Eulophia Petersii Desert Orchid: A Beginner’s Guide to Growing and Caring

The Eulophia petersii, also known as the Desert Orchid or Tumbleweed Orchid, is a unique orchid species that can be grown by beginners. Here's a beginner's guide to growing and caring for Eulophia petersii.
A blooming red cactus orchid.

The Eulophia Petersii Desert Orchid, often referred to simply as the Desert Orchid, is a hidden gem in the vast world of succulents. The plant is known for its unique appearance, hardiness, and adaptability. This stunning succulent has been gaining popularity among gardeners thanks to its exquisite beauty and low-maintenance nature. The desert orchid is adapted to thrive in harsh environments, making it an ideal choice for both experienced and beginner gardeners.

So, how do you grow and care for the desert orchid? Ensure you keep your desert orchid in bright, indirect light throughout the year. Water it sparingly during the active growing season, but give it a rest during winter. Stop fertilizing and watering during this time. Fertilize it with a high-phosphorous fertilizer to encourage blooming. You don’t need to prune your desert orchid unless you want to control its size. Repot your succulent every two or three years, but don’t repot when the plant is blooming.

This guide discusses the basics of growing and caring for your desert orchid. Read on to find out everything you need to know.

Desert Orchid: Quick Overview

The desert orchid is native to Central America, specifically Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador. It is a clump-forming plant that can reach up to two feet tall with fleshy stems and bright green leaves.

The blooms make the desert orchid unique – they’re usually white and shaped like stars.

The desert orchid cactus is recognized by its long, flattened stems, usually a couple of inches wide. The leaves of this succulent grow to impressive lengths, reaching up to ten feet.

A white orchid flower on desert.
The desert orchid cactus is recognized by its long and flattened stems.

Although slow-growing, this succulent will bloom profusely during the winter months with its beautiful star-shaped blooms. Most flowers are five to eight inches in diameter and quite showy.

Sometimes, the desert orchid blooms at night and are pollinated by long-tongued moths or bats. The flowers form from notches in orchid stems at areolas. Most of the blooms are relatively short-lived and produce edible fruits when pollinated.

How to Grow and Care for Desert Orchid

The desert orchid is relatively easy to care for succulent, thriving in bright indirect light with a sparingly watering routine. Here are some of the essential tips for growing and caring for your desert orchid:


Choosing a perfect location for your desert orchid is critical to its long-term survival and success. You should choose a spot that receives plenty of bright, indirect light throughout the year.

Choose a relatively smaller planter with plenty of drainage holes at the bottom. Ideally, the planter should be filled with a mix of fast-draining and well-aerated soil.

A cactus eccentric shape like penis.
You should choose a spot that receives plenty of bright, indirect light throughout the year

Alternatively, go for a hanging basket because it perfectly suits the plant’s long stems. Keep the tray moist but not waterlogged to improve humidity.

Avoid planting a desert orchid while it is blooming. Instead, wait until at least one month after the flowers die to plant.

When potting a desert orchid, partially fill your planter with a moist, well-draining potting mix. Place your plant in the container and fill the sides to the expected level. Tamp the potting mix gently.

When planting a cutting, let it callous over for about a week before you insert it into the soil. The cut end should face up when you place the cutting in the soil.


The desert orchid does not require frequent watering during the active growing season. However, you must water it occasionally to help the plant absorb nutrients from the soil.

An ideal schedule is to water your plant every two weeks during the active growing season (summer and spring).

Always water your desert orchid deeply and allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again. This should take about two weeks, depending on the environmental conditions.

Use rainwater or distilled water to avoid salt build-up in the soil. Avoid tap water at all costs because it contains harmful chemicals and salt that can damage your desert orchid.

Watering a cactus.
Always water your desert orchid deeply and allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again.

The best time to water your succulent is in the morning or early afternoon. Avoid watering late in the evening because this can lead to root rot due to overnight dampness.

Stop watering and fertilizing your plant during winter. This will help the desert orchid stay dormant and prepare it for the active growing season.

Light Requirements

For optimal growth, your desert orchid needs lots of bright, indirect light throughout the year.

Consider positioning it on a south-facing window where it can get at least five hours of direct sunlight daily.

If you live in an area with extremely hot summers, use a sheer curtain to protect the plant from intense sun rays.

Alternatively, you can use artificial lights such as LEDs or fluorescent bulbs to provide your desert orchid with bright light throughout the year.

Place it about ten inches away from the bulb and ensure it is switched on for at least 14 hours daily.

You may notice leggy growth if your desert orchid isn’t receiving enough light. The presence of yellow leaves or signs of wilted growth clearly indicates too much light exposure.

With the right amount of light, your desert orchid should have light or dark green leaves and stems with a slight red tinge on the edges.

A blooming cactus.
Your desert orchid needs lots of bright, indirect light throughout the year.

During winter, move your plant to a room that doesn’t receive much light because it is dormant. You can turn off the artificial lights completely or reduce the amount of time they are turned on to about five hours a day.

Temperature and Humidity Requirements

The desert orchid prefers temperatures of between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the active growing season.

Ensure your plant is not subjected to cold drafts or temperatures below 50 F. If this happens, leaves can start wilting and eventually die.

During winter, allow the temperature to drop as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but not lower than that. This will help it stay dormant until spring when it bursts into life again.

The succulent thrives in moderate humidity. When grown indoors, maintain relative humidity between 40 to 50 percent.

You can boost humidity around the growing area by placing the growing container on wet rocks.


During the active growing season, you should fertilize your desert orchid once every month using a high-phosphorous fertilizer such as 20-20-20. This will help encourage blooming and promote lush foliage growth.

Always dilute the fertilizer according to the instructions on the package.

Apply it on moist soil and avoid direct contact with the plant since too much fertilizer can cause salt build-up, which is toxic to your succulent.

Stop fertilizing two weeks before winter arrives to help the succulent go dormant. You can provide a light fertilizer dose during summer or spring if you need to boost your plant’s growth.


Opinions on when to repot orchid cactus vary greatly depending on whom you ask.

Some people believe repotting should be done every two or three years, while others believe the desert orchid can survive up to seven years in one pot.

Consider repotting your desert orchid every two or three years to keep the potting mix fresh and give the plant plenty of nutrients for growth. Repot during spring before the active growing season.

When repotting, move just one container size larger. For instance, if you are repotting a plant in an 8-inch pot, move it to a nine or 10-inch container. This will prevent your desert orchid from getting rootbound.

Also, use fresh soil during repotting because old soil can contain pests and diseases that will harm your succulent.

Pruning and Propagation

Prune your desert orchid regularly to ensure that it retains its characteristic compact shape. Pruning also helps encourage blooms in late spring or early summer.

Use sharp, clean pruners to avoid damaging your succulent. When propagating the cuttings, note that desert orchids are slow growers and may take up to six months before showing signs of life.

A golden barrel cactus on hand being repot.
Pruning also helps encourage blooms in late spring or early summer.

Use cuttings with a minimum of four segments for maximum chances of success. Let the cutting callous for about a week before inserting it into moist soil. Place in bright, indirect light and keep the soil constantly moist.

Pests and Diseases

Look out for aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and other pests. You can use a mild insecticide or neem oil to get rid of them or simply remove them by hand.

Common diseases affecting desert orchids include root rot and powdery mildew. Keep the soil moist but not soaking wet to prevent root rot, and use a pot with drainage holes for proper air circulation.

Powdery mildew is caused by humidity levels that are too high, so maintain moderate humidity around your succulent.

These diseases can be treated using fungicides or copper-based chemicals. Consult with a professional for the right product to use on your succulent.


Caring for a desert orchid requires dedication and patience. Follow the tips in this guide, and you’ll be able to maintain a healthy, lush-looking succulent all year round.

Don’t forget to observe proper watering schedules, light requirements, temperature, humidity levels, and appropriate fertilizing and repotting.

If you notice any signs of pests or diseases, act immediately to avoid further damage to your succulent. With the right care, you’ll be able to enjoy a beautiful desert orchid for many years.

Last update on 2024-02-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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