Ludisia discolor (loo-DISS-ee-uh DIS-kol-or) is still often sold in nurseries and referred to in books under the older name of Haemaria discolor.
This terrestrial species is native to Southern China and Myanmar to Indonesia. Ludisia discolor is commonly called a jewel orchid, which refers to the quality of the leaves. Other genera of orchids also referred to as jewel orchids include Macodes and Anoectochilus.
The culture is remarkable easy for this orchid that remains attractive year round. Pot in a clay or plastic container filled with a basic houseplant mix such as that recommended for African violets. Place in a well-lit window with other houseplants and orchids or set a plant in your greenhouse. Water to keep the soil moist perhaps twice a week, remembering to adjust your watering schedule as the seasons change. Fertilize with a balanced plant food regularly. Keep temperatures about 50 F year round, avoiding excessively high temperatures in the summer.
Rooting Stems in Water
Unlike many orchids, Ludisia discolor is a terrestrial and it is usually grown in a potting mix: one recommended for African violets works well. I found that I can also grow this plant in water. This was not planned but as I was moving my plants to their outdoor location in June I broke off a couple of stems accidentally. The stems of this orchid are fleshy, turgid, similar to those of some begonias. Having rooted begonias in water, I placed the ludisia stems in a glass mustard jar filled with water. I placed the jar on my kitchen windowsill (north exposure with a large skylight above). Over the weeks and months, roots formed. No food was added. It was only necessary to add water as needed to maintain a constant level. By December, inflorescences began and eventually burst into bloom. The blooms lasted about two months and in March I cut off the spent blossoms and potted the plants, which are now putting out vegetative side shoots and growing well.
Variations in Leaf Patterns
Ludisia discolor shows amazing variation in leaf coloration and pattern. A few years ago, Elizabeth Huppman of Harold L. Lyon Arboretum, University of Hawaii was intrigued by the reticulated leaf patterns of a jewel orchid plant (Ludisia discolor). She self-pollinated her plant with hopes of improving the strain.
The offspring - about 50 plants - showed little variation in plant and flower morphology. However, the leaf venation patterns and color variations were unexpected. In the greenhouse setting. no two plants had identical patterns. Some varied slightly from the parent while many did not resemble it. Variation is known within this species and it has been used to recognize distinct horticultural varieties that are cultivated. At times, the leaf venation patterns seem to change with age of the plants.