The genus Calochilus includes about ten species of terrestrial orchids, native to the Australian continent; in spite of the beauty of the flowers, usually, these plants, even if easily found in the wild in their origin countries, cannot be easily found cultivated specimens.
From big oval tubers develops a single basal leaf, elongated, of dark green colour, thick and fleshy; from the tuber develops also the stem carrying the flowers, erect, 30-50 cm tall, from which, in spring or by late summer, 6-14 flowers bloom.
The flowers of calochilus are fairly big, with yellow or yellow-greenish petals and sepals, often with wine red or brown stripes or dots; the labellum is of conspicuous size, enlarged, fleshy, of dark yellow, purple or brown colour, and is covered by a thick dark down, at times also blue; in Australia, the down of the labellum has earned this orchid the common name of bearded orchid.
At the beginning of the cold months the leaf dries up and dies, and the plant goes into vegetative rest until the following spring.
For a good development of these plants, place in a bright place, but protected from direct sunlight, especially during the hottest hours of the day as the leaves could present very dangerous burns, usually calochilus fear frost, so in winter it is advisable to place the containers with tubers in cold greenhouses, or cover them with non-woven fabric and mulch the ground with bark or dry leaves, so as to protect the root system from the coldest temperatures.
- Some species of orchids have very special flowers, with a curved labellum, closed to form a kind of shoe; orchids with cup-shaped lips belong to three main genus of orchids.
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From March to October, water regularly enough, letting the soil dry slightly between one watering and the other, so as to avoid the presence of water stagnation that could quickly lead to dangerous root rot. Avoid watering during the cold months. During the vegetative period, mix the water from the watering with a small dose of orchid fertilizer, every 25-35 days.
Use balanced universal soil, mixed with sand, perlite and a small amount of crushed bark, so as to retain a little moisture. These orchids do not develop rapidly, so it is possible to grow them in the same container for a few years, taking care to replace the container when the roots have now taken up all the space available. To avoid damaging the rather delicate root system, it is best to wet the soil before repotting.
Sometimes the tubers tend to multiply: in order to have a new plant, it is sufficient to remove one of the new small tubers and repot it in a single container; in the wild, these orchids propagate also by seed, but the sowing in container does not seem to give much chances of success, in fact, the small plants obtained from seed, usually, have a short life, as they badly bear the repottings.
Calochilus: Parasites and diseases
These orchids are not affected by pests or diseases, even if a soil with poor drainage, or excessive watering, can promote the onset of root rot that must be countered quickly to prevent them from leading to the death of the plant.