Orchids in Focus exhibit

February 27 - April 17, 2016
Conservatory Garden Court and East Gallery

Orchids in Focus, in partnership with Smithsonian Gardens, highlights the world's largest plant family and the USBG's most extensive plant collection. Found on every continent except Antarctica, orchids amaze with their diversity of forms and colors. Come see for yourself why these exotic beauties have inspired artists and photographers for centuries. Immerse yourself in a floral paradise of orchids from the forest canopy down to the ground, and focus your own camera on these unique and beautiful plants.


The United States Botanic Garden is working with the North American Orchid Conservation Center (NAOCC) to develop punch-out models of our native orchids for use in a variety of educational activities. The models are colorful and fun and designed to capture the imaginations of kids of all ages. Each one provides information about the conservation status and ecology of the orchid species and links to the NAOCC and Go Orchids web sites. We are developing 25 of these punch-out models that represent orchids from across North America and plan to release all of them in 2016. We are excited to share this prototype of our first model, the showy lady's slipper (Cypripedium reginae). This model is a full-color, two-sided pdf file that can be downloaded and printed at home - or you can pick up an already printed and perforated model at the Garden. Give orchid-gami a try and let us know what you think.

* Download the Showy Lady's Slipper orchid-gami (PDF) >>

Orchids on the Windowsill

The secret to success in growing orchids indoors is choosing plants that are best suited to the growing environment. Most orchids fail to bloom because of inadequate light or temperatures that are too consistent.

Test the light. Here's a quick way to test the light for growing orchids indoors: on a bright, clear summer day, hold your hand about six inches above your orchid to see if a shadow is cast on the leaves. A faint shadow indicates that 'low' light orchids may be grown, while a strong, distinct shadow indicates there is enough sun to grow 'high' light orchids.

What's your exposure? Unobstructed southern exposures offer the most possibilities for growing orchids. However, a wide variety of 'high' light and 'medium' light orchids will thrive on windowsills with a western or partially obstructed southern exposure. Eastern exposures will allow bloom of 'low' light orchids. Northern windows frequently don't provide enough light to bloom orchids well, but artificial light can help supplement.

Water. Most orchids prefer to dry out a bit between waterings, although there are some exceptions. When watering, drench the pot thoroughly and drain completely. Never let the plant sit in water. Tepid water is preferred, and it is best to water early in the day so the foliage dries by nightfall. Keep in mind that far more orchids are killed from over-watering than from being too dry.

Cooler nights. Many orchids prefer a nighttime drop in temperature. In some, this helps encourage flowering. For several weeks during the fall, leave the windows cracked open slightly at night to allow the daytime temperatures to drop 10 degrees. This should help your orchids set spikes for winter and spring blooms!

Your local orchid society, such as the National Capital Orchid Society, is a great place to find out which varieties do well in your area.

  • 'Low' light orchids: Paphiopedilum (slipper orchids), Phalaenopsis (moth orchids), Ludisia discolor and other jewel orchids (grown for beautiful foliage)
  • 'Medium' light orchids: Oncidium, miniature Cattleyas, and Miltoniopsis (pansy orchids)
  • 'High' light orchids: Cattleya, Ascocenda, Phragmipedium, Brassia and Dendrobium