Do Orchids Smell? 10 Great Smelling Varieties

Rhynchostylis gigantea

Orchids are quite an exotic and popular choice when it comes to owning or growing flowering plants. This popularity is certainly not unconnected to their colorful appearance which appeals greatly to the eyes.

Their beauty, which is evident in their sometimes ornamental leaves and blooming flower petals, adds a definite ambiance to any setting in which they are found. Though originally found growing on the barks of trees in the tropics, orchids are now easily found in a wide variety of places.

With over 30000 species known to man and a further estimated 200000 hybrids, orchids occupy a prominent position as one of the flowering plants with a widespread population. With such large numbers, it is not in doubt that there is an orchid suitable for every flower-loving person.

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Outside of its decorative use, some orchids have been found to have edible parts and as such have been used in the making of flavorings, beverages, and even consumed as a tuber crop by early Aborigines.

Despite their popularity for being colorful and visually appealing, an important question to ask would be: do orchids smell? The answer to this question is yes. Generally, the bulk of orchids offered for sale at local grocers or florists tend to be unfragant.

Yet, certain species of orchids have been known to have very distinct fragrances ranging from the pleasant to the not so pleasant. Some of such fragrances are so good and pleasant that perfumers across the world have attempted the synthesis of the smells they give off in the production of various perfume scents.

This beauty and fragrance are why orchids are a popular flowering plant among horticulturists and collectors and also why the orchid functions as a cultural symbol and artistic symbol in quite a few parts of the world. To underscore the quality of the fragrance of orchids, this article provides a list of 10 fragrant orchids that will appeal to almost anybody.

10 Great Smelling Orchids

Oncidium Sharry Baby

Oncidium Sharry Baby

If you are a sweet tooth or just love the smell of chocolate, then the Oncidium Sharry Baby is the orchid for you. The Oncidium Sharry Baby is the hybrid product you would get when you cross Oncidium Jamie Sutton (Oncidium sotoanum x Oncidium anthocrene) and Oncidium Honolulu (Oncidium leuchochilum x Oncidium altissimum).

The Oncidium Sharry Baby is nicknamed the Chocolate Orchid solely on the basis of the fragrance which it gives off. Due to a difference in perception, the Oncidium Sharry Baby has also been described as giving of milk chocolate or vanilla chocolate scent.

The consensus still is that the Oncidium Sharry Baby has a strong vanilla scent. Unless the smell of chocolates disgusts you or triggers a gag reflex in you, the OncidiumSharry Baby is an ideal orchid to be collected.

Physically, the Oncidium Sharry Baby, like some other orchids, displays a sympodial growth. It is made up of a number of bulbous stems that grow tightly to each other and can reach up to 10cm in height and 5cm in width.

Attached to the bulbous stem is the peduncle which is the stalk that bears the flowers when they are formed. The OncidiumSharry Baby produces a large number of small-sized flowers whose color range from dark purple to yellow-brown. These flowers are what produce the fragrance that has caused the Oncidium Sharry Baby to be nicknamed the chocolate orchid. 

Unsurprisingly, the Oncidium Sharry Baby has a number of varieties. For example, there are the Oncidium Sharry Baby Sweet Fragrance, the Oncidium Sharry Baby Tricolor and the Oncidium Sharry Baby Ruby Doll.

The distinguishing feature between the various varieties of the Oncidium Sharry Baby is the intensity of the fragrance they produce. The most popular variety, on the strength of it’s scent, is the Oncidium Sharry Baby Sweet Fragrance. Its name clearly tells you what to expect.

In growing the Oncidium Sharry Baby, the plant requires bright light, medium temperature, not too high humidity and watering at par with the previous conditions. If properly taken care of, the Oncidium Sharry Baby grows vigorously and shows a continuous growth pattern all year round. It might end up being quite huge and could be split into two when it’s being reported.

Sedirea japonica

Sedirea japonica

If you love the smell of lemon pies, then the Sedirea Japonica is for you. The Nagoran, as the Sedirea Japonica is called in Japan is native to subtropical regions in Japan and South Korea. 

The Sedirea Japonica is small-sized as evidenced by its short stems and has leaves that are elliptically shaped. Its inflorescence can have as much as 10 individual flowers and which give off a very sweet citrusy fragrance. 

In growing the Sedirea Japonica, the plant should rarely be exposed to direct sunlight especially that of the midday sun. It will thrive in cold temperatures having high humidity levels. During its period of intensive growth, the plant would require abundant watering but not so much as to cause the ground around the roots to be damp.

Cycnodes Wine Delight

Cycnodes Wine Delight

The Cycnodes Wine Delight is another orchid that gives off a pleasant fragrance. Before venturing into the specifics of this orchid, it is important to know that it was awarded a First Class Certificate (FCC) by the American Orchid Society (AOS) at its first showing.

The FCC is the highest award that can be issued by the AOS and typically entails that an orchid species or hybrid raked in a score of at least 90 points on a 100 points scale. The FCC award also means that the Cycnodes Wine Delight excels in vigor, color and makes a good parent for other hybrids.

Being a hybrid, the Cycnodes Wine Delight is the result of a cross between a Cycnoches Lehmannii and a Mormodes Sinuata. It comprises of about 6-7 bulbous stems which may be said to be in the shape of carrots and grow tightly together. They produce spikes and have medium green leaves.

The Cycnodes Wine Delight derives its name from the color of the flower it produces. Its flowers are usually burgundy/wine/red and could be described as waxy. An advantage to the Cycnodes Wine Delight is that it can bloom all year round.

As to its fragrance, the Cycnodes Wine Delight is said to give off a scent akin to the smell of cherries. The smell can also be described as spicy or minty for some persons. What is certain though, is that there is no halfway ground when it comes to liking the smell of the Cycnodes Wine Delight. You either do or you don’t.

The Cycnodes Wine Delight can be easily sourced as it is available on most online florist stores. It is easy to care for and will do well in moderately warm temperatures, bright light and above average humidity. In Winter, it requires little or no water.

Brassavola Nodosa 

Brassavola Nodosa 

With Lady of the Night as its moniker, Brassavola Nodosa certainly has a sensuous ring to it. The Brassavola Nodosa is another orchid prominent for the fragrance it emits. The fragrance is quite peculiar as the plant gives it off only at night or after dark. The nocturnal fragrance of the Brassavola Nodosa has been likened to the smell of citrus and its fragrance is quite strong.

This feature is an adaptive quality of the plant to aid it in attracting nocturnal insects that can facilitate pollination. As such, only folks who enjoy being nocturnal will enjoy the scent it emits to the maximum. If you end up owning this plant, you just might have to contemplate trading off sleep on a nightly basis.

Naturally, the Brassavola Nodosa is found growing in clumps on the barks of trees or the lower sides of rocks in parts of Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, and the Carribean. The Brassavola nodosa typically has slender pseudobulbs.

The flowers produced by this plant could range from ivory to pale green in color and up to 4 inches across in size. The Brassavola nodosa flowers quite frequently and some might say excessively. As a matter of fact, the Brassavola nodosa can bloom all year round.

The key attraction of the Brassavola nodosa, besides its citrusy fragrance, is the ease with which it can be grown. The Brassavola nodosa will do well with minimal attention provided the light, temperature, humidity and watering conditions are perfect. Typically, the Brassavola nodosa will thrive in intermediate to warm temperatures with strong direct light access and less water than other orchids might require.

Zygopetalums

Zygopetalums

The Zygopetalum is one of the genera of Orchids. They are native to South America, particularly humid forests with varying but less than high elevations in Brazil. The Zygopetalum owes its name to the Latin word for because of the yoke-like growth on the bottom of its lip which distinguishes it from other Orchids.

The Zygopetalum has a number of recognized species including the Zygopetalum brachypetalum, Zygopetalum ghillanyi, Zygopetalum maxillare and a host of others. 

Zygopetalums posess deciduos bulbous stems which are ovoid-conically shaped. They produce light green lily-like leaves that can grow as tall as 60cm. Its flowers typically grow in clusters above the leaves and can range in color from shades of green to purple with patterns on them.

The flowers of the Zygopetalum when in bloom produce a very heady fragrance that certainly fills any room in which it is placed.

In growing the Zygopetalum, it should be noted that they fare better in cool to intermediate temperatures. They also require high but indirect light intensity. They should not be placed in direct contact with sunlight as that might result in the leaves drying up and subsequent failure to bloom.

The Zygopetalum is also a fan of moderate humidity and should be watered frequently, especially in the warmer months of the year.

Rhynchostylis gigantea

Rhynchostylis gigantea

The Rhynchostylis gigantea is an exotic Orchid species native to various parts of Southeast Asia particularly Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Borneo. The Rhynchostylis gigantea is culturally symbolic as it serves as the state flower of Assam in India.

Physically, the Rhynchostylis gigantea comprises of stout stems, apical leaves, and densely populated inflorescence. The flowers of the Rhynchostylis gigantea are usually waxy in texture and vary from white to dark red in color and are sometimes spotted. The flowers of this orchid produce a sweet fragrance which has sometimes been described as spicy or citrusy. 

In growing the Rhynchostylis gigantea, an aerial position is preferred. To achieve this, a suspended wooden basket is a popular choice. The plant requires indirect medium to high light and will do well in warm humid climates that mimic its Southeast Asian origin.

The Rhynchostylis gigantea is quite adaptable and will do well in most temperatures. A downside to the Rhynchostylis gigantea is the trickiness that comes with attempting to repot it. The roots of the plant may be too tender or too firm this requiring particular skill in attempts at repotting.

Phalaenopsis violacea

Purple Phalaenopsis

Native to the Andaman Islands, Nicobar Islands, and Northwestern Sumatra, the Phalaenopsis violacea is a compact orchid species that grows on the bark of trees in moist lowland forests. The Phalaenopsis violacea is a favorite choice as a parent in the creation of new orchid hybrids.

With its short stem and 10cm (maximum) long leaves, the Phalaenopsis violacea is a small-sized plant. The Phalaenopsis violacea is popular for the exotic fragrance emanating from its flowers which are usually small and mostly violet in color. Its first fragrance has been said to be of a spicy cinnamon quality. The Phalaenopsis violacea tends to bloom chiefly in the spring. 

In growing this plant, deep shade, frequent watering and high humidity are the watchwords. 

Neofinetia falcata

Neofinetia falcata

The Neofinetia falcata is reportedly one of the first set of orchids to be grown indoors as a house plant. Native to Japan, China, and Korea, the Neofinetia falcata is one of the world’s most expensive orchids with some having reportedly been sold for thousands of dollars. 

The Neofinetia falcata can be cultivated quite easily. It will do well in a wide array of temperatures, prefers medium to low light intensities and moderate humidity levels. Being a highly-priced species, the Neofinetia falcata is better suited to clean water preferably rainwater, spring water or reverse osmosis water.

With the right amount of care put into its growth, the Neofinetia falcata blooms once in a year, typically in the spring. Its inflorescence will usually have between 3-9 flowers whose colors have been observed to vary from white, green, yellow or pink forms. The exquisite fragrance produced by the Neofinetia falcata can be enjoyed for the 2-4 weeks in which it remains in bloom.

Miltoniopsis santanaei

Miltoniopsis santanaei

Originally native to wet forests in Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, and Brazil, the Miltoniopsis santanaei is also known as the Pansy Orchids. They are often mistaken for Militonias but are actually quite different. 

The Miltoniopsis santanaei like most orchids has pseudobulbs with each having just one leaf. The flowers of the Miltoniopsis santanaei give off a rose scent when in bloom. 

The Miltoniopsis santanae, being a thermophilic plant will do well in relatively high temperatures as well as in high light environments. Also, it is favorable to moderate to high humidity levels.

Cattleya walkeriana

Cattleya walkeriana

Naturally, the Cattleya walkerina is found either growing on the barks of trees or on the lower side of rocks in the Brazilian Central Plateau which is its known native habitat. This native habitat is why the Cattleya walkeriana is also known as the Queen of the Brazilian Savannah. As a “Queen”, the Cattleya walkeriana can naturally grow on surfaces as high as 2000 meters above sea level. This basically means that this particular orchid is quite amenable to heights.

Physically, the Cattleya walkeriana consists of a number of jointed bulbous stems which could be shiny yellow in color and which in turn produce one or two leaves as the Cattleya walkeriana is a bifoliate species. The leaves are described as being leathery to the touch and mostly elliptical or ovate in shape.

The flowers produced by the Cattleya walkeriana can grow up to 4½ inches, have a heavy texture and are usually in varying shades of purple. The Cattleya walkeriana typically blooms in the spring and its flowering can last for up to a month.

The Cattleya walkeriana has a very strong fragrance. Its scent is likened to the smell of cinnamon and/or vanilla.

In growing the Cattleya walkeriana, it should be noted that this Orchid requires exposure to high light and brightness for it to bloom. The plant similarly is intolerant of high humidity and would be best suited to being positioned meters above the ground. The Cattleya will be best grown in conditions that imitate its natural habitat, for instance, mounting it on a slab of cork or other bark. Watering of the Cattleya walkeriana should be abundant before it attains maturity.

In growing the Cattleya walkeriana, one must be mindful of the cotonose cochineal, which is a small insect that can weaken and eventually kill the plant in extreme situations.

All of the above are proven examples that orchids can and do have fragrances.

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