A dainty orchid: Dendrobium kingianum

Continuing and, perhaps, concluding this run of orchids, we have Dendrobium kingianum. I have had my present plant 18 months but have grown it several times before, always with success for it is an easy orchid. Native to eastern Australia it grows on rocks and forms large clumps of stems and is known as the pink rock orchid. It is named after Captain Phillip Parker King, an early explorer of Australia, and does not have royal connections! Dendrobium means ‘living on trees’ but unfortunately the botanists have been playing around withe the genus and this orchid is probably more accurately known as Thelychiton kingianusthelychiton meaning ‘covered female’.

dendrobium kingianum

The plant itself is a small plant with upright and spreading stems with evergreen leaves. Flowering seems to be mostly in winter after a brief, drier, resting period and every stem can produce one to three stems each with up to a dozen flowers. The blooms themselves are small – or dainty – and in the form I have shades of pink though there are many other cvs about but only from orchid specialists. A big plus with this plant is that not only is it easy to grow and free flowering but the blooms are sweetly fragrant. It is difficult to say what the flowers are scented of and it is rather undistinguished, being generally sweet and honeyed.

dendrobium kingianum3

As might be expected for a plant that grows on rocks it needs very good drainage and prefers good light – mine sits on a west-facing windowsill. It gets watered and fed along with the rest of the houseplants with no special treatment other than to make sure the pots never sit in water. It is remarkably obliging regarding temperature and it will take 10c with ease and, if dry, will survive 5c. I am sure this is a plant that could be put outside, in shade, in summer. I have had plants in the greenhouse survive 5c or less for months and recover and grow when temperatures increased. I have even put offsets in the aquarium, sitting on lumps of rock above the water level and although not very happy they survived for a long time.

dendrobium kingianum2

Like many orchids, it produces keikis (from the Hawaiian word for baby). These are young plants on the upright stems. These root while poised above the soil and can easily be snapped off, rooted and grown on to make new plants.


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5 Comments on “A dainty orchid: Dendrobium kingianum”

  1. Maria F.
    December 1, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

    I love these, I have two of them in pots and would like to make them grow on a post (I have coconut shell fiber) so they will at least look more natural. Here in P.R. they grow wild on coconut palm tree trunks. Since I live in an apartment, I would make the post out a PVC tube (perhaps, if not out a thick wood fence post), and wrap the post with coconut fiber. Then wrap the Dendrobiums with string or wire hoping they will eventually grab onto it. How does it sound to you?

    • thebikinggardener
      December 1, 2014 at 8:02 pm #

      According to what I have read this orchid does not grow epiphytically in the wild but that is probably because on trees it does not get enough light and it is more suited to rocks where it is more exposed and gets better drainage. But the trunks of palms would suit it well. Many orchid composts contain coconut fibre either was hairy fibres or chopped up chunks and I think your idea would work perfectly and I am sure they would root into that well. It is a lovely little orchid and some American orchid nurseries sell exciting varieties in other colours that you may be able to get 🙂

      • Maria F.
        December 2, 2014 at 3:39 am #

        Thanks a lot. That gives me some confidence to go ahead and try it. It’s a much more ordinary dendrobium orchid and it loves the sunlight.

  2. Maria F.
    December 6, 2014 at 1:59 am #


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