Maxillaria tenuifolia


Maxillaria tenuifolia, the coconut orchid

Why coconut orchid? Because its gorgeous oxblood red flowers fill up an entire room with the delightful fragrance of coconuts! 🥥

Hailing from Central America🌎, this tropical lowland orchid grows in hot weather as an epiphyte on trees. It grows in both dense forests🌴🌳 as well as openings, and tolerates a wide range of conditions.

They grow in an ascending way, with each pseudobulb growing roots that are covered by the bracts, but extend and grow once in some media. Their branches are occasionally broken by the wind, and they can be found growing terrestrially underneath the mother plant. For propagation, this is an excellent adaptation that we take advantage of.

Plant Care

Grow in part orchid bark mix and part sphagnum in an East, West, or South window where they’ll get at least some direct sunbeams to a full day of direct sunbeams indoors☀️🌤⛅🌥☁️. Can tolerate ambient light, but won’t grow much or flower. They don’t care about humidity, but tend to flower and grow faster with higher humidity💦💦💦. Water when the media dries out 💧💧and only fertilize in the spring.

Other Notes

This orchid is by far one of my easiest to grow, and I am shocked that they don’t sell this one more commonly in stores. I mean, who wouldn’t love waking up to the scent of coconut cream pie every morning this plant is in bloom? Interestingly, the scent changes throughout the day – it starts in the morning with fresh coconut, then eases into cocoa butter fragrance. Towards the late afternoon, the sweetness eases off, and the flowers are scented like popcorn butter. There is little to no fragrance at night.

Flowers that are musky/buttery tend to attract beetles, and the red color of rotting flesh helps support that. But that’s not going to stop any butterflies or other critters from pollinating the flower. Typically, flowers with lots of fragrance attract all kinds of pollinators, and this one is no exception.

The flowers last for about a month, month and a half, and typically bloom in April in the northern hemisphere. This plant will make more blooms with more light (like any plant, surprise, surprise).

One thing I will say is that this plant is abuse-tolerant. It shows dehydration via wrinkles in the pseudobulbs, and can take quite a bit of overwatering and underwatering. Though it tolerates dry, it prefers wet except in the winter, where you ease up a bit (but don’t stop) watering.

Have any questions?  You should message me @botanictonic on Instagram!  If you like what I am writing, please leave me a tip on Venmo!  @C-Sat (if it asks for a number, it’s 9898)

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