By the Orchid Man’s Son
I don’t know why I find Dendrobium (Den.) kingianum an interesting orchid. Perhaps because I can’t grow them successfully. Perhaps also because it does not appear like other members of the genus Dendrobium or members of its own subdivision or section, Dendrocoryne. In any event, give me a large Den. kingianum and I’ll watch it wither until much smaller, it finally dies. Obviously, it’s time to look further into this interesting orchid and determine how it can best be grown.
The American Orchid Society (AOS) notes that “Dendrobium is a diverse genus of orchids with different cultural needs (n.d.).” Lavarack, et. al. (2000) divide Dendrobia into 22 different sections, some of which are related and others which have subsequently been separated into new species altogether. Further analyses continue to define the members of genus Dendrobium with continued additions and deletions (e.g., Clements (2003), Lavarack, et. al. (2000), and Schuiteman &Adams (2011)).
Conveniently, grouping by section often aligns orchids with similar cultural requirements such as provided by the St. Augustine Orchid Society’s (n.d.) sheets entitled “Dendrobium Culture.” Unfortunately, the St. Augustine Orchid Society’s culture sheet does not address section Dendrocoryne, nor
Den. kingianum in any of its various forms suggested by M.A. Clements, but never addressed in the Baker’s “Orchid Species Culture. Dendrobium.” This is of interest as Lavarack et. al., notes the size of Den. kingianum pseudobulbs varying in size from 3 to as much as 50 cm, or about 1 to 20 inches, suggesting the existence of at least several varieties. Following up, the Kew science Plants of the World online website recognizes three varieties of Den. kingianum:
- Dendrobium kingianum subvar. kingianum
- Dendrobium kingianum subsp. carnarvonense
- Dendrobium kingianum var. pulcherrimum
Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to identify any difference in the cultural requirements of these three varieties of Den. kingianum.
Den. kingianum Culture Requirements
Several recommendations are found among the references regarding light required to grow this orchid successfully. On the low end, “high Phalaenopsis light’ is recommended with others recommending high light sufficient to redden the leaves of this orchid.
Water frequently when in active growth during the spring and summer. This orchid should be allowed to dry off between waterings. If given too much water this orchid rapidly produces keikis.
The Bakers and Jay Phal both indicate this is a cool to warm growing orchid. However, the Bakers also noted that the plants can handle temperatures above 100F. Lorraine Conover keeps her Den. kingianum outside for most of the year and only brings it in when the temperatures drop to the mid-30Fs. Moreover, temperatures at or below 50F are indicated by different references to initiate blooming.
Like many orchids, these orchids need rapidly draining media and will not do well if its roots remain wet. Also, like other orchids, this orchid also needs good air movement. Like most orchids, do not overpot this orchid.
Reduce water greatly from mid-Autumn until new growth is seen. During this time allow the orchid to dry out but provide enough water to prevent shrinking of the pseudobulbs. It also produces keikis if not given sufficient winter rest.
American Orchid Society. n.d. Dendrobium.
Baker, M. L., and Baker, C. O. 1996. Orchid Species Culture. Dendrobium. Portland, OR.: Timber Press.
Chong-Yee, K. 2002. Dendrobium kingianum Care Sheet. Retrieved 24 March 2021 from http://dendrobium.org/Articles/Entries/2002/8/2_Dendrobium_kingianum_Care_Sheet.html
Clements, M.A. 2003. Molecular phylogenetic systematics in the Dendrobiinae (Orchidaceae), with emphasis on Dendrobium section Pedilonum. Telopea, v10(1), p253-298.
Conover, L. 26 March 2021. Personal communication.
Kew Science Plants of the World Online. n.d. Retrieved 26 March 2021 from http://powo.science.kew.org.
Lavarack, B., Harris, W., and Stocker, G. 2000. Dendrobium and its relatives. Portland, OR.: Timber Press.
Orchid Whiz. n.d. https://www.orchidwiz.com
Phal, J. n.d. Internet Orchid Species Photo Encyclopedia, Dendrobium kingianum. Retrieved 24 March 2021 from Internet Orchid Species Photo Encyclopedia, http://www.orchidspecies.com/denkingianum.htm
Schuiteman, A. and Adams, P.B. 2011. New Combinations in Dendrobium (Orchidaceae). Muelleria, V29(1), p. 62-68.
St. Augustine Orchid Society. n.d. Dendrobium Culture.