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About 500 species of epiphytic orchids belong to the genus Maxillaria, which have aerial roots that grow resting on the bark of other plants. They are orchids originating from areas of Central and South America. Pseudobulbs are fleshy and have one or two bright green leaves. The flowers develop in spring and have triangular-shaped petals, with various colors and, often, the labellum in a contrasting tone with respect to the color of the petals.
The orchids belonging to this genus are rather delicate and do not tolerate temperature fluctuations nor the too cold climate or the too high temperatures in the summer season.


The Maxillaria orchid loves very bright positions, but, especially in summer, it is good to keep it away from the sun's rays as direct sunlight can easily cause burns on the leaves and irreparably ruin the plant; the Maxillaria also fears the cold very much and the ideal cultivation temperature is between 15-25 °, all year round, so it is good to protect it from the cold in winter and from the heat in summer. In the colder months of the year it can be kept indoors or in a temperate glasshouse, leaving it in very bright areas but not close to sources of heat. Some species of maxillaria originate from mountainous areas and therefore bear temperatures even lower than 10 ° C.


Watering for these plants must be abundant, without however leaving the roots and the pot in contact with water for too long; It is therefore advisable to place them in a saucer filled with pebbles, perlite or expanded clay, taking care to always leave a little water on the bottom, or proceed with the immersion of the vase in water to allow the substratum to get wet, paying close attention to drain excess water perfectly. To obtain a better flowering it is advisable to reduce watering from the moment the buds appear, until the flowers have completely withered. Often provide appropriate fertilizer for orchids mixed with the water of the watering, avoiding to exceed the doses and remembering that it is preferable to supply fertilizer several times in small quantities rather than providing abundant quantities of fertilizer sporadically.


These orchids need an ad hoc compost, made up of barks, sphagnum moss and other light and incoherent materials, which help us to simulate the natural growth conditions of the maxillaries, which develop resting on the trunk of other plants. After 2 or 3 years the substrate must be replaced with new material, to give proper support to the roots, since the compound tends to deteriorate over time.


The reproduction of these orchids occurs by dividing the tufts of pseudobulbs, which in spring can be buried in individual containers to obtain new plants. The new tufts should be placed on a spout suitable for the cultivation of adult orchids.

Maxillaria: Loans and diseases

These orchids can be attacked by cochineal and aphids. To eliminate scale insects you can use a cloth to pass over the leaves. For aphids there are specific products that must be used with caution to avoid damaging the flowers. Orchids can also often present the onset of root rot caused by an excess of watering or by an insufficiently draining substrate.