Orchid Collection


The Smithsonian Gardens Orchid Collection has grown from five plants to close to 8,000 specimens since 1974. It is an invaluable resource for education, exhibition, and scientific research. The collection is maintained in the Smithsonian Gardens Greenhouse Facility by staff, interns, and volunteers. The collection is used to beautify the interiors of the Smithsonian museums as well as for special exhibitions.

OrchidSmithsonian Gardens strives to cultivate an extremely diverse array of orchids from all over the world. With close to 10,000 plants in our collection, new acquisitions are selected carefully each year based on their display quality, educational value, beauty, rarity and how they complement our present collection.

The collection is especially well represented in New World Genera such as Cattleya, Encyclia, Laelia, Brassavola, Epidendrum, Isochilus and Sobralia as well as Maxillaria, Lycaste, Oncidium, Brassia, Miltoniopsis and a wide array of Pleurothallids. Australian and Asian species of Dendrobium and Bulbophyllum / Cirrhopetalum are another area of specialty. A fine collection of specimen-size Phalaenopsis species and hybrids are maintained in uniquely designed baskets which allow the plants to grow in a more naturalistic fashion. Other Sarcanthine orchids include a large and varied group of Vanda and Ascocenda hybrids and a significant selection of African Angraecoids, many of which are quite rare in cultivation.

Arguably, the best plants are the collection of Paphiopedilum species and selected hybrids. Many fine examples of Slipper orchid species have been grown into large specimens since the plants are not divided unless it becomes necessary. Therefore, there are many large specimens of a wide range of genera that are spectacular when they are in bloom.

North American Orchid Conservation Center

A look at some of the most beautiful and imperiled orchids of North America, and what a team of ecologists led by the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and the U.S. Botanic Garden is doing to save them.

Orchid Education



Phalaenopsis, the moth orchid, is perhaps the best orchid for growing in the home, and is also a favorite with greenhouse growers. Well-grown plants can flower often, sometimes with a few flowers throughout the year, though the main season is late winter into spring. Average home temperatures and conditions are usually sufficient.

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These orchids are prized for their long-lasting sprays of flowers, used especially as cut flowers or for corsages in the spring. There are two main types of cymbidiums — standards and miniatures. Where summer nights are warm (above 70° F), only miniatures can be recommended, because many are more tolerant of heat and able to flower in warmer weather.

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Paphiopedilums, the lady’s-slipper orchids, originate in the jungles of the Far East including Indonesia. They are semiterrestrial, growing in humus and other material on the forest floor, on cliffs in pockets of humus and occasionally in trees. They are easy to grow in the home, under lights or in the greenhouse.

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Lycastes are deciduous in various degrees, from the strongly deciduous, yellow-flowered species like Lycaste aromatica that flowers from leafless pseudobulbs to the evergreen types like Lycaste skinneri with pseudobulbs that retain their leaves at flowering. This genus produces large, long-lasting, showy, triangular flowers that are waxy. The plants are distinctive for their roundish pseudobulbs and broad, plicate (pleated) leaves. Culture for the hybrid genus Angulocaste (Lycaste Anguloa) follows the culture for the Lycaste parent.

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This is an extraordinarily large and diverse New World genus with an equally diverse number of habitats. Oncidiums may originate anywhere from sea level in the tropics to the high elevations of the Andes. This obviously makes cultural generalizations difficult. More specific instructions may be available from the grower. Some genera included are Aspasia, Brassia, warm-growing miltonias (often called the Brazilian type) and many of their hybrids.

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Dendrobium is a diverse genus of orchids with different cultural needs. Many go through a growth phase and then a rest phase during the course of one year, and must be given water and temperature to match these periods of growth and rest. Flowers can last one day to many weeks, depending on the type.

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Orchid Collections Search

Browse The Orchid Collection

Images of many of the orchids in the SG Orchid Collection are now available online. You can search them by taxonomic terms or by color such as yellow, purple, white, etc. In addition you will be able to watch videos on orchid conservation, orchid judging, orchid exhibition installation and other garden related topics.

3D Orchid Tour

3D Orchid

The Embreea orchid revealed

Smithsonian Gardens Orchid Collection is proud to have participated in and contributed to the Smithsonian’s 3D Digital Charter collection by providing access to some of its rarest and most interesting orchids. The link below leads to a dynamic digital tour of a high definition scan of our prized, award-winning Embreea orchid, and its pollinator, a type of Orchid Bee. This outstanding tour will take you deep inside this amazing orchid and give intimate insight into its complex and fascinating relationship with its insect partner.

Orchids Around Us

Orchids Around Us

Educational Program and Resources

Use the lessons in this package to learn about specific types of orchids, their appearance, habitats, uses, and cultural significance and history.

2014 Orchid Exhibition

Orchid Symphony

Orchid Symphony

February 22 - April 27, 2014 at the United States Botanic Garden

Experience the incredible elegance of an orchid symphony. The U.S. Botanic Garden will feature exuberant displays of orchids nestled among whimsical topiaries and musical fountains. Illuminated by an orchid chandelier, the Garden Court will sing the praises of beautiful orchids. The Conservatory will feature orchids from all over the world in a multitude of environments. Come see desert orchids, jungle orchids and even orchids used in medicine and cooking against the gorgeous backdrop of the U.S. Botanic Garden collections.

Orchid Symphony is a collaboration between the U.S. Botanic Gardens and Smithsonian Gardens.

Click here to view past exhibitions

Go Orchids

Smithsonian Gardens is a collaborating partner with the North American Orchid Conservation Center