorescences may be branched or unbranched.
An plantlet that grows from the stem or canes of orchids.
Keikei is Hawaiian for baby.
Crucifix Orchid

Epi. secundum
Family Orchidaceae
Name Epidendrum
Common Names Crucifix Orchid, Reed Stem Epidendrum

Crucifix Orchids or more broadly reed stem epidendrums have long thin stems that grow from the base of the plant. Alternate leaves grown in two ranks along the length of the stem. Most will produce aerial roots along the stem, but mainly on the lower half. The terminal inflorescence carries a head of flowers above the stems. Most have a tendency to keikei especially after flowering, and will even flower on keikei growth. They flower all year round, but less over the winter.

There is a number of different species of reed stem epidendrums, all originating from South America. A few such as Epidendrum secundum and the complex of species related to it, are fairly common, often growing along road sides in the high country, The vast majority are the easiest to grow and will even grow outdoors in a frost free environment, or in warmer climates that only get light frosts. Kept frost free, they will eventually grow to large specimen plants. I have one that is two metres wide with flower inflorescences 1.8 metres tall! Even if they are hit by frosts, they will recover quickly as long as the base of the plant is not damaged.

Flowers, in particular orchids, the rotate 180° before opening.
Flowering pattern whereby flowers are continuosly produced
to replace old ones that have faded,
as opposed to having flowers open all at once.
A plant that grows on the ground, like most plants do.Grows on or in the ground.

 Epidendrum secundum

Red Head
Name Epidendrum secundum

This is known as the crucifix orchid owing to the crucifix shaped lip. The flowers are non-resupinate, and with the lip upper most, it definitely looks like a cross. It flowers all year round, with most of the flowers appearing in summer. They are also sequential flowering, the flowering lasting for many months before the flower head is exhausted. Often, the inflorescence will branch and produce a second or third flower head once the main one has finished.

These reed stem epidendrums are often under-valued by orchid enthusiasts, I think primarily because they are so easy to grow. It is for this reason, I think they deserve a spot in any garden - they do not take much to look after. They are available in a variety of colours and there are even bi-coloured forms.

Unlike other epidendrums, these are terrestrial plants and can be grown in ordinary potting mix. However, best results are obtained if they are grown in epiphytic mix.


Part shade is best for this plant. Leaves will turn reddish if exposed to too much Sun. If grown in too deep shade, it will not flower. I grow mine on the deck at the south side of the house. The leaves can be damaged and marked by hail, but it does not seem to do the plant any harm.

Start your keikeis off in a 7cm plastic pot using either number 3 bark or a propriety orchid growing mix. Plant with the base of the keikei under the surface and just deep enough to support the orchid. Some keikeis have a small piece of the original cane attached to aid supporting the keikei. This can be shortened if necessary to fit the pot. Wrap a few strands of sphagnum moss (supplied in a small clear plastic bag) around the base of the keikei. This helps it establish. Firm the bark down with a few gentle pushes with your fingers. Place in a shady spot until you see signs of growths, then gradually introduce to more light.

When the plant is about 30-40cm long, pot on to a 12-16 cm shallow pot. Use the same growing mix. This sized pot should last the plant a year or more. Do not over pot the orchid. When in doubt, under pot. You only need to pot on if the pot is too small to support the weight of the orchid, or if the growth has jumped out of the pot and there are a lot of roots seemingly growing into thin air. Established plants can be planted out in a bark garden.

Apply a slow release fertiliser, (eg. Osmocote) starting at half the manufacturer's recommended rate, then a month later apply the other half. Thereafter, apply the fertilizer at full strength every Spring. It is best to use the 9 month slow release fertiliser because one application in Spring lasts the whole year. If you are not able to get the 9 month fertilizer, then use the 6 month one. With this, apply once (half strength) in the Spring and again at half strength in the Summer.

Water well, especially when establishing new plants and in the Summer, less in the Autumn. If grown outdoors where it gets the rain, there is no need to water in the Winter.







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