Return >> Orchid Lists | Supplies | Books | Cultural Info | Orchid Ezine | Photos | Search Site | Shop Cart



The generic name Grammatophyllum is derived from the Greek words gramma, meaning "a mark or character," and phyllum, "a leaf." This probably refers to the varied markings on the petals and sepals of the flowers, which resulted in Grammatophyllum frequently being called the "Letter Plants."

The genus was established by C. L. Blume in 1825. Swartz used G. speciosum as the type species for the genus. His original description, of the genus, was published in Bijdragen.

Grammatophyllum contains twelve named species. The genus is related to the Cymbidiums from which it differs botanically, chiefly in the structure of the column structure.

There are two distinct growth forms in this genus. The first has very long pseudobulbs, resembling sugar cane, bearing many leaves, arranged distichous (alternating in two opposite ranks). The second has rather short thick psuedobulbs which are not covered leaf bases and bear a few leaves around the top of the psuedobulbs. The psuedobulbs are sympodial in growth, with each new growth arising from the previous growth. The flowers of most Grammatophyllum species, are generally yellow and brown. This group has a wide distribution throughout the islands of the Malaysian, Philippine and New Guinea areas and was probably first duiscovered by Rumphus and Osbec, during the middle of the eighteenth century, as they were collecting in the East Indies. The first plants of the genus were introduced into Europe was in 1852 , where their subsequent flowering caused considerable sensation among orchidists.


GRAMMATOPHYLLUMS grow well in moderate ( Cattleya) light intensity. Morning sun is best, until about noon. Observation of the leaf structure can be your best guide to the correct light conditions for which a type is particularly suited. Lime green colored foliage is an indication of proper light. Dark green foliage, while very attractive, is not conducive to the plant reaching it's full blooming potential. Yellow colored foliage indicates too much light. In very mild climates, most members of this can be grown out of doors, with protection from the hot summer sun, and the colder nights of winter.


The ideal annual temperature range for most members of the genus GRAMMATOPHYLLUM are 75°-85°F. (24°-3O° Celsius) during the day and 55°-6O°F. (13°-16° Celsius) at night. Plants will tolerate temperatures to 45°F (10°Celsius) and up to 100°F ( 38° Celsius) for short periods. At higher temperatures, air circulation and humidity must be increased or damage can occur


GRAMMATOPHYLLUMS enjoy frequent watering, during their growing period, but will not tolerate wet feet for extended periods. However, when growth is completed, a two or three week rest period should follow to allow the growths to mature. Generally speaking, the growing season extends from March to October. The frequency of watering is relative to the container, the temperature, air circulation, and the amount of water retained in medium in the container. Watering should be done, so the roots are approaching dryness, before re watering . In the warmer periods, several waterings a week can be done, without worry, if the roots can dry quickly. The roots are sensitive to fertilizer salt build up, so clear water flushes are necessary for good growth.


GRAMMATOPHYLLUM plants should be fed consistently, when in full growth. During the Spring through early Fall, fertilizing every seven days, with several clear waterings in between, will make your GRAMMATOPHYLLUM plants happy. In the late Fall through Winter, a light feeding once a month will suffice.

The fertilizer formula should match the potting medium. Use 20-10-20 with tree fern, charcoal, or various inorganic aggregates, but use 30-10-10 with fir bark. We recommend non-urea based fertilizers at half strength. Non urea fertilizers provide 100% immediately available nitrogen, which urea based fertilizers do not. We recommend Grow Mor fertilizers , which also have micro nutrients, to provide strength for the new growth, as well as support for the flowers.

Whichever formula is selected, we recommend half strength at each application. As with most Orchids, GRAMMATOPHYLLUM roots are sensitive to fertilizer salt build up. GRAMMATOPHYLLUMs are particularly fond of organic fertilizers, such as fish emulsion and manure teas. The organic fertilizers eliminate concern of salt build up in the medium.


GRAMMATOPHYLLUM do not resent being disturbed, so re potting should be undertaken whenever necessary. The best time is after all flowering has ceased and new growth is just beginning. To minimize root damage, a warm water soak for 10 minutes, will make most roots very pliable and easier to remove from the container.

While most GRAMMATOPHYLLUMs will do well in clay or plastic pots. Some large-growing types such as G. speciosum are best grown in a wire or wooden basket. The strong rapid growing root system often breaks ordinary pots. The baskets allow free air flow over the roots, and eliminate over watering problems.

The potting medium must be well-drained, i.e. coarse fir bark, lava rock, pieces of broken pottery, chunks of tree fern, hardwood charcoal, etc. so that the roots can be wet, but then dry quickly.

When dividing GRAMMATOPHYLLUM plants, always divide into parts with at least four psuedobulbs. Remove any dead roots from the divisions, then lay the divisions aside until new root growth begins. At that time, usually a week or so, repot the divisions in their new pots. Now the plants can be watered and fertilized as usual, without worrying about rotting them, because they retained no roots in the division. Newly repotted plants should be placed in slightly lower light for several weeks


When you purchase a new plant, always place it where you can watch it for a couple of weeks until it is acclimated to your area. Initially, water the plant thoroughly and place it in a bright location with good humidity.

A preventative spraying of Orthene 75%, wettable powder or in aerosol, on maturing flower buds will prevent thirp damage, as well as aphids and ants. If insects are found on the open flowers, the same chemical can be used to eradicate the infestation, without damaging the flowers. Other insecticides WILL damage the flowers and should not be used. Use Orthene spray as recommended on the label. If using the aerosol, spray from at least a foot away from the flowers. In addition, Orthene 75% does not leave any unsightly residue.

Examine your plants on a regular basis. Always remove the dried sheathing from pseudobulbs to prevent buildup of moisture, and as a hiding place for insects. In nature, the breeze removes the sheath. In captivity, you must remove the sheath. The removal of the sheath also provides more surface for photosynthesis activity. Insects, particularly scale insects, find GRAMMATOPHYLLUM plants attractive. Also slugs and snails will dine on these plants. Following the label recommendations on your favorite insecticide will usually solve any insect problem. 70% isopropyl alcohol and dish soap make a good alternative insecticide for small outbreaks.

All members of the genus Grammatophyllum often exhibit malformation of the some flowers. This condition, known as teratology, will be most often noticed on the lower flowers of the large inflorescence. The bottom flowers are often incomplete as they, lack a labellum, petal, sepal, or column, and at times produce an organ which is a combination of two others, such as half a petal and half a labellum.

All members of the genus are epiphytic. Each species develops a strong branched root system to support its large clumps. The thickened, squat pseudo-bulbs are slightly compressed and furrowed about four to six inches long and two to three inches thick. The young bulbs are clothed with a silvery membranaceous sheath, which should be removed when dried. Each pseudo-bulb terminates with four to six oblong leaves fourteen to twenty inches long and three to four inches wide in the widest portion. Up to one hundred flowers are borne on an erect arching scape twenty to forty inches long which grows out of the base of the pseudobulbs.


Cultural Index ||   Current Orchid listing || Orchid BookStore ||  Main Page

CLAN Tropicals (Maintained by Orchids ' R ' Us, Inc.)