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Orchids from cloud forests - Restrepia.

Updated on December 23, 2011
The bizarre Restrepia elegans (the elegant Restrepia)
The bizarre Restrepia elegans (the elegant Restrepia) | Source
Restrepia elegans flower opening - side view.
Restrepia elegans flower opening - side view. | Source

How I became introduced to the Restrepia orchid.

Another successful orchid show was coming to a close and there were only a few plants left on the sales table. An elder member noticed me loitering near the sales table, pointed to a weird looking Restrepia elegans orchid and nodded towards me hinting that it would be good in my collection.

I looked at the thick, leathery, erect leaved Restrepia elegans (which I had overlooked due to its weird little flowers and two tatty leaves), which incidentally was in flower with this cute spotted bloom.... and thought she was mad. Each leaf stem has a series of sheathed, papery bracts covering it which contrasts with the elliptical leaves. So, I studied this orchid for a few minutes wondering why a grower actually had it in his collection.

The man behind the sales table informed me that it was cool growing, although not the best specimen.....hence I became a victim of the Restrepia's ability to intrigue me and found myself paying a lower price after a bit of haggling! Two of the leaves had been eaten or damaged so it should have been a my opinion.

Distribution of Restrepia orchids

Restrepia orchids are found growing in the cool, moist cloud forests high in the Andean regions of Colombia, Ecuador, northward to Central America and into Southern Mexico.

There are around 50 species of this cloud orchid which have been discovered growing on mossy trees and rocks and also on leaf litter in the cloud forests.

Restrepia elegans - upper sepal with clubbed end.
Restrepia elegans - upper sepal with clubbed end. | Source

Flowers of the Restrepia orchid

Restrepia has an unusual trait in that its violin shaped flower has the two lower sepals fused together to form the lip. The upper sepal has a translucent appearance and takes on the shape of an insect. Is this cool or what!

Check out the photo!

The Restrepia orchids adorns the Andean cloud forests with colourful whites, yellows, reds and purples, and long, thin lateral petals which have club shaped tips. A single flower is produced under each leaf with the majority of the flowers of Restrepia orchids being spotted or striped.

Here's the exciting part.... Restrepia can flower all year (this is very appealing to an orchid lover!), and although the flowers are short lived another flower grows continually from the same place at the base of the under side of the leaf.

Discovery of Restrepia

A Columbian botanist named Jose Restrepo was honoured by having the Restrepia Orchid named after him, when he discovered Restrepia elegans in Venezuela around 1846.

Restrepia brachypus
Restrepia brachypus | Source

Restrepia Culture

As Restrepia grows in cool, moist conditions with plenty of air movement in the wild, we aim to do the same by growing Restrepia orchids in cool to intermediate greenhouses or shadehouses with 50% shading. Restrepia orchids are hardy plants and do seem to tolerate temperature extremes, but not too often.


Restrepia orchids grow in the moist cloud forests of the Andes where they receive no direct full sun, enjoying plenty of air movement and high humidity, thus these conditions need to be replicated (within reason and taking costs into consideration!).

Restrepia orchids need to be placed in a greenhouse or shade-house where they will not get direct full sunlight. When the leaves develop a reddish - purplish colour, they are thriving in their optimum light level. I can assume that my Restrepia elegans is enjoying the top shelf of my shelter because it continually flowers.


Restrepia can be allowed to dry out slightly between watering. Spraying the surface of the compost with water each day helps keep the compost moist and to aid the humidity.

If Restrepia orchids are grown in sphagnum moss it is very beneficial and easy to immerse the plant in a bucket of water once a week.


Restrepia orchids need good humidity so it is a good idea to sit the plant pot on a saucer or tray of pebbles with water in it, so the plants are not sitting directly in the water. The ideal humidity for Restrepia orchids should be 70 - 80%, taking into account that they are cloud forest orchids. It is wise to spray the surface of the compost with water each day to aid the humidity and help keep the environment cool.


A wide choice of mixes are available but always remember that the roots need to be moist. A good compost mix includes coconut husk chips, fine bark, perlite and sphagnum moss.

I have mine in sphagnum moss at the moment to keep it moist, but not saturated so that the roots rot. Restrepia orchids can also be grown on tree ferns although this will create more watering work for the grower.


As Restrepia seem to have no rest period they can be fed all year round at fortnightly intervals by adding a balanced fertiliser dissolved or diluted in the water. During summer, however, Restrepia can be fed each week to keep the Restrepia flowering for lengthy periods.

An intermediate Restrepia, R guttulata.
An intermediate Restrepia, R guttulata. | Source

Intermediate Restrepia orchids

The following species favour intermediate temperature conditions:

  • guttulata

  • hemsleyanna

  • leontoglossa

  • sanguinea


In concluding I hope you have found this species of cloud orchid of interest. The cloud orchids are a fascinating orchid in all aspects.

You may notice one in a friends collection or at a show and you can say that you have heard of Restrepia orchids before.

An intermediate -  Restrepia sanguinea
An intermediate - Restrepia sanguinea | Source


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    • profile image

      injuraauton 4 years ago

      Very well written article. It will be supportive to anybody who usess it, as well as myself. Keep doing what you are doing - i will definitely read more posts.


    • natures47friend profile image

      natures47friend 5 years ago from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand.

      jill of alltrades - thank you so much for your visit and your vote.

    • natures47friend profile image

      natures47friend 5 years ago from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand.

      jill of alltrades - thank you so much for your visit and your vote.

    • jill of alltrades profile image

      jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines

      Another highly interesting and informative hub about another orchid that I have not yet encountered! Thanks for sharing this!

      Voted up, beautiful and interesting!

    • natures47friend profile image

      natures47friend 5 years ago from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand.

      Hi Debby - thanks for visiting. You have to be quick around here by the looks of

      Restrepia look more like a slipper than the 'slipper orchid'....don't you think?

    • Debby Bruck profile image

      Debby Bruck 5 years ago

      Hello Nature ~ Gorgeous shots of these most exquisite tropical flowers. I was going to send the link to Derdriu, but I see she arrived here before me. Don't you think that these Restripia look a bit like Ladyslippers orchids? Blessings, Debby

    • natures47friend profile image

      natures47friend 5 years ago from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand.

      ExoticHippieQueen: thank you for stopping by and good luck with your orchid. They do bloom when their conditions are right...temperature, humidity and light mainly, but they do require feeding.

    • profile image

      ExoticHippieQueen 5 years ago

      Hi natures47friend! Restrepia orchids are exquisite, though I have never heard of them. I struggle with one lone generic orchid that lost it's blooms, but has beautiful leaves so I still cling to hope that one day it will bloom again. Thanks for the interesting info!

    • natures47friend profile image

      natures47friend 5 years ago from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand.

      Escapes - Thank you for reading my hub, glad you liked it.

      Happy New Year.

    • Marie Gail profile image

      Marie Gail Stratford 5 years ago from Olathe, KS

      Gorgeous pictures and an interesting topic. You even lured me into clicking on links!

      I sometimes fancy that my brownish thumb is actually green, but I would never have the courage to attempt orchids. I do so love the results others have with them though.

    • Escapes profile image

      Escapes 5 years ago

      What a gorgeous Orchid -- one of my favorite flowers. Very interesting.

    • natures47friend profile image

      natures47friend 5 years ago from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand.

      Derdriu - thank you for your positive feedback. Glad you liked the hub.

      girltalksshop - Thank you . It is an unusual orchid, but they are pretty in their own sort of way!

      AliciaC - Thank you for your praise . I have just about finished another hub on another orchid, but wonder if I used too many photos (free ones of course!

      Wish you all a merry Xmas ....

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a beautiful hub, natures47friend. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge of orchids in such an interesting way.

    • profile image

      girltalksshop 5 years ago

      Very beautiful flower. Wow, a lot of knowledge here! Voted up and awesome!! Thanks for sharing with us this rare beauty.

    • profile image

      Derdriu 5 years ago

      Natures47Friend, What an interesting, practical, useful summary of the Restrepia cloud orchid! In particular, you do a great job of hooking readers in with your own learning experience with the unique Restrepia. The pictures -- especially yours -- help tell the story and anticipate results. It especially is much appreciated to have the growing conditions so clearly and logically spelled out.

      Thank you for sharing, welcome to HubPages, voted up + all,


    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      I love orchids, and I have been trying to learn more about them in the last couple of years. The Restrepia orchid is new to me, and I think it is very beautiful and unique. What a plus, that it can flower all year if in the right conditions! That they can tolerate low light and prefer that, was impressive to me also. So many flowers need more light than we think.

      I will keep an eye out for this particular kind of orchid at shows in the future, and go through my orchid photos to see if I have perhaps captured one already and just didn't know the name. However, I am pretty sure I have not. I just love to take pictures of them (orchids) whenever I can. Your Restrepia photos are gorgeous.

      You write an excellent hub, covering all aspects of care for a gardener of orchids, I am very impressed and looking forward to much more from you in the future. Wouldn't it be a sheer joy to see these where they grow naturally? I would love that!

    • natures47friend profile image

      natures47friend 5 years ago from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand.

      Peggy W...thank you so is an odd orchid.

      Greensleeves Hubs....It is odd, isn't it? There are unusual beings out there!

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 5 years ago from Essex, UK

      An orchid which I've never heard of before, with an intriguing appearance. Thanks.

    • natures47friend profile image

      natures47friend 5 years ago from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand.

      formosangirl, thank you for your story on your orchids. You must be an orchid whisperer! $1 is very cheap. You have to be in the right place at the right time in my experience.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Thanks for introducing me to the Restrepia orchid. What makes it really nice is the fact that it continually blooms and that must be so satisfying for orchid growers like yourself. Up, useful and interesting votes!

    • formosangirl profile image

      formosangirl 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      I have never seen this orchid before. I won a spider orchid at a drawing and have successfully grown it. I am pretty lucky that I am within reach of an orchid shop that will discount spent orchid plants for $1. I have learned the trick--buy the biggest 2 stem orchids. They will bloom 3 more times per year for me (apparently my house has the right stress to force most of my $1 orchids to bloom).