Dendrobium Soft-canes

The cool-growing soft-cane dendrobiums are typified by Dendrobium nobile, the ‘noble’ dendrobium, which is found in northern India, southern China and the hilly areas of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Burma. It has pink petals, pink sepals and a creamy yellow labellum with a distinctive purple throat. The list of soft-cane dendrobium hybrids is quite extensive but they can be classified into two types, the ‘English’ and the ‘Japanese’. The early English hybrids, such as D. Lady Colman, D. Felicity and D. Cybele, were bred mainly from D. nobile, D. nobile var. virginalis and D. findlayanum, another attractive cool growing species. These hybrids have mostly pink or mauve flowers, although some are cream, yellow or white.

The ‘Japanese’ hybrids, developed by Yamamoto in Japan, tend to have larger, more colourful flowers, often with a plain labellum and without the characteristic ‘eye’ of D. nobile. These hybrids, a further development of the earlier English types, incorporate genes from D. regium, a species with pink to rose purple petals and a cream labellum. Some of the proven Japanese hybrids are D. Malones ‘Okayama’, ‘Fantasy’ and ‘Emperor’, D. Golden Blossom ‘Kagame’ and ‘Sunset’, D. Atatuki Queen and D. Yukidaruma ‘The King’. This information is from ‘Soft-cane Dendrobiums‘ an article by Alan Hope for OSCOV.

Watering and fertilising Regular and frequent watering is necessary during the period when the new growths are developing (November to April) but thereafter the frequency of watering must be reduced, especially during winter. Regular watering in winter will result in the production of offset plants (keikis) instead of flowers from the leaf nodes. Similarly, the application of high-nitrogen liquid fertilisers during the growth period will promote the formation of keikis. Use a high-potassium liquid fertiliser such as Campbell’s A® (at half the manufacturer’s recommended strength) every week or two between November and April. For maximum flower production it is important not to fertilise at other times. Further information about the care of softcanes is available from These cultural notes are kindly provided by the North-East Melbourne Orchid Society (NEMOS) for OSCOV ‘How To Grow Soft-cane Dendrobiums‘ (2002).

  • To Sum Up – Soft-cane dendrobiums may flower as early as August or as late as November, depending upon whether they have been grown warm or cool. They are not difficult to flower. All they need is lots of sunshine, and that’s free! Further information can be located in Michael Pender’s article ‘Growing Soft-cane Dendrobiums in Southern Victoria‘ OSCOV, (2003).

For further information on Dendrobium softcanes and other orchid varieties, see the Orchid Societies Council of Victoria (OSCOV) Website under the section Articles & Resources.

  • For photos of Dendrobiums see our Dendrobium photo page.
  • For further information about orchid care at Southern Suburbs Orchid Society (SSOS) or membership enquiries, please do not hesitate to Contact Us.

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