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   Happy Halloween and welcome to my Orchid Garden, enter if you dare!
It is that time of year for ghosts, goblins, witches, and my favorite -- Count Dracula! In the damp, dark, creepy corners of the graveyard, you may not only find the famous Count, but his namesake as well -- Dracula vampira! If there ever was a flower that Count Dracula could grow, it would have to be one of Dracula species. Like the Count, they hate sunshine.
   Actually, this genus is called Dracula not because they are related or reminiscent in someway to vampires. "Dracula" means "Little Dragon." Their appearance includes strange patterns, hairy flowers with very long tails, and even funny "faces" one can find in many of the flowers. D. diabola, the hybrid, Dracula 'Jester' and Dracula inaequalis (syn.: Dracula carderi) are three examples where, if you look closely, you will see a face looking back at you! The "eyes" are produced by tiny petals and the large "noses" are the lips of the flower.
   Dr. Carlyle Luer created this strange and intriguing genus in 1978. Prior to this time they were included with the Masdevallia genus. There are approximately 90 species found in the Dracula genus.
   Let's go into the damp shadows of the greenhouse and see what Draculas we can find. Of course, the very first one has got to be Dracula vampira. The large flowers and dramatic striking color has made this a very popular Dracula to grow. The flowers are barred with a deep dark maroon color that appears to be nearly black. Because of this attribute, I listed this species in my article about Black Orchids. The tiny petals look like bizarre little eyes staring at you.
   We search further, and find D. bella with flowers looking like spiders. Its purplish-brown accents against a yellow background are very striking. A bonus to this orchids' exotic bloom, it is one of easier Draculas to grow.
   The next one we find is Dracula chimaera which has some of the largest and hairiest blooms of this genus. Blooms can reach two feet in size (including the long tails). The blooms can be from yellow to almost a brown depending the exact species. The "eyes" look like they are starring at you as you walk by like Count Dracula looking for his next victim! Looking above us, there are a few more of the strange and gothic-looking Draculas.   
   I guess by now you are saying, "How can I grow these?" These are not for everyone because they can be difficult to grow. Draculas are not the type of orchid you typically can grow in your home.
   The environment required is best created in a greenhouse. However, if you can provide them the requirements they need, you will be rewarded with some of the most fascinating orchids in the graveyard. Like Count Dracula, they hate direct sunlight, like a cool environment, and like to hang from the ceiling.
    Provide a shaded area for them year round (light levels between 400 and 650 foot-candles). Bright light will burn the fragile slender leaves.
   With the shade, comes the coolness like Count Dracula's castle.
   Daytime temperatures should not be over 78 F (25C). Ideal is 60 to 75 (15-23 C) with a minimum night temperature of 50 F (12 C). An average of 60 F (15 C) should be maintained. Fans and misting systems will help maintain these temperatures. A relative humidity of 70% to 90% is ideal. They enjoy a spray from above with rainwater once a day if possible. Watering is extremely critical since these orchids have minimal water storage.
   Most Draculas should be placed in hanging baskets lined with Sphagnum moss, Osmunda or tree-fern chunks or mounted on cork slabs with moss to allow the descending flower spikes to emerge from the bottom of the orchid. However, there are other Draculas that can grow in a pot because the flower spikes grow upwards instead of plunging downwards. Dracula chimaera is just one example of the upward spike type. The blooms do not last long, but the orchid produces buds in a continuing sequence during its blooming cycle.
    If you take on the challenge of growing these wonders of the night, I am sure you will find them intriguing to raise.