Arpophyllum is a small genus with about 9 species, that are native to Central America. (alpinum, cardinale, giganeum, jamaicense, laxiflorum, medium, spicatum, squarrosum, and stenostachyum). Some species are also found under the name “giganteum” or “syn. giganteum”.

In the wild, all species grow in bright light conditions on tree branches. In fact, and contrary to what some author’s claim, in “captivity" the plants do not flowers unless enough light is given. I have seen specimens growing in the open under full sun.

Another fact worth remembering is that plants will not flower properly unless the roots are pot-bound and the plant is under “toot space stress”. Plants flower to produce seeds, when the option, to “grow” and “multiply” by other means is restricted.

Arpo. spicatum, Arpo. Giganteum and Arpo. Alpinum are the most popular species and all can grow in frost free areas.

What is a good potting mix? In this case, a good potting mix is a mix that last. If you repot the plant every year, it will never flower. Perlite and “burned clay” pellets do not rot. Charcoal will double the lifespan of whatever organic materials, like bark, you use. Agricultural dolomite will help you with pH. I use small coconut pieces, mixed with a handful perlite and little charcoal. Make sure the potting never dries out.

Each plant consists of one tiny, slender, cylindrical pseudo-bulb, about 12cm long, with a single fleshy, long leaf.

The leaf can be very long, normally 5 times the length of the pseudo-bulb.

The terminal inflorescence is upright up to 50cm tall and bears a large number of small, pinkish or dark pink colored flowers, forming a cylindrical shape, hence the name “Candle orchid”. The buds open in late autumn, and the flowers then last for several weeks.

Problems: New shoots appear all year round. When the leaf starts to grow properly, there is a narrow unprotected opening in the centre. When watering, water may enter through that gap and fill the space inside, in most cases, it will result in some sort of “Crown Rot” and the leaf will turn black and die. A couple of weeks later, you can pull the rotten leaf out without effort. The plant will not die, but the pseudo-bulb will be leafless.

Pests: Boisduval scale can be a serious problem.

It is always wise to read as much as you can and improve your knowledge, before you buy any plants.