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Elizabeth Horning
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   In this article we are going to explore the beautiful Phaius tankervilliae orchid.
   P. tankervilliae is also known as P. grandifloius and is commonly named the Nun's orchid, Nun's Cap, Swamp orchid, or Swamp lily. This one is truly a "must have" orchid for every orchid collector.

    P. tankervilliae is only one of over 40 species in the Phaius genus. Most species, including P. tankervilliae, are terrestrials.

   But there are a few epiphyte species in the genus as well. Species are naturally found around the world from Africa to the Philippines and other Pacific islands.
   Phaius orchids have brilliant blossoms with color combinations that can be white, red, yellow and
even brown! The blossoms can reach over 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter and sprout from an inflorescence that can reach over 4 feet tall (121 cm)! Up to 20 blooms open sequentially up the tall stock providing a colorful show that lasts for months.
   The P. tankervilliae blossoms are tubular in form with burgundy-brown lips, white-backed sepals and petals, and light rose-colored lips leading to a deep rose throat. The blossoms are also very fragrant.
   Orchids are not known for their foliage, which makes this group even better. Phajus orchids are very pretty in or out of bloom. Their graceful light green leaves would make a nice floral accent for any bright room.
    P. tankervilliae can be grown outdoors in tropical climates in rich compost, or indoors in a pot of rich peat moss mix. Here are a few specifics about growing them:
Light - Provide about 2,000 foot-candles of light. Your orchid can tolerate higher light levels, but keep in mind that the brighter light will encourage growth so you will have to increase your orchid's food and water to accommodate the growth.
Fertilization - This species of orchid is a very heavy feeder. Use a well-balanced orchid fertilizer mixed at half strength during every watering.
Temperature - Ideal day temperatures are around 75 oF (24 oC) to 85 oF (29oC) and night temperatures between 55 oF (13 oC) to 65 oF (18 oC) are preferred. They can withstand colder temperatures with no frost for a short period of time.    
Media - The media must be well drained. A potting mix consisting of 2 parts of peat moss, 2 parts of sandy loam, 1 part perlite and 1 part fine bark is an excellent potting medium. Of course you can try your own recipe as long as it is fast draining. Use deep pots for good root growth. Re-pot every two or three years.
Water - Keep the potting mix moist but not wet.
Blooming - The flowers seem to be triggered by short days and usually bloom in late winter or early spring depending on your location.
    Download a free day length calculator e-Book here.
   For the growers that love to propagate, this is the one orchid for you. After the orchid has finished blooming, lay the old flower spike on a sand-filled tray and half cover it with sand.
   Keep moist and in a shady area. If successful, about 2 months later you will have new plants appearing from the nodes of the spike.
   Pot them up and give them to your friends!