Skip to Content

How to Grow Ludisia Discolor: The Beautiful Jewel Orchid

Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links.

Most orchids are grown for the beautiful shapes, colors and scents of their exotic flowers. Not Ludisia discolor! This plant is unique in many ways as far as orchids go. Although it does flower, the main draw is the stunning foliage this plant produces.

Keep reading for a variety of care tips on Ludisia discolor!

Unlike many orchids that you may be familiar with, such as Phalaenopsis (the ubiquitous moth orchid) or cattleya (the “corsage” orchid), Ludisia discolor, or Jewel Orchid, is a terrestrial orchid and is not an epiphyte.

Terrestrial means that Ludisia orchids grow on land. In nature, they grow in soil on the forest floor, unlike epiphytic Phalaenopsis and cattleya which grow on tree branches in nature and are typically grown in a bark mix in our homes.

Ordinary potting soil it is then for Ludisia discolor! Lets get into Ludisia discolor care. It is a very easy orchid plant to grow and doesn’t really demand much from its owner. In fact, the care is more similar to a “normal” tropical houseplant versus an orchid.

LUDISIA DISCOLOR CARE

LIGHT

Ludisia orchids really aren’t demanding at all. And when I say orchids, there is only one species in the Ludisia genus and it is the discolor species. These plants are native to the Asian tropics and grow in the ground on the forest floor.

They are considered low light orchids. My Ludisia discolor orchid, which is several years old now and grown from a small plant that was given to me by an orchid enthusiast with a greenhouse, has been growing in Eastern exposure.

If you have a window where you are growing happy African Violets, or even Phalaenopsis orchids, then your Ludisia discolor orchid will do well there too!

Ludisia definitely does not like a lot of direct sun but a little bit of morning sun is fine.

I would recommend a nice big Northern exposure window if you have it, or an Eastern facing window. If there is too much sun, you can diffuse the sun a bit with blinds or curtains.

You will definitely need to diffuse any direct sun from your Western or Southern exposure windows because they will have too much direct sun for these plants.

JEWEL ORCHID FLOWERS

As I mentioned, the flowers are nothing compared to many other orchids, but they still produce flowers. Take a look at my plant below. It is an older photo but I was able to get a good photograph. Dark foliage is hard to photograph!

ludisia discolor jewel orchid

You can see that it still puts on quite a show, but the flowers are small and insignificant compared to many other orchids. Ludisia discolor flowers will last quite a while. At least a few weeks if not more. My plant typically blooms in late-Autumn.

I do find that the plant becomes a little awkward looking when it is in bloom, and I have been known to prematurely cut off the flowers so I can get around it and take care of my other plants 😀

JEWEL ORCHID SOIL

Notice I did say soil! Since these are terrestrial plants, they should be grown in potting soil. I suppose you can also grow these in sphagnum moss as well, but I’ve grown them for years in plain potting soil and have had success.

Since these plants are not epiphytes, do not grow Ludisia in a bark mix. These plants like moisture and you will find it hard to keep up with watering otherwise.

I normally add perlite or pumice to my potting mixes, but I have done just fine using a mix like Miracle Gro all purpose potting mix. You can use it as-is or maybe add a bit of perlite. Mixing 3 parts of all-purpose potting mix plus 1 part of perlite will give you a wonderful medium for this plant.

JEWEL ORCHID WATERING

Ludisia discolor orchids like to stay moist.

In an ideal scenario, I let just the surface of the soil dry out before I water it again thoroughly.

The worst thing you can do is to let your Ludisia discolor dry out. If you let it dry out completely, the lower leaves will start to with and turn red.

Do this repeatedly and you will have a very sad looking plant!

On the other hand, you do want your plant to dry out somewhat in order to avoid the risk of rotting your plant. Allowing the top inch or so of the potting mix to dry out should be more than sufficient.

FERTILIZING JEWEL ORCHID

Like all of my houseplants, I fertilize dilutely with every watering, skipping the winter months of course when plants are not growing.

I am a huge fan of Dyna Gro Grow fertilizer. It is a super high quality fertilizer that is urea-free and contains all the macro and micro nutrients necessary for plant growth.

TEMPERATURE AND HUMIDITY

This plant really isn’t fussy. If you are comfortable in a room, then your Ludisia discolor will be fine. It prefers warm temperatures and is tolerant of average indoor humidity.

Although it does like higher humidity, it has never complained for me with average indoors conditions. Proper watering is far more important than worrying about increasing your humidity.

Although I do run a humidifier in my sunroom now, I have grown this plant successfully in the past with no supplemental humidity.

PESTS

In the many years that I’ve grown Ludisia discolor, it has been relatively pest free, but I did battle a bout of scale!

scale-on-houseplants

To find out how I eradicated scale on my plant, check out my blog post where I detailed a 5-step process to eliminate scale. You CAN win the battle against scale if you are persistent.

Jewel Orchid Toxicity

Ludisia discolor is non-toxic to dogs and cats, according to the ASPCA.

Jewel Orchid Propagation

Unlike many other orchids which can be impractical to propagate (unless you divide them), you can take cuttings the old fashioned way with Ludisia discolor and easily root new plants!

ludisia discolor jewel orchid

The stems are relatively fragile, and I once broke a stem when I moved my plant. I simply put the cutting in water and it rooted easily. It took a couple months or so, but it rooted easily.

Be sure to change the water frequently so that you keep the water fresh and help to avoid rotting.

That’s really all you need to know about Ludisia discolor, or Jewel Orchid! If you remember only one thing, it’s that this plant despises drying out completely so do everything you can to not let that happen (but don’t drown it either…)

Do you have any Jewel Orchids? I’d love to hear your experiences so comment below!

Please do me a favor and share this post to social media because it will help me spread the Ohio Tropics houseplant care tips to the masses! Also, check out my shop on Amazon for all your houseplant care needs:

OHIO TROPICS PLANT CARE STOREFRONT

string of hearts
Previous
String of Hearts: Care and Propagation Tips and Tricks!
philodendron brasil
Next
Philodendron Brasil: Simple Care and Propagation Steps

Katherine

Sunday 28th of March 2021

I have been growing Jewel Orchid's for 40 years. When they get to long, or you want your pot to be full, and thick, cut the stem 1 inch from the soil, with a sterile knife. You need at least a 3 inch piece to plant. You will get new growth on the cut plant in the pot, making it more compact. Take the lower leaves off the bottom of the cutting. Plant them in soil. They will root within 2 weeks, sometimes faster. provide the same light for your cutting, that you grow the mother plant in. I do not propagate a Jewel Orchid in water. They have a soft fleshy stem, that roots well when planted. If you mix some perlite, and peat moss, into your potting soil. this will help it drain better, so the soft stems don't rot. Plant in clay pots, with clay saucers. they breath, and provide humidity to the plant. Just place a pretty glass plate under your clay saucer so as not to mar your shelf. I hope this is helpful, Katherine

Raffaele

Wednesday 31st of March 2021

Great tips Katherine! That's a great way to rejuvenate a leggier plant. Thanks for sharing!

Hazel Smith

Friday 26th of February 2021

I have a jewel orchid that has more than 50 buds on it right now. It is so amazing. I would like to send you pic but don’t know how.

Raffaele

Friday 26th of February 2021

Wow! Sounds like a wonderful specimen Hazel! If you are on Instagram, you can DM me a photo? You can otherwise use my contact form on my website. When I reply, you can attach the photo.

Michelle

Saturday 6th of February 2021

I bought my jewel orchid off Etsy and it’s doing great! I have it by a north-facing window. It bloomed in January (in Minnesota). It’s getting tall; is it okay to tie it to a stick so it keeps growing upward? It keeps flopping over because it’s too-heavy.

Raffaele

Monday 8th of February 2021

Hi Michelle! There is nothing wrong with supporting them with a stick if you choose! I've let mine cascade over the pot. It can get a little awkward though, so I take that opportunity to cut those sections off to propagate :-).

Natassja

Wednesday 3rd of February 2021

Can I use succulent and cactus soil? I have a whole sack but no plain potting soil.... Just wondering if I can save my self a trip to the store

Raffaele

Wednesday 3rd of February 2021

You can still certainly use that. It just may dry out a bit faster, so be aware of that.

rl

Wednesday 16th of December 2020

If you get a cutting, what would happen to the original plant? Will it grow or sprout new leaves?

Raffaele

Wednesday 16th of December 2020

The plant will keep growing, and they will often grow brand new stems from the root system. My own plant started from cuttings and one is very big now and full because of continued new growth. Just give it some time :-)