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How I Got Tiger Orchid or Grammatophyllum Speciosum Plant To Bloom


Mazlan acquired his love of gardening at a young age, and it has been his passion for over 55 years.

Our Tiger Orchid plant (Grammatophyllum speciosum) blooms only once and that was way back in the year 2000. It was a real pleasure to see the flowering stalks as we had this plant for almost 20 years before it flowers.

We almost gave up but I was determined to try any methods to see it blooms again.

And if you too had difficulty in nursing your Grammatophyllum speciosum to bloom, don't give up as you will never know one day it will happen.

I tried several commercial chemical fertilizers but without success. Finally, I decided to experiment with a few concoctions of organic fertilizers and voila! I was lucky as within two months it started to produce four flowering stalks.

Before I share this success story, let's take a quick look at Tiger Orchid.

My Tiger Orchids in its 4th week of bloom

My Tiger Orchids in its 4th week of bloom

What is Tiger Orchid?

Tiger orchid is the world's largest orchid plant and blooms only once every three to four years. Unfortunately for some of us, this is not the case. It may take even longer time to bloom!

Its yellow-colored flowers with dark red spots can grow up to 3.9 inches (10 cm) in diameter and is the largest orchid flower in the world. Its flowering stalk can bear up to 80 flowers and remain in bloom for up to two months.

The flower has a mild and pleasant fragrance that smells like a cross between jasmine and ylang-ylang flowers.

The name 'Tiger Orchid' is used for other orchid varieties as well, namely Maxillaria, which is native to tropical and subtropical America, and Rossioglossum grande, which is native to Mexico and Honduras.

The Tiger Orchid that I am referring to in this article is Grammatophyllum Speciosum, which is native to Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, and New Guinea.

Organic Fertilizer for Tiger Orchid

There are many items that you can use as organic fertilizers. Some items can be bought off the shelf and some are available in your own kitchen or even backyard.

I used the following items which are a combination of things that I bought and things that I recycled from our daily use.

1. Chicken and Goat Manure

I used goat and chicken manures in dried and pelleted form as part of my organic fertilizer concoction for my Tiger Orchids.

These manures are packed and sold under various proprietary names. Some of these brands are mixed with other ingredients or fillers that do little to add potency to the manure.

I got mine from the Thursday night market in Keramat, Kuala Lumpur and even though it has no propriety name and no nutrient content quoted, it is reliable and worked very well on my plants.

Chicken manure is higher in nitrogen and actual nutrient contents can vary. Generally, the composition of the dried and pelleted form is about N 4%, P 2% and K 1% i.e. nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium respectively.

The dried and pelleted goat manure is about N 1.5%, P 1.0%, and K 1.8%, i.e. higher in potassium, which is useful for flowering.

2. Tea Water as Fertilizer

I recycle used tea bags by soaking it in water for a few days and then use it to water the Tiger Orchid plant. Tea is rich in nitrogen and potassium, which are useful ingredients for plant growth and flowering.

Instead of plain water to water the plant, tea water that is rich in nutrients will give good plant growth and beautiful flowers.

My Other Article on Gardening

If you want to know how I planted Plumeria or Frangipani from seeds, then click on the link.

3. Rice Water as Fertilizer

Rice water is another nutrient-rich water that I used to water and fertilize my Tiger Orchid.

If you cook rice on a regular basis, the water that you use to wash the rice before cooking can be recycled as fertilizer.

The water has traces of thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid, which are necessary for healthy plant growth. It is even more effective if you put it aside for a day for it to ferment, before watering the Tiger Orchid plant.

Some people use water that rice has been boiled in but I find it a hassle and prefer the water that you use to wash or rinse the rice before cooking.

Is brown or normal white rice better? Although brown rice contains a higher dosage of thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid I use white basmati rice because that is what we use in our cooking. So, if you eat brown rice then you get better quality rice water for your orchid.

Close-up view of my Tiger Orchid bloom

Close-up view of my Tiger Orchid bloom

4. Banana Peels as Fertilizer

We have bananas almost every day for breakfast and I use the banana peels, which are rich in phosphorus and potassium as fertilizer for the tiger orchids.

I will either mashed or blend it and mixed it with either the tea water or rice water before watering the plant.

Banana peels will not only promote flowering but will give strong colors to your flowers.

Organic Fertilizer Concoction

The above is the only stuff that I used as organic fertilizer for my Tiger Orchid plant.

When I first used them way back in the year 2000, I did not give this organic concoction much credit, when the plant bloomed. When I started to use it again after a long spell of almost 13 years and it blooms again, I was dead certain that this 'recipe' works and is responsible for the Tiger orchid to bloom again.

Cat Litters as Fertilizer for Tiger Orchids

When a friend heard of my organic fertilizer concoction and saw the blooms, he told me the result was not as spectacular as his tiger orchid.

I agreed. The first time my Tiger Orchid bloomed, it had four flowering stalks. This time around in 2014, it produced only one flowering stalk. Although the result is not that impressive I was still proud as I could get it to flower.

My friend used cat litters as his 'organic fertilizer' and had more flowering stalks and better and bigger flowers.

It may sound disgusting but instead of throwing away the used litter, which is rich in nitrogen from the cat urine, he put it to good use in his garden.

He was not worried about pathogens from the poop as the free-range cat will deposit them in the garden anyway. To him, it costs him 'nothing' as he has to buy the cat litter anyhow.

I have not tried this but I have seen the results and I have to admit, it was more impressive.

Tiger orchid root system

Tiger orchid root system

How to Apply These Organic Fertilizers

Applying the Goat and Chicken Manure to Tiger Orchid

I apply the goat and chicken manure on an alternate week basis. Before sprinkling the pellets over the root system, I water the plant first. This will thoroughly wet the roots for easier absorption of the nutrients.

After sprinkling the pellets, I water the plant again directing the water to where the pellets are.

If you intend to use cat litters as your 'organic fertilizer' for your Tiger Orchid, you can apply the same application method. However, you will have to use more water after putting the litter so as to dilute the 'waste' especially the urine or ammonia in the litter.

Applying Rice Water to Grammatophyllum Speciosum, or Tiger Orchid

As we eat rice every day, we have a daily supply of rice water. I do not use it immediately but will leave it overnight to water the Tiger Orchid plant in the morning.

This short 'fermentation' period helps convert the rice water into fertilizer.

If we have banana peels, we will either mash or blend it and mix it with this rice water, which will then be used to water the Tiger Orchid plant.

Applying Tea Water to Tiger Orchid

I will recycle tea leaves and tea bags by soaking them in water for at least three days.

I then use it to water the plant in the evening. As we do not drink tea on a regular basis, the supply of tea-water is not as frequent as rice water.

I will also mix this tea water with the mashed banana peels when it is available.

On the days that I apply the goat or chicken manure, I will not use the rice and tea water.

Flush the Plant Roots with Water

I flush out the plant's root with plain water at a quarterly interval to remove any possible accumulation of mineral salts.

The accumulation of mineral salts is associated more with chemically processed fertilizers but I still do regular flushing, just in case. Anyway, soluble salts are also present in tap water you use to water the plant!

The danger of salts build up if it is not flushed away, is the harm to your tiger orchid plant. Its sensitive feeder roots can burn away from any high salt concentration. The damaged root will start to rot and will slowly kill the plant.

During the rainy season, I will skip this as the rainwater will hopefully flush out these salts.

Try this Organic Fertilizer Concoction

If you had difficulty in getting your Tiger Orchid to bloom, try this organic fertilizer concoction. I am sure you will experience the same results as I had.

If you have cats, you may want to try the 'used cat litter' fertilizer that my friend did to his Tiger Orchids. Share your experience by coming back to this post, and tell us what happened to your Tiger Orchids.

Need Help? Read this Guide to Orchid Growing

More Info on Tiger Orchid (Grammatophyllum Speciosum)

Tiger Orchid not only produces the largest orchid flower in the world but is the heaviest orchid plant in the world. It can weigh up to a ton (907 kg) or more.

The plant has impressive root bundles and the pseudobulbs (cane-like stems) can grow to 9.8 feet (3 m) or more. In its natural habitat in the jungles of Southeast Asia, it grows on other trees for support. It is not parasitic but is self-sustaining for its nutrients. You can also find Tiger Orchid growing on rocky surfaces.

The plant is sometimes called sugarcane orchid as it resembles a sugar cane plant.

Tiger Orchid Plant in my Garden

Tiger orchid has an erect as well as spreading long stems and is either leafless or leaf-bearing sheaths. This Tiger Orchid in my garden has spreading and drooping psuedobulbs. Does it resemble a sugar cane plant?

Tiger orchid has an erect as well as spreading long stems and is either leafless or leaf-bearing sheaths. This Tiger Orchid in my garden has spreading and drooping psuedobulbs. Does it resemble a sugar cane plant?

My Friend's Tiger Orchid Plant

My friend's brilliant tiger orchid plant with ten flower stalks

My friend's brilliant tiger orchid plant with ten flower stalks

Close-up of My Friend's Tiger Orchid Plant

Close-up view of my friend's tiger orchid flower

Close-up view of my friend's tiger orchid flower

Tiger Orchid Blooms

When Tiger Orchid blooms everyone gets excited and cannot wait to see this unpredictable largest flower in the world, live.

Why? Because it is difficult to get it to flower. When it does, it becomes a news item.

Some of the recently reported flowerings of Tiger Orchids are in the following cities:

Tiger Orchid Blooms in Brooklyn

In 2011, a rare and beautiful event happened at Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) in New York City. Its Grammatophyllum speciosum bloomed for the third time since it took up residence at BBG an impressive feat as even in its natural habitat in South East Asia it blooms infrequently.

The bloom is very impressive with a display of 17 flower stalks and hundreds of the Tiger Orchid flowers. See the photo below.

The accompanying video was when it bloomed in 2008. Unfortunately, I could not find the video of 2011 blooms.

Tiger Orchid Blooms in BBG

Tiger orchid bloomed at BBG in 2011

Tiger orchid bloomed at BBG in 2011

Tiger Orchid Blooms in Singapore

Wild Tiger Orchids were extinct in Singapore due to its fast development that took place all over the island. In 1999, the government started to introduce the plant again and in March 2013, 20 of the 800 Tiger Orchid plants that were reintroduced to the island started to flower.

These flowering plants were seen not in the 'wilder part' of Singapore but were in public parks, at the road dividers, and in other public spaces.

The 2013 blooms were at Holland Road in the middle of road diver and at East Coast Park. See the accompanying video.

Tiger Orchid Blooms in Singapore

Tiger Orchid Blooms at Poring Hot Spring in Sabah, Malaysia

In May 2013, the Grammatophyllum Speciosum or Tiger Orchid bloomed at Poring Hot Spring in Kinabalu Park, Sabah, Malaysia. See the photo below.

Poring Hot Spring & Nature Reserve is not only famous for its hot water spring but has an excellent collection of rare tropical plants, rare butterflies, over 500 species of orchids and the world's largest flower, the Rafflesia. (Note: Tiger Orchid is the world largest orchid flower)

It is located at the foothill of Malaysia's highest mountain, Mt. Kinabalu.

Tiger Orchid blooms at Poring Hot Spring in Sabah, Malaysia. This species has more bright red spot over the yellow colored flowers

Tiger Orchid blooms at Poring Hot Spring in Sabah, Malaysia. This species has more bright red spot over the yellow colored flowers

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Mazlan


Alice Sawyer on February 22, 2018:

Wow. I have not seen this type of orchids before. It's really beautiful. Alas I can only admire it in pictures and video only.

Mazlan (author) from Malaysia on August 22, 2016:

Hi, Parry. Wow, that's fantastic to have tiger orchids to bloom once a year. I have not driven down to Singapore for a long time, mainly due to our poor RM but if I do I must pop over to Serangoon reservoir. But isn't this place out of bounds to the public?

Parry Chua on August 21, 2016:

You can see Tiger Orchid at Serangoon Reservoir. I notice the flower bloom once a yesr in the past 3 years.

Mazlan (author) from Malaysia on May 11, 2016:

Hi, Kristle K

Sorry for the late reply. I fertilize it weekly as I use organic fertilizer. Not too much, though. I water it every evening after back from work, usually at abt 9pm.

Kristle K on March 30, 2016:

tx for your article. May I know how often you fertilize your Tiger Orchid? And what about watering esp when we are having heat wave in Malaysia? Thanks yo!

Chen on August 20, 2015:

Thank you so much for this great article!

I'll try and tell you the results.

Now my tiger orchid is not that big but I can wait

Karen on August 17, 2014:

Thank you thank you for this article it has helped me immensely. My tiger orchid has different leaves and only flowered 1 time in 2011 after having it for 5 years. But it was truly spectacular. I have pics. I am going to try all of the organic tips and will let you know what happens.

Mazlan (author) from Malaysia on January 26, 2014:

@teaches12345, thanks. The problem that I have is getting rid of the pesky bugs off my orchids. They seem to be around when the orchids start to flower!

Dianna Mendez on January 24, 2014:

You certainly put a lot of hard work into these beautiful flowers. They are so exotic in appearance. I love orchids in general, but find them hard to grow. Perhaps with your suggestions, it would be easier.

Mazlan (author) from Malaysia on January 20, 2014:

@Sage, thanks for the compliments. Kitty litter may sounds disgusting, but since posting this article and reading the comments, I goggled and found out that people ARE using used litters as fertilizer!

I have not been to BBG, but I am sure it is a nice place for a 'meditative retreat'

@Glimmer TF, hahaha, actually my garden is in mess! The heliconias (behind the Tiger orchid) are due for 'pruning' since 2012! Thanks for the visit and comment and pls share your experience on the Pittsburgh orchid show; look forward to this article!

@tirelesstraveler, cat litter as fertilizer was new to me as well and I wasn't sure of it until my friend showed me the results!

So what happened to the orchid ranch?

@AliciaC, I loved the Tiger orchid's fragrance as it smells almost like my two favorite fragrant flowers, the jasmine and ylang-ylang; both are in our garden.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 18, 2014:

This hub is very interesting as well as very helpful! The tiger orchid's flowers are beautiful. I've never grown orchids, but I'd love to try. Thank you for sharing all the great tips.

Judy Specht from California on January 18, 2014:

There used to be a famous orchid ranch near my home. I used to love to go there on crummy days. It always smelled so good. I have heard of all kinds of organic fertilizers, but the cat litter is a new one. Nice work.

Claudia Mitchell on January 18, 2014:

These orchids are absolutely beautiful. Near here in Pittsburgh the botanical gardens is just starting their annual orchid show which we enjoy attending. I'm impressed with your lovely flowers. Looks like your garden is beautiful

Mackenzie Sage Wright on January 18, 2014:

This article is awesome! Wow, I never heard of using kitty litter as fertilizer, what a great tip! And your mention of the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens brought tears to my eyes because I grew up in Brookly and the BBG was my 'happy place'. I'd escape there often just to recharge, spend days there with my daughter when she was born-- I haven't been there in over 10 years since I moved out of NYC and I miss it. Beautiful images, too. Great hub!

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