The amazing and magnificent Stanhopea's are generally in flower in December and January, but can flower during most of the year. This genus contains about 60 species that range from Mexico to Brazil. They are epiphytes or lithophytes from moist forests at low to moderate altitudes. The pseudobulbs are small with a single large, pleated, leathery leaf. The inflorescence is pendulous with a few large flowers 3 inches to 6 inches across depending on the species. These are usually strongly fragrant, waxy, and often do not last for more than two or three days. Most of the plants are similar and can only be accurately identified when they are in flower.
In cultivation, these plants should not be grown in a pot. The inflorescences (unlike most other orchids) grow straight down coming out of the bottom so wire baskets with a fibre lining are most commonly used. If grown in a pot the bottom of the pot usually stops the inflorescences from emerging. You may be very lucky and the inflorescence will emerge from one of the holes in the bottom of the pot, but usually they will not emerge but die in the pot. The plants should be grown under moderate light with humid conditions, and watered throughout the year. Don't let them dry out completely.
I grow my Stanhopea's in wire baskets with fibre lining and they hang from chains on the edges of the benches in my Dendrobium bush house under 30% shadecloth. They get a reasonable amount of morning sun but nothing after about 2.30 p.m. in summer and about lunchtime in winter. I use large Aussie Bark in all my baskets as I find it keeps the orchids moist but not wet. During summer, I water three times a week and winter once or twice depending on the weather. I fertilise weekly in summer and about once a month in winter with Aquasol or whatever I am currently using in the garden. In the beginning, I had no success with flowering my Stanhopea's until Joan Zupp told me to give them a handful of Dolomite a couple of times a year and I haven't had any trouble since. Thank you Joan for this valuable information. It was very much appreciated. I only repot when the bark starts to break down. This is usually every two to three years.
This year my Stanhopea oculata had twenty flowers on it and they lasted about five days and it still has another inflorescence with four buds to come out. This orchid is not as perfumed as Stanhopea tigrina and the perfume is most noticeable at night.
A couple of my tigrina's would be about thirty years old as they belonged to my uncle and I can remember them flowering through the bottom of the hanging basket when I was about 15 which really amazed me as I had never seen anything like it before. My tigrina's also flowered this year but did not have as many flowers as the oculata. The tigrina is extremely perfumed all day and if you bring it indoors the perfume goes right through the house. Some people consider the perfume overpowering and cannot keep a flowering tigrina in the house. Personally I love the perfume even though I have sinus problems.
The tigrina would probably be one of the most common Stanhopea's grown in Brisbane. There are also Stanhopea nigroviolacea, wardii and oculata. There are also probably some others that I haven't come across in my travels to the nurseries as yet.
I find Stanhopeas are very rewarding orchids to grow if only for the perfume. If you pass the bush house and there is a Stanhopea in flower you can smell it long before you can find it in the bush house. If you haven't tried them before I would certainly recommend them if you want an orchid that is different.