Maxillaria variabilis is a small epiphytic orchid native to the highlands of Central America. As the name suggests, the species has a variable floral color. The pseudobulbs are ellipsoidal to 2.25 inches (5.8 cm) long and are one leaved. Linear leaves will reach up to 10 inches (25 cm) long by about 0.50 inch (1.2 cm) wide. Plants spread by erect rhizomes. As with most members of the Maxillarias, they are of easy culture.
Blooming: Flowers are very inconspicuous to 0.75 inches (1.9 cm) long. This species has highly variable floral colors ranging from white to dark red, often orange–yellow marked with red, but they are not particularly showy.
Culture: Maxillaria variabilis needs a well-drained compost and light to full shade. In the greenhouse, we use compost consisting of equal parts of Osmunda fibre and sphagnum moss with small bark chips added to ensure good drainage. During the growing season, the plants prefer plenty of water and are fertilized weekly with an orchid special fertilizer diluted to ½ the strength recommended on the label. If grown in the home environment, they should be misted on a daily basis to keep the humidity levels high around the plants. Like most orchids, they require a rest period, but these orchids need only a short rest. Plants should never be allowed to dry thoroughly during this period because the small pseudobulbs are easily damaged from extended drought conditions.
Propagation: Maxillaria variabilis are propagated from cuttings and from seed. When taking cuttings, the fresh cuts should be dipped in charcoal dust to stop the leaking of milky sap and should be stuck in sand to root.
Maxillaria variabilis was featured as Plant of the Week February 3-9, 2006.
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Cal's Plant of the Week was provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology and specifically the late Cal Lemke, who used to be OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well. If the above links don't work, then try the overview site. You may also like to look at the thumbnail index. ©1998-2012 All rights reserved.