Zygopetalum’s although having the appearance of an exotic plant are actually very easy to grow and flower. In Melbourne we have found they like 70% shade or more throughout the year. In our main growing area we grow ours under 40% shade with a further 70% piece of shadecloth added at the height of summer. While you will read regularly that Cymbidiums and Zygopetalum’s are content in a similar condition this has not been our experience so far with Zygos closer to Sarcs in the preferences in Melbourne conditions, perhaps a little more sun than Sarcs is good but they also are not seeming to mind the shade either. We have Zygos flowering and growing well side by side with Sarcochilus and we have them flowering and growing well side by side with Dendrobiums. – they like it better with the Sarcs….I would say we grow our sarcs with a bit more light than some people do though.
As far as we can tell they seem to love humidity which does make sense when you read a lot of the conditions the parent species live in. In Melbourne we do not have heaps of humidity naturally so you will need to provide this.
Zygopetalum is a genus of about 20 species. The species are distributed throughout the South American continent, from the cooler parts of southern Brazil to the Isthmus of Panama, also southern Mexico and the West Indies so there is some variation especially with the species but overall hybrid Zygopetalums are very tough and pretty much impossible to kill once they have a bit of size. (as proven by our neglect at times)
POTTING MEDIUM : There are various mixes that can work for Zygopetalums however we use the same mixes as for our natives without trouble, that is bark and perlite for small plants and bark and pebbles or expanded clay for the larger plants with or without charcoal (does not make a difference as per our cultivation) . You will see these plants often potted in straight perlite / vermiculite (“magic mix”) and also coco peat – if you want to use these mediums please remember that magic mix is a hydroponic cultivation medium and is inert so you must provide 100% of the plants nutrients via fertiliser or they will waste away. Coco peat is also a popular hydroponic medium and while used for this it is NOT inert and so can and does provide some nutrition to your plants however less than say bark & charcoal so be aware of this when comparing notes on fertiliser and cultivation with growers who are using bark based mixes.
All our Zygos are grown stone cold in Melbourne from deflask on and 90% of crosses are trouble free in the cold. There are around 10% of crosses that seem to struggle and often find there way off to the orchid graveyard in the sky but most crosses we get 100% survival and good growth from so these plants really are cold growing.
We dont use fungicides on our plants other than occasionally in the first 1-2 weeks after deflask and so far they have been pest free. Really very trouble free to grow.