Tropical Gardening: Kona Orchid Show and Sale more than just orchids

  • Photo courtesy of Voltaire Moise Thousands of orchid species come in all shapes, colors and sizes. Many rare ones will be available at the Mother’s Day orchid show and sale next weekend.

With Mother’s Day a week away, the upcoming Kona Orchid Show and Sale is a great opportunity to find the right gift for that special lady.

According to Bob Zeller, the 32nd annual event will take place May 11-12 at the Old Kona Airport Park Pavilion. Orchid growers from around the island will bring new and exotic orchids seldom available at other times. Local crafters also will be there with pottery, ceramics, real flower jewelry, nurturing gemstones, plus an abundance of fruit trees and other garden plants.


For more information about the sale and program, contact Bob at 333-0889 or

At one time, the island of Hawaii was known as the Orchid Isle because of the commercial production of vanda and dendrobium orchids. Wild bamboo orchids and Malayan ground orchids grew and still grow prolifically in open meadows. The understory of mauka forests to this day are filled with Phaius tankervilleae or Chinese ground orchids. Fancy varieties of these naturalized species are being grown by orchid enthusiasts.

There are many orchid species and hybrids that are easy to grow in Hawaii. Orchids are well-adapted here and many species need almost no care. Epidendrum radicans, along with the new epi-cats (epidendrum and cattleya), with their attractive pastel shades are becoming quite popular as houseplants and outdoor plantings. Epidendrums produce thin, reed-like foliage with many aerial roots. Tip cuttings with a few serial roots can be potted to increase the numbers of this plant. Flowers are 1 inch or less in size but are produced in great numbers. They are very effective for arrangements as well as for corsages.

Oncidiums are among the most valuable of the spray orchids. They are commonly referred to as dancing girls or popcorn orchids because of their shape.

Flowers come in yellow and brown, white and brown, and other similar color combinations. They can attain sizes of 1/2 to 3 inches across. Many flowers can be produced on a single flower spike.

Strap-leafed vandas have become very popular with growers and hobbyists.

The wide range of colors, from blues to orchids to browns to whites, have attributed greatly to its popularity. Vanda flowers are long lasting and excellent for corsages. Each flower spike will produce many flowers several inches or more in diameter. Plants are excellent for hanging baskets containing only charcoal, but will need fertilizer applications.

For the more advanced gardener, try the butterfly orchid or phalaenopsis. It is desirable for corsage use. Flower spikes will contain from a few to many flowers. Lavender or white flowers are most common. Flowers will average about 2 inches across and will remain open for several weeks.

For high-elevation gardeners, try the cymbidiums. Cymbidium is an exciting genus with hybrids flowering in a wide range of colors including pink, red, yellow, green, maroon, bronze and white, in bold vibrant tones as well as more delicate pastels and art shades. Their tall, erect, arching or hanging sprays, durability and longevity, ease of cultivation and usefulness as a potted plant, landscape plant, or commercial cut flower, have led to tremendous worldwide popularity. Conventional varieties require cool evening temperatures of about 55 degrees during the late fall and winter months for good flowering to take place. Such conditions occur naturally in Volcano, Kamuela and upper Kona on Hawaii Island, Kula on Maui, Kalae on Molokai, Pupukea on Oahu, Waimea on Kauai, and other scattered areas — mostly above 1,500 feet elevation — throughout the state.

The species and hybrids of miniature cymbidiums require basically the same growing conditions as the larger conventional types. A major cultural difference is that most of the miniatures do not require temperatures nearly so cool as their larger relatives.

The preferred temperature range for “minis” is 70 to 80 degrees during the day followed by a 10-degree drop at night, a condition much easier to achieve in Hawaii’s lowland areas than that required by the conventional types.

You can minimize orchid care by attaching orchids to a tree such as plumeria or calabash, That way you can have dozens of blooming orchids even in a small garden.


Other epiphytes such as staghorn ferns, bromeliads and some vireya rhododendrons can be incorporated to create air gardens.

Many more rare and interesting species will be available at next weekend’s Mother’s Day plant sale along with expert orchid enthusiasts to answer your gardening questions.

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