Monkey Orchid Care Guide Tips for a Thriving Dracula Simia

Monkey Orchid Care Guide: Tips for a Thriving Dracula Simia

Growing monkey orchids, or any type of orchid for that matter, can be quite unnerving, considering their finicky reputation. But you don’t have to give up on having these beautiful blooms just because they’re quite difficult to grow.

With a bit of help from us, you can add these quirky yet beautiful monkey orchids to your plant collection.

Here’s a comprehensive guide on how you can grow a thriving monkey orchid:

Monkey Orchid General Information

Monkey Orchid General Information

Scientific Name: Dracula simia
Genus: Dracula
Family: Orchidaceae
Plant Type: Perennial
Native Habitat: Ecuador
Preferred Environment: Humid environment
Mature Size: 7 to 20 inches tall
Toxicity: Non-toxic to both humans and animals

Monkey orchids, scientifically called Dracula simia, are epiphytic orchids, meaning they grow on another plant and absorb nutrients from their surroundings rather than soil. They are native to Ecuador and some regions in Colombia and Peru. 

They produce flowers with a scent similar to a ripe orange. They can typically bloom during any season, but there’s a higher chance of them blooming in spring.

Monkey orchids are rare and are only found in Central America. They are currently in danger of extinction, so it may be even harder to find them.

Taking Care of a Monkey Orchid

What potting mix is best for monkey orchids?

What potting mix is best for monkey orchids

Monkey orchids do best in a chunky potting mix that provides excellent drainage and aeration. They also thrive better when grown in potting mixes with slightly acidic pH, preferably around the 5.5 to 6.5 range.

Unlike other house plants, monkey orchids grow on top of other plants in their native habitat instead of soil, so soil-based potting mixes typically don’t work that well for them. A bark-based or peat moss-based potting mix is generally better for them.

How do I make my own potting mix for monkey orchids?

To make your own potting mix for monkey orchids, combine five parts fine fir bark, one part peat moss, and one part perlite in a container. Thoroughly mix the components to prevent clumping and ensure even distribution.

This mix has exceptional drainage and aeration, ideal for orchid plants. You can also add a bit of charcoal to prevent bacterial and fungal growth.

Monitor the potting mix regularly, as it can become too acidic.

When and how often should I water my monkey orchid?

When and how often should I water my monkey orchid

Monkey orchids like their potting mix evenly moist but not waterlogged, so it’s best to water the plant before its potting mix completely dries out. Generally, monkey orchids need watering once every one to two weeks.

Unlike other orchids that can store water, monkey orchids don’t grow pseudobulbs that give them the ability to do this. Hence, they can’t do well when exposed to drought for a long period.

Although they can typically last for a few weeks without watering, it’s best not to risk it. Monkey orchids can be pretty sensitive, so strive to provide them with the best care possible.

Do monkey orchids require sun or shade?

Do monkey orchids require sun or shade

In their natural habitat, monkey orchids are primarily found in the understory of cloud forests, where they receive diffused light. Hence, they often require shade and thrive in locations that receive only a few hours of indirect light. 

They’re not well-suited for prolonged exposure to intense, direct sunlight. In fact, even indirect sunlight can sometimes be too much for these orchids if you live in a tropical country.

What temperature is recommended for monkey orchids?

It might be surprising, but cool temperatures are recommended for monkey orchids, unlike most houseplants. They generally thrive when the temperature remains within the 50ºF to 60ºF.

They’re native to cloud forests and mainly grow in high elevations, so they’re more accustomed to cooler temperatures than warm.

Any temperature over 70ºF or less than 40ºF can be too hot or cold for these orchids and may cause distress. They’re also sensitive to hot and cold drafts.

What humidity level is recommended for monkey orchids?

Humidity levels ranging from 60% to 80% are recommended for monkey orchids. These plants are used to growing in forests with high humidity levels, so a dry environment can be detrimental to their health.

Their preference for high humidity is one of the main reasons they’re often best grown in terrariums and vivariums. These enclosed containers can keep the environment around the orchids consistently high.

That said, they can also be grown in pots as long as you keep the humidity high. One way to do this is by placing a humidifier near them.

How often should I fertilize my monkey orchid?

Fertilize your monkey orchid every other week from spring to fall, as they’re actively growing during these seasons and would benefit from fertilization. During winter, you can limit it to once a month.

Use a 20-20-20 balanced, water-soluble fertilizer and dilute it to half-strength. Make sure to also water the plant before you fertilize it, as fertilizing it when it’s dry can burn the roots.3

Your monkey orchid will show signs if you need to adjust your fertilizing schedule. If the leaves start turning brown, you’re likely overfertilizing it, so adjust your routine accordingly.

How often should I prune my monkey orchid?

How often should I prune my monkey orchid

Monkey orchids generally only need pruning when a stalk dies or a flower wilts. Other than that, the plant won’t need much pruning since it’s relatively small.

It’s essential to approach pruning with care to avoid harming the plant. Avoid pruning more than ⅔ of the plant or unnecessary pruning of healthy roots.

When should I repot my monkey orchid?

When should I repot my monkey orchid

Monkey orchids generally need to be repotted every two years to replace the decomposing matter in the potting mix and provide the roots more room to grow. You might also need to repot it if the roots are rotting.

After two years, most organic matter in the potting mix, like peat moss and fir bark, will start decaying. They’ll likely compact as they decompose, impairing the roots’ access to oxygen and water.

Be gentle during repotting, as orchids can be sensitive to handling. They may suffer from severe transplant shock if you’re not careful. 

How to Repot Monkey Orchid

DifficultyMedium ●●●○○
Number of steps8
Time required30 minutes
Things you needPot, potting mix, scissors, water

Step 1: Soak the orchid overnight.

Before repotting your monkey orchid, soak it in water overnight. This will help hydrate the plant and make the roots more flexible.

You don’t want to repot them when the roots are too dry, as you can damage them in the process.

Step 2: Prepare a new pot

Prepare a pot that’s one size bigger than its current pot to give the roots more room to spread. 

Step 3: Buy or make a new potting mix

The old potting mix is already decomposing and won’t do much for your monkey orchid. Prepare a new potting mix that’s similar to the old one’s composition to reduce the chances of the pot getting transplant shock.

Step 4: Carefully remove the monkey orchid from its old pot

Try to ease out the orchid from its current pot without damaging the roots. Remember to be very gentle when handling your monkey orchid.

Step 5: Examine the roots and remove damaged parts

Gently shake off the old potting mix from the plant and examine the current state of the roots. Trim all the damaged parts to prevent the spread of fungal or bacterial infection and promote new growth.

Step 6: Add an inch layer of the new potting mix to the pot

Add a layer of fresh potting mix at the bottom of the new pot so the orchid won’t sit directly at the bottom of the pot.

Step 7: Place the monkey orchid in the new pot

Position the monkey orchid in the center of the new pot and fill the sides with more potting mix. Tap the sides of the pot as you fill it with potting mix to make sure all the crevices of the roots and pot are filled.

Step 8: Water the plant thoroughly

Water the plant evenly and thoroughly after repotting it. Allow the excess water to drain from the drainage hole.

How do you successfully propagate a monkey orchid at home?

How do you successfully propagate a monkey orchid at home

Monkey orchids can be successfully propagated at home through the division of roots. However, this can be very difficult and may not succeed all the time, as monkey orchids tend to have sensitive roots.

Although they can be propagated through seeds, this propagation method is not recommended at home. The environment should be highly sterile for the seeds to propagate, so it often doesn’t work unless you’re in a controlled laboratory.

Additionally, monkey orchids have extremely tiny seeds, so they can be challenging to harvest. 

How do you successfully propagate a money orchid through division?

Difficulty●●●●● Very Hard
Number of steps5
Time required30 minutes
Things you needPots, potting mix mix, scissors, water

Step 1: Water the orchid.

Water the orchid thoroughly a day or two before you plant to divide it. This will hydrate the orchid and reduce stress during the division process.

Step 2: Remove the monkey orchid from its pot

Carefully ease out the orchid from its current pot. Try tapping the pot’s sides or squeezing it a little to break off the compacted bark inside it.

Step 3: Trim unhealthy roots

Remove unhealthy or decaying roots from the plant by using sterile scissors. 

Step 4: Divide the roots into sections

Monkey orchids typically have natural divisions you can follow if you want to divide them into sections. Gently separate them by hand or by using clean scissors.

Step 5: Plant the divisions into their new pot.

Place a layer of fresh orchid potting mix at the bottom of the new pots and plant each division into its own pot. Fill the pot with more potting mix around the roots to keep the divisions in place.

Common Problems with Monkey Orchids

Root Rot

Monkey orchids are extremely susceptible to root rot. It’s one of the most common problems plant parents face when they try to grow monkey orchids at home.

Overwatering and poor drainage are the most common reasons orchids suffer root rot. Excessive moisture around the roots creates a favorable growing condition for fungi and bacteria that primarily target the roots and cause them to decay.

Once the roots start to rot or decay, the leaves of your monkey orchid will begin to turn yellow. In severe cases, your monkey orchid may also start shedding leaves.

How to Fix Root Rot

To fix root rot in monkey orchids, gently remove it from the pot and examine the roots closely. Trim away any soft, mushy, or discolored roots using sterile scissors to stop the rotting from spreading.

Repot the monkey to a fresh potting mix, as the current one is already contaminated by bacteria and fungi. Ensure that your potting mix has exceptional drainage to prevent water from pooling around the roots.

It will take some time before the orchid recovers, so provide it with utmost care. Make sure to only water it when the soil is almost dry to avoid overwatering it again.

Pest Infestation

Two of the most common pests that infest monkey orchids are aphids and mealybugs. These pests feed on the plant’s sap and weaken its immune system, causing it to become more vulnerable to diseases.

Mealybugs appear as small, cottony masses on the leaves of the monkey orchid. They produce honeydew on the leaves, which can attract sooty mold, a fungal disease that coats the leaves and hinders their ability to absorb sunlight.

Aphids, on the other hand, are tiny, oval-shaped pests that often stay on the underside of the orchid’s leaves. Similar to mealybugs, they also excrete honeydew.

How to Fix Pest Infestation

To fix pest infestation, you can manually remove mealybugs and aphids using a soft brush or a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. If the leaf is already severely infected, it’s best to just trim it and focus on saving the other leaves.

After removing most of the pests, spray neem oil or apply insecticidal soap on the leaves. 

You will have to repeat this over several days before all the pests are completely eliminated.