Among the various floristic compositions orchids form one of the major groups found in all the vegetational types from western coastal region to mountains. The majority of orchids are found in the forests and each forest type has its own composition of orchid flora. High rainfall and the relatively cool climate coupled with bright sunshine contribute ideal habitat for the growth of epiphytic orchids. The profuse growth of moss on trees is well suited to the growth of small epiphytic orchids.

Altogether 267 species, 3 subspecies and 2 varieties in 72 genera are reported from Western Ghats. Among them 130 species, 2 subspecies and 2 varieties are endemics to India. Of these, 72 species, 2 subspecies and 2 varieties are endemic to Western Ghats. Nineteen taxa are extremely rare and endangered.

The commonly seen epiphytic orchids are Sirhookera latifolia, S. lanceolata, Dendrobium heyneanum, D.heterocarpum, Eria reticosa, Trias stocksii, Bulbophyllum,Neelgherrense. The terrestrial orchids are mostly Calanthe masuca, Disperis neilgherrensis, Habenaria crinifera, Epipogium roseum, Anoectochilus, etc. Acampe praemorsa is the most common and widely distributed species in the plains. Vanda spathulata though restricted is confined to trees of the sea coast. Habenaria diphylla and H. plantaginea prefer open scrub jungle

Some of the orchids presumably extinct are Acampe congesta, A. rigida, and Taeniophyllum scaberulum. The genus Vanilla with 3 species is also becoming rare and adequate conservation steps are to be taken to save them. Some of the rare and endangered orchids are Aenhenrya rotundifolias, Brachycorythis wightii, Bulbophyllum nodosum, Coelogyne mossiae, Ipsea malabarica, Liparis beddomei, Paphiopedilum druryi and Vanda wightii.


Kerala is blessed with tropical and subtropical climate because of its elevation from the sea level to the Western Ghats (over 2000m). Availability of good rainfall and high humidity enables it to grow a number of tropical and sub-tropical flowers. However, our contribution to flower industry is almost negligible. The early nineties witnessed an interest in the commercial cultivation of flowers of orchid and anthurium in the State. Availability of sunshine, good rainfall, high relative humidity, educated workforce, and adequate national and international air communication, the State possesses all the potentialities for taking up large scale cultivation on a commercial basis.

Potential for Floriculture in Kerala

  1. The State can be divided into following zones for ornamental plants cultivation.
  2. Palakkad district (low rainfall, low humidity, cheap labour) suitable for jasmine, crossandra, marigold.
  3. Hill zone unto 1000 meters above msl suitable for anthurium, rose, carnation, gladiolus, gerbera, foliage plants.
  4. Hill zone, 1000-2000 metres above msl (in polyhouse for certain crops) suitable for Cymbidium orchid, gladiolus, bird of paradise.
  5. Other areas-coastal and midland suitable for orchid, anthurium, foliage plants.


Among cut flowers orchids occupy a prime position, because of their long spikes, many coloured and shaped flowers and long life. The family of orchid, Orchidaceae, consists of 600-800 genera and 30,000-35,000 species. Ever since the creation of the first hybrid in1956, over a lakh hybrids have been produced and continued to be produced, making available huge quantities of newer varieties. The commercial orchids are both terrestrial and epiphytic, but most of them are epiphytic. Though both monopodial (having single stemmed growth) and sympodial (having multi stemmed growth) are equally used in commercial cultivation, sympodial types (Cymbidium, Dendrobium etc) rank higher in the export market.


The sympodial genera suitable for Kerala, are Cymbidium (at high altitudes), Oncidium and Cattleya, and the monopodial genera are Vanda, Arachnis and Phalaenopsis. Intergeneric monopodial hybrids like Aranda (A, rachnis x Vanda), Ascocenda (Ascocentrum x Vanda), Mokara (Arachnis, Ascocentrum, Vanda) also perform well.

Suitable Dendrobium hybrids for Kerala

The genus Dendrobium consists of large number of species (about 1500). Some of the popular varieties in Kerala are Sonia 17, Sonia 17 Mutant, Sonia 28 Mutant, Hieng Beauty, Renappa, Dorine White, Emma White, Kasem White,, Kasem Gold and Banyat Pink.


Since the commercial orchids of Kerala are epiphytic, soil condition is not a problem; only water quality is important. Availability of high humidity and shade regulation are also important factors for the growth and production.


Orchids are grown from seeds, tissue cultured plants and by conventional vegetative propagation. Vegetative propagation is easier to carry out, but slower. Monopodial orchids like Vanda and Arachnis can be propagated by top cuttings. In genera such as Phalaenopsis and Phaius, flower stalks give rise to plants. Sympodial orchids like Dendrobium, Cattleyas and Cymbidium are propagated by division. The shoots growing on the plants (which are called 'Keikis') and back bulbs (spent canes) can also be used as propagules. In tissue culture seeds, axillary buds, apical buds, leaf segments and inflorescence axes are used. The common media used for tissue culture are MS, Vacin and Went and Knudson C. Earthen pots, baskets, tree fern blocks, wooden trays and whole husk of coconut are the common containers used for planting orchids. Sufficient drainage is essential. For this, holes are to be provided in the containers. The medium used for growing orchids should allow good aeration and drainage. It should not absorb much water and degenerate easily.


Broken bricks, gravel, tile bits, charcoal, coconut husk bits, tree fern etc. are some of the components of the media used for growing epiphytic orchids. The components are washed thoroughly before filling in pots. For terrestrial orchids, a mixture of humus, leaf mould, dried manure, chopped fern fibre and spaghnum moss will suffice.

Cultural details

Impatiens phoenicea

Kerala offers salubrious natural conditions for luxuriant growth and development of orchids. However, better attention in planting, regulation of shade, irrigation, nutrition, plant protection and post harvest handling is necessary to produce quality flowers.Planting In sympodial orchids, the propagule is placed near the edge of the container the growing point facing the centre. The monopodial orchid is placed at the centre. The potting materials are filled around the plant and the plant is fixed tightly. The whole plant with pot may be dipped in water after planting and thereafter watered judiciously.

Impatiens coelotropis

Shade regulation:

The monopodial types such as Vanda, Arachnis and Aranda prefer open conditions. Dendrobiums, on the other hand require partial shade. A high pressure, low volume irrigation, such as mist irrigation, or fogging (microsprinkler) would be ideal.


Orchids require both major and minor nutrients. A low concentration of this is applied frequently as whole plant spray. Two sprays per week is generally enough. Micronutrients help in improving the quality and need to be applied once a month. The chemical fertilizers are to be properly balanced with organic manures like cowdung, cow urine, ground-nut oil cake Neem oil cake etc. They should be diluted before application.

Ranunculus reniformis

Plant protection

The common insects which attack orchids are beetle, stem borer, mites, snails and slugs. Non-insect pests like rats, grasshoppers and cockroaches are also sometimes seen. Fungal diseases too are common. Proper field sanitation and use of the correct type and dose of chemicals are used to manage them.

Harvesting and post-harvest handling

The spikes are harvested when a few buds at the top remain un-open. The spikes are cut with a small stalk. The cut end is dipped in a fungicide solution and then covered with a wet cotton swab and properly tied using a rubber band. They are then packed in carton of appropriate sizes and having proper ventilation holes. The spikes are inserted in polythene covers and packed loosely in the cartons.

Impatiens parasitica

Homestead cultivation

At homestead level, cultivation of orchid helps to utilize free time of family members and provide supplementary income. In urban areas, house terraces can be utilised for this. A commercially viable unit may have a minimum of 500 plants. Plants belonging to sympodial group (preferably, Dendrobium hybrids) are ideal. The net annual profit from second year onwards would be Rs. 2500-3500. Disposal of flowers is a problem to reckon with.

Lysimachia deltoids

Commercial cultivation

There is no upper limit to expanding cultivation except for ensuring proper arrangements for marketing of flowers. The other factors that need to be considered are the entrepreneurial ability and availability of finance.

Desmodium rufescens

Marketing and economics

At present, almost all the flowers produced in the State are fed to internal markets. Agencies such as co-operative societies and traders arrange to collect the spikes from production points. It is estimated that a one ha size commercial orchid garden will cost Rupees one core in the first year, and thereafter about Rs. 5 lakhs from the second year. Optimally, this may net Rs. 24 lakhs in the first year, Rs. 72 lakhs in the second year, Rs. 96 lakhs in the third year and Rs. 144 lakhs annually thereafter.


Habenaria perrottetiana

Anthuriums are tropical plants grown for their showy cut flowers and their attractive foliage. They are very popular with flower arrangers because of the bold effect, bright colour and long keeping quality. The genus Anthurium belonging to the family Araceae, includes over 500 species reported. Four species are more popular; A. andreanum (for cut flowers), A. scherzerianum (as potted plants), A. crystallinum (for foliage) and A. grande (for variegated foliage). The other known species include A. androphyoides, A. brownii, A. clarinervium, A. veitchii, A. pedatoradiatum, A. warocquianum and A. pittieri. The genus is a native of tropical America. The major growing countries are Hawaii (USA), Mauritius and Holland.

A. andreanum is one of the most important cut flowers of the world. The 'flower' consists of a colourful modified leaf called the spathe and hundreds of small spirally arranged bisexual flowers on a pencil-like structure called the spadix, arising from the base of the spathe. It is commonly known as 'candle'. Anthurium blooms throughout the year, one bloom arising from the axil of every leaf. It can be cultivated' on the ground, in beds, or in pots. Kerala possesses ideal geophysical and climatic conditions for its cultivation.


For internal market, a mixture of many types and colours may not pose much problem, but for exports uniformity in all respects is required for each package.

A good variety should have bright, clear coloured, showy heart shaped spathe with plenty of blisters and symmetrical overlapping of basal lobes. The spadix should be reclining to the spathe at less than 30 and shorter in length than the spathe. An erect flower stem having about five times length of the spathe is considered to be a good character. The plant should be compact and produce suckers profusely. Some of the important red varieties are Ozaki, Kozohara and Kaumana from Hawaii and Can Can, Avo Rosette, Avonette, Fla Red, Fla King and Tropical from Holland. Nitta, Sunburst, Flarange, Avogino and Mauritius Orange are some of the orange varieties. Manoa Mist, Uniwai, Acropolis, Lima White, Haga White, Uranus and Fla-exotic are the common white varieties. Abe Pink, Blush, Marian Seefurth and Avo Anneke are the important pink varieties and Fantasia (cream with pink veins), Madonna (cream obake), Lambada (white-green obake), Farao (bright orange in green lans) some of the obake types.

Cultural requirements

Anthurium can be cultivated conveniently in earthern pots of 25-30 cm diameter. These pots should preferably have two holes at the bottom for proper drainage of water.

Lysimachia deltoids


Highly organic, well aerated medium with good water retention capacity and drainage is used for growing anthurium. The commonly used media are sugarcane bagasse, wood shavings, leaf mould, coarse sand, small brick pieces, neem cake, coir pith compost, charcoal, coconut husk pieces, etc. They should be able to provide firm anchor to the roots, and choice depends on cost and availability. Young plants require repotting every year, while adult ones in every 2-3 years.

Anthurium can be grown as a ground plant also; in fact, in large scale growing, this is the only way. Land having gentle slope is more suitable as this avoids stagnation. Planting is done on raised beds using the same potting media as detailed above. The planting distance is 45 cm x 45 cm, allowing roughly 29,640 plants/ha The plant can be pruned to retain just four leaves without any adverse effect on flower production or quality.

Environments Anthuriums are shade loving plants, the optimum being 75-80% shade. However, this varies with cultivar, age and climate. The best climate is 25-28°C during days 18-20"C during nights and about 80% relative humidity.


The most common method of propagation is by stem cuttings. Top portion of the stem with a few roots is removed and planted. The remaining part of the stem develops side shoots (suckers). By repeating this, additional plants can be obtained. But this propagation method is slow. Tissue culture provides a more rapid method of multiplication. When suckers grow to 4-5 leaf stage with 2-3 good roots, they are separated and planted.

Growing plants from seeds is a lengthy process. The seeds germinate within 6-8 days and are ready for transplanting after 4-6 months. Such plants take about two years to bloom. The plants developed from seeds also show some variability.The plants are watered twice daily during summer months. Mist or overhead sprinkler irrigation is the best. Nutrition It is better to apply the nutrients in smaller dose at frequent intervals than giving larger doses at longer intervals. Manurial applications in soil are given every alternate month. A combination of organic manure such as farm yard manure with about 2 g of 17: 17: 17:2 of the NPK and Mg/plant once or twice a month is applied by many growers. For plants growing in pots 5g complex fertilizer dissolved in 500 ml water is given to the medium once in two months. Foliar spray of 0.5-1.0% of 17: 17: 17 complex could also be given to the plants at biweekly intervals. Deficiency of calcium can cause fading of the spathe colour and so 5 g Ca/plant per month is recommended.

Harvesting, grading and packing

The flowers are harvested after the spathe is completely unfolded. About 8-12 flowers plant are obtained annually. They are cut with long stalks when about two-thirds of the flowers in the spadix are open. If the flowers are to be transported to long distances, a water soaked cotton may be kept at the cut end of the stalk.

Dendrobium anamalayanum

Plant protection

Some of the serious diseases are bacterial blight, leaf spot, anthracnose, root rot and damping off. Yellowing of the plants is the main symptom of blight. The disease is favored by warm and wet weather. To control the disease, cut and remove the diseased portion and spray streptocycline 200 mg/l. Anthracnose is a fungal disease in which the flowers rot. Mancozeb 0.2% spray can control the disease. This can control leaf spot disease also. Root rot is another major problem in anthurium. Improper aeration leads to this disease. Pests like scales, mealy bugs, thrips and mites are also common. Appropriate plant protection measures should be taken against them.

Potential of anthurium cultivation in Kerala

Cultivation of anthurium in homesteads as a hobby or for commercial purposes is feasible in Kerala as the climatic and soil conditions are congenial for its development. The awareness about the export potential of anthurium is fast increasing in the State.

Marketing systems and export prospects

Most of small scale growers in the State presently depend on private merchants or growers' societies for marketing their produce. The price realized is Rs. 5-20/flower. Harvesting is done once a week, usually. In the International market red anthuriums are in greatest demand. In the Dutch auction in 1995, the demand for the various colours were; red (40.3%), orange (11.7%), pink (15.3%), salmon (4.7%), white (12.8%), cream (2.9%), obakes (8.1%), others (4.2%). Countries like Japan, USA, UK, Germany, Holland and Italy are the major buyers.

Economics and cultivation

About 1000 plants can be maintained in about 150 sq.m land. The cost of establishing such a unit comes to about Rs. one lakh. About 500 flowers can be expected in a month. At the prevailing market prices, this can get an annual income of Rs. 48,000/-. The expenditure for proper maintenance may come to about Rs. 18,000/-. Thus realizing a net profit of Rs. 30,000/-. The income from the sale of planting material will be additional, to this. About 60,000 plants can be grown per hectare. Even if one plant produces only 5 spikes annually, and it is sold at Rs. 5/-per spike, the grower can fetch Rs. 1.5, million annually. The net profit can come to about Rs. 1.0 million per annum.The plants that have the ability to grow under very low levels of light are termed as indoor plants. Urbanization, has led to the trend of indoor gardening all over the world. There is now an increasing demand for various foliage plants for landscaping institutions, indoor decorations etc.

Plants suitable for interior decoration

Innumerable species and Varieties are available for use as indoor plants. Plants are chosen according to one's taste and environment. The ideal is small, slow growing and adaptable to changes of location and lighting.

Cultural practices

Satyrium nepalense

Containers Earthenware pots are most commonly used for growing indoor plants. Plastic pots, glazed clay and china pots, brass or copper containers etc. are also used. Large plants can be grown in cement or wooden planters.

Growing medium Natural soil is seldom used alone. It is mixed with amendments to provide desired physical characteristics. Organic materials like sphagnum moss, sawdust, coir dust, shredded bark, wood shavings or leaf mould, or inorganic aggregates such as sand, vermiculite, peat or prelate are used for this. Brick pieces, broken tiles, coconut husk pieces and charcoal are used for planting orchids, cacti, etc. Charcoal helps to prevent to some extent stagnation of water at the roots. It also prevents the plant from suffering from drought. Light intensity is the limiting factor in growing plants indoors. The minimum light intensity for maintenance of a foliage plant is that which permits the plant to function at a level slightly exceeding the compensation point at which photosynthesis is equal to respiration.The demand for light varies from plant to plant. For instance, Hedera helix a climbing house plant, thrives well in a relatively dark corner, but Sansevieria trifasciata (mother - in -law's tongue) requires a good amount of light. Dark corners of rooms which need decoration with house plants should be sufficiently lit using artificial illumination. The ideal illumination is a combination of red and blue rays. Plants exposed to much light will turn yellow and plants receiving insufficient light will grow lanky. So also, temperature and relative humidity play important roles in the health of indoor plants.

List of plants

Common name

Scientific name



Maiden hair fern

Adiantum sp.




Aglaonema spp.




Ananas bracteatus




Anthurium spp.




Aralia elegantissima




Asparagus spp.




Begonia spp




Calathea spp.



Spider plant







Ctenanthe spp.



Earth stars

Cryptanthus sp.



Umbrella plant

Cyperus alternifolius



Dumb cane

Dieffenbachia spp.




Dracaena spp.



Flame violet

Episcia cupriata



Money plant/
Golden pothos

Epipremmum aureum



Euonymus japonica



Excoecaria bicolour



Weeping Fig

Ficus benjamina



Indian rubber tree

Ficus elastica



Fiddle leaf tree

Ficus lyrata



Nerve plant

Fittonia spp.



Velvet creeper

Gynura aurantiaca



Leea coccinea



Split leaf philodendron

Monstera deliciosa



Finger nailed

Neoregelia carolinae




Nephrolepis spp.




Peperomia spp.




Philodendron spp.



Aluminium plant

Pilea cadierei



Staghorn fern

Platycerum bifurcatum


balfour aralia

Polyscias balfouriana



Snake plant

Sansevieria spp.



Velvet pothos

Scindapsus aureus



Umbrella tree

Schefflera arboricola



White flag/
Peace lily

Spathiphyllum spp.




Syngonium podophyIlum



Bat flower or Cat's whiskers

Tacca chantrieri



Wandering Jew

Zebrina pendula


Repotting:- When potted plants have grown more than one season or year the roots become a tangled mass and exhaust all the nutrients in the soil. At this stage, re-potting is done. Pruning House plants may sometimes become too big in growth. Pruning can prevent or remedy such conditions. Pruning also stimulates new shoots to emerge from the dormant growth buds closest to the cut point. Two methods are practiced-pinching and cutting back.

In order to control the growth of plants, root trimming is necessary. Remove l/3rd of the roots, then remove l/4th - I/3rd of the shoot also. Remove branches to permit opening up the top of the plant, to allow air circulation. Keep root-pruned plants cool and well watered for 2-3 weeks after pruning Repot in fresh soil in a similar size container. The plants should be watered as necessary. They should be checked daily to see if they need water.

Double potting:- This is practiced in moisture loving plants. Place the container in which the plant is growing in a larger container and fill the interspace with sphagnum moss. Keep the sphagnum moss moist. Double potting permits constant moisture without saturating the plant. The danger of over watering is reduced because the sphagnum moss draws excess moisture through the walls of the inner pot away from the roots of the plant.

Nutrition:- Indoor plants are usually fertilized with a mixture composed of N,P and K. Trace elements are applied only according to necessity. Some fertilizers are applied as top dressing or mixed with the medium during preparation. Liquid solutions of fertilizers are the most convenient to use. The usual method is to prepare the solution in a watering can and apply sufficient volumes to the moist medium. Correct fertilizing of container plants consists of keeping them alive and well, but not allowing them to grow too rapidly.

Grooming Indoor plants are displayed on areas where people are likely to spend a lot of their time. Hence such areas should look their best. Remove old leaves and spent flowers regularly Trim disproportionately long branches. Wipe the foliage periodically with a damp sponge if the plant looks dull and dusty Turn back plants regularly to keep them symmetrical and sturdy A layer of decorative mulch in the pot also will enhance the appearance of indoor plants.

Support and training Non climbing plants with long, slender stems need support. The simplest method of supporting such plants is to tie them to a thin stake or a split bamboo piece inserted in the centre of the pot. For better support use up to three stakes spaced equally around the edge of the pot. Pass the twine around them. Do not tie the stems tightly.

The climbing growth (eg. ivies) can be spiraled around different stakes. Some plants like hederas, climbing philodendrons and syngoniums produce aerial roots that grip supportive objects like tree trunk. Plants like setcreaseas, tradescantias and zebrinas that are trailers but not climbers, look attractive when trained on supports such as small trellis or wire hoops.


Various problems are encountered when growing plants indoors. It may be caused by environmental and cultural factors, pests, diseases or combinations. Adequate steps need to be taken to keep them in constant check.


Culture of indoor plants in the tropics is a recent phenomenon resulting from urbanization and living in high-rise buildings and flats. Much R and D work requires to be done to identify suitable species and varieties and to develop appropriate cultural condition. Since the urbanization trends will only intensify in future, the scope and demand for indoor plants will only increase in the coming decades.

Orchids of Kerala forests having floricultural potential




Flowering season

Flower size (cm)

Acanthephippium bicolor


Silent Valley

March-April (yellowishbrown)


Aerides crispum


Silent Valley



Aerides maculosum



Silent Valley

(pinkish violet)


Anoectochilus elatus


Silent Valley

(pink & white)


Arundina graminifolia


Silent Valley



3.5 - 4.0


Calanthe rnasuca

not common

Silent Valley

Throughout the year(white or pink)

2.5 - 4.5

C. triplicata



May-July (white)


Coelogyne mossiae



(white & brown)


Cymbidium ensifolium


Silent Valley



Dendrobium heterocarpum


Silent Valley,

(yellowish brown)


Dendrobium aqueum



Silent Valley,

April - May



Dendrobium jerdonianum





Eulophia cullenii





Habenaria barnesii

very rare



(greenish yellow)


Paphiopedilum druryi







Vanda spathulata