Ghost Orchid: How To Grow This Rare & Beautiful Flower

The native ghost orchid – or Dendrophylax lindenii – is the most coveted species among home growers, but it is not for the faint-hearted. Discover how to get started growing these rare, enchanting flowers.

Ghost orchid flowers – or Dendrophylax lindenii – suspended from a tree via roots
(Image credit: Alamy)

The ghost orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii) is a rare and endangered native flower that has long fascinated gardeners. However, orchid care for this species is challenging for even experienced growers.

Ghost Orchid Quick Facts

Botanical name: Dendrophylax lindenii

Height: 9 inches (20cm)

Spread Roots: May spread 20 inches (50cm)

Sun exposure: Bright indirect light

Soil requirements: Grows on tree bark

Hardiness zones: 10-11, or indoors in a controlled environment

When to plant: Early spring

Also known as “palm polly” or “white frog orchid”, Dendrophylax lindeniii is a different species to Epipogium aphyllum, another rare orchid known as the ghost orchid, that grows in Europe, Russia, and Asia.

Ghost orchid flowers are white and have an other-worldly appearance that lends a mysterious quality. Their sweet scent is only released at night, to attract giant sphinx moths that pollinate the plants.

As ghost orchids have no foliage, flowers appear suspended in the air as the epiphytic plants tightly attach themselves to tree trunks via aerial orchid roots. They grow on several tree species, including cypress, pond apple, and maple.

Their unique appearance and rareness make ghost orchids highly coveted among growers looking to cultivate unusual species.

The Ghost Orchid, Dendrophylax lindenii growing on tree in Florida

(Image credit: Alamy)

Where Do Ghost Orchids Grow?

The ghost orchid is found primarily in humid, marshy areas of Florida, Cuba, and the Bahamas.

Like most wild orchids in the United States, ghost orchid plants are threatened by the loss of pollinators, pesticides, and climate change.

Scientists estimate that only about 1,500 ghost orchid plants are growing wild in Florida, and the location of many of these native orchids is not known publicly, due to the threat from poachers.

Removing one from the wild is illegal, and, in any case, people who manage to remove an orchid from its environment are usually disappointed when the plant soon dies.

In recent years, botanists have made good progress in devising sophisticated means of seed germination for ghost orchids, and have reintroduced a number to the wild.

However, you are highly unlikely to come across one on a visit to the Everglades. Your best bet is to visit sanctuaries where they are growing, such as the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

How To Grow Ghost Orchids

Ghost orchids have very particular requirements that make them difficult to grow – but not impossible. It is only natural that orchid aficionados will want to challenge themselves by growing this elusive beauty. But they require perseverance, trial and error, and often deep pockets.

It is illegal to buy wild plants, but young plants cultivated in captivity can be purchased via specialist growers and retailers. As the demand outstrips supply they are expensive to buy.

Ghost orchid mounted on bark

(Image credit: Alamy)

Mounting Ghost Orchids

The main challenge when growing ghost orchids is to mount plants on a suitable substrate. Unlike most orchids grown by home gardeners, ghost orchids cannot simply be planted into a commercial orchid potting medium.

While young plantlets can be grown on a bed of live moss, they will eventually need to be transferred to their permanent home on tree bark. This must be large enough to accommodate the mature plant size, as once mounted ghost orchids cannot be moved.

Plants are slow-growing and take several years to reach maturity before they bloom. Therefore, the substrate must have a long lifespan before it decays – ideally decades. It must also be able to hold moisture without rotting and have a living patina of moss and lichens. These will help to give the orchid moisture and nutrients via its roots, which is vital as the plant does not have the water-storage capacity of some other types of orchids.

Old hickory bark or Florida buttonwood are recommended bark species, although some growers have had success with cork slabs and even clay pots.

Spanish moss is a good addition to the mount and should cover around a third of the root system.

Light Requirements

Ghost orchids require bright but indirect light in order to thrive. Ideally, position them in an east- or west-facing window.

Plants can be located close to south-facing windows where the sunlight is filtered, such as by a sheer curtain.

If you cannot provide enough light naturally, then you can use artificial grow lights.

Temperature & Humidity

Ghost orchids require a daytime temperature range between 70°F and 85°F (21°C to 29°C), and a cooler nighttime temperature of 60°F to 65°F (16°C to 18°C). This dip between day and night helps the production of ghost orchid flowers.

The plants thrive in a humid environment – at least 50%, ideally around 70%. This can be created with a humidifier.

Making an orchid terrarium is a popular option among ghost orchid growers, as it naturally creates a more humid, controlled environment. Ghost orchids are suited to both open and closed terrariums.


Generally, watering orchids involves creating a constant cycle of wet and dry. Ghost orchids are no different, although they are more sensitive than most species. If kept constantly wet, they will likely rot; if left to dry for too long, they will die.

On average, water twice per week with rainwater. Using tap water can cause a harmful build-up of salts.

Slow down watering over winter to 2-3 times per month, as the orchid requires a drier period prior to producing flowers.


Fertilizing orchids is always important to encourage flowers. You should fertilize ghost orchids when watering, using a weak dilution of orchid feed.

The plants also require the addition of mycorrhizal fungi, which can be added to watering or misting in its liquid form.

Melanie Griffiths
Senior Editor

Melanie has worked in homes and gardens media for two decades. Having previously served as Editor on Period Living magazine, and worked on Homes & Gardens, Gardening Etc, Real Homes, and Homebuilding & Renovating, she is now focusing on her passion for gardening as a Senior Editor at Gardening Know How.

Melanie has spent the last few years transforming her own garden, and is also a keen home grower, having experimented with pretty much every type of vegetable at some point.

In her spare time, she loves to explore inspiring gardens and historic properties.

With contributions from