How to Care For the Maxillaria Tenuifolia Orchid

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Maxillaria tenuifolia is a popular orchid cultivar that is prized for its long-lasting and highly fragrant blossoms, which are said to smell like coconut sprinkled with cinnamon. Native to Mexico and Honduras, Maxillaria tenuifolia is one of the easiest orchids to care for in the home, according to the University of Oklahoma. These fragrant and exotic-looking houseplants thrive in the filtered light and temperature conditions found in most homes.

Things You'll Need

  • Planting container
  • Orchid potting mix (or redwood bark, peat moss, charcoal, chopped tree fern fiber and volcanic stone)
  • Spray bottle
  • Ice cubes
  • 20-10-10 fertilizer
  • Garden knife
  • Plant your Maxillaria tenuifolia in a planting container that is just slightly larger than the one your orchid came in. Use a commercial orchid potting mix or make your own well-draining growing medium by combining equal parts redwood bark, peat moss, charcoal, chopped tree fern fiber and volcanic stone. Place the potted orchid within 8 feet of a bright window where it can receive at least four hours of filtered sunlight each day.

  • Maintain an indoor temperature and humidity level that mimics South America's tropical climate. Set your thermostat to maintain an indoor temperature between 68 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure to keep the temperature above 55 degrees F. to avoid forcing the orchid into dormancy. Use a spray bottle to mist Maxillaria tenuifolia orchids with room temperature water daily to increase the humidity to your houseplant.

  • Water your Maxillaria tenuifolia orchid slowly and thoroughly, then allow the potting mix or growing medium to dry partially before watering again. Water the orchid weekly, using the ice cube watering method for best results. Place three to four ice cubes on the surface of the potting mix or growing medium; arrange the ice cubes to prevent them from touching the foliage directly.

  • Fertilize Maxillaria tenuifolia orchids monthly using a diluted solution of 20-10-10 fertilizer. Mix the solution to just one quarter of the recommended strength to ensure that your orchid doesn't receive too many nutrients at once. Follow the application instructions on the fertilizer packaging for best results.

  • Re-pot your Maxillaria tenuifolia orchid every two to three years, or whenever its roots start to outgrow the current planting container. Take the orchid from its container and discard the used potting mix. Examine the root system and cut out any roots that are brown or mushy. Re-pot the orchid in a larger planting container, if necessary, using fresh orchid potting mix or homemade growing medium.

Tips & Warnings

  • Divide Maxillaria tenuifolia orchids by division, if desired. The best time to do this is when you're re-potting. Use a sharpened and sterilized gardening knife to divide the root clumps. Plant each clump in its own planting container.
  • Maxillaria tenuifolia orchids are prone to problems with pests such as mealybugs, spider mites and scale insects. Rinse affected plants under a directed stream of lukewarm water to remove insect pests. If the problem persists, treat the plant with a horticultural oil or insecticide product.

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