Phalaenopsis bellina is a monopodial epyphite orchid species, native to Malaysia and Borneo. It used to be called Phal. violacea var. Borneo due to its native location, but the correct classification is now bellina. This orchid grows on trees and branches in shady lowland forests, at elevations of 200 m or lower. This is one of the most iconic Phalaenopsis species, due to its exquisite appearance and delicious fragrance, few serious orchid collectors miss it from their orchid collections.
Blooms are waxy, measuring about 4-5 cm in diameter and are usually produced above the leaves. The two lower sepals seem to rest on the leaves and present an electric magenta coloration, especially on the lower half. The upper petals and sepals have a buttery green color which makes the contrast very striking. The magenta color seems to bleed into the other petals until it totally disappears.
The lip is narrow and elongated, having a deep magenta color as well. The upper sepal can curve to the front, depending on particular individuals. Overall the blooms are striking and delicate at the same time, a perfect blend between boldness and subtlety.
The blooms are displayed on a short and compact flower spike which emerges from between the leaves are elongates forward. The spike can be about 3 cm long before starting to create a bud, making it a very compact bloomer. Each spike can carry between 1-3 flowers at one time, which arrange themselves facing the light source.
The Phalaenopsis bellina is a sequential bloomer, meaning that a flower spike can keep reblooming for several years. Cutting is not preferable if the spike is still green, as in time this orchid can produce a multitude of spikes and flowers. The bellina usually blooms in the warm months of spring and summer and flowers can last between 1 to 3 months.
More exquisite than the coloration of its flowers is the fragrance. It is hard to describe what it resembles, some people suggest it is citrusy and others compare it with Lilly of the Valley. As fragrance is a personal opinion, the author of this article can only describe it as a delicious cocktail drink, made from exotic fruit and with an aftertaste of grenadine syrup. The fragrance seems layered and is quite strong, starting to be released in the morning hours and completely gone towards the evening and night time.
There seems to be some variation within the species, some varieties present a dark purple coloration instead of the electric magenta. The shape of the flower can also vary slightly between particular varieties. There is also an ‘Alba’ variety, which lacks any color pigment. The pictures in this article are of the ‘Ponkan’ variety.
This orchid is a monopodial orchid, meaning it produces leaves that emerge from a central stem. New leaves will always be produced from the top of the orchid and roots will appear along the lower part of the stem.
The leaves are a light green and appear to be very glossy and slightly wavy. With age they can grow up to 30 cm in length or more and have a downward growth. Each year the orchid will produce one or two new leaves and the bottom leaves will dry and fall regularly. This orchid will usually have between 4 and 8 leaves at one time.
Roots are thick and can grow inside the growing media as well as outside, known as aerial roots. When wet they will have a green color, while when dry they will be silvery grey. Actively growing roots will have green tips. Rots that don’t receive light will be a pale yellow.
This orchid can be grown in pots with a free draining and ventilated media and, depending on environment, bark chips, coconut husk or sphagnum moss can be used, as long as it is not compacted. It can also be grown mounted on cork or in a hanging basket. Plantlets (keikis) may appear at the base of the orchid.
Soft spots: stem and crown rot, root rot if media is too compacted, spider mites, Botrytis, bud blast if temperatures are too low
Overall it is a hardy orchid and quite easy to grow even in a home environment. As long as temperatures are intermediate to warm and relative humidity is not lower than 40-50%, this orchid can bloom regularly and do generally well. The striking colors and mouthwatering fragrance usually make up for any other minor fuss this orchid might offer.