Brassavola nodosa (B. nodosa)

Brassavola nodosa (B. nodosa). This is a common and easily grown orchid, especially for the novice grower. Moreover, it is also a very rewarding orchid to grow as it is very fragrant during the evening. This is because it is pollinated by “night-flying sphinid moths that are attracted by the powerful sweet scent produced only at night” in its natural range. Among other things, B. nodosa is also known as “Lady of the night” because of its powerful fragrance. This orchid is also salt-tolerant and ideal to grow in our coastal location. 

In my own collection, I’ve had five examples of B. nodosa and in the past five years they have bloomed 12 times between May and November. This year my blooms are a bit behind schedule, but I expect first blossoms within the next month or so.

LIGHT: 2500-3500 fc. This orchid will grow well with your cattleya type orchids, although it will not tolerate well direct mid-day sun. Be sure they are getting strong air movement with higher levels of light and temperature.

TEMPERATURE: This orchid can tolerate our northeast Florida summer temperatures as long as the orchid is not in direct mid-day sun. As a tropical plant it won’t tolerate cold temperatures. So, be sure to move this orchid to a heated space with the temperature gets down to about 60F. In addition, Baker and Baker reported that this orchid *will not flower* if taken to about 50F. When grown in cool temperatures it is important that this orchid be kept as dry as possible.

This orchid needs lots of water during the growing season. This means that any media must be free-draining. I’ve successfully used straight Hydrotron as a media with great success, but other fast-draining media will work as well. The key is that growing B. nodosa must be kept moist while growing. You’ll have to determine how often to water under your growing conditions, and during the hottest times of the year may have to water as frequently as every 2-3 days.

GROWING MEDIA: This orchid is successfully grown either mounted or in a pot. However, Withner notes that hybrids of this orchid are best mounted or grown in baskets. Further, as observed by myself an others, as a sympodial orchid, its “rambling” growth pattern seems ideally suited to mounting or basket culture.
Mounting – Mount this orchid on cypress, cork, tree-fern slab, or other convenient mounting media. If mounted, water this orchid everyday.
Pot-grown – Use smaller pots allowing at most 2 years of growth with plastic or clay pots typically being used. The key is that orchid pots must be used. This orchid requires heavy watering and fast draining media such as medium to large bark, tree-fern or osmunda, or Hydrotron. Like other orchids, repot when new growth is starting or after flowering.

FERTILIZER: Fertilize this orchid weekly with a balanced fertilizer such as your favorite 20-20-20 at 1/4 strength.

REST PERIOD: Reduce the amount of water sharply November throug March, but don’t allow the media to totally dry out. Fertilizer should be reduced or eliminated during the rest period while maintaining light levels at the highest possible levels without burning the leaves.

American Orchid Society. n.d. Brassavola care.
Orchid, n.d.,
Orchid Whiz. n.d.
Whitner, Carl. L. 1998. The Cattleyas and their relatives. Volume V. Brassavola, Encyclia, and Other Genera of Mexico and Central America. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press.