These orchids owe their popu- larity to their attractive foliage, striking flowers, and ease of cultivation. Large, broad, rich green leaves somewhat resemble those of cast-iron plant (Aspidistra); they are marked with prominent parallel veins. Erect flower spikes to 3 ft. tall arise from the bases of large, thick pseudobulbs. In the Coastal and Tropical South, Phaius species are perennials; elsewhere, they're quite easy to grow as houseplants.
P. flavus. From India, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Leaves to 2 ft. long are attractively marked with yellow blotches and spots. In spring, blossom spikes carry many fragrant, 3-in.-wide flowers in sulphur yellow with a reddish brown band on the lip. 'Punctata' has yellow-spotted foliage.
P. tankervilleae. NUN'S ORCHID. Native to China, India, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, and Australia. May well be the easiest of all orchids to grow. Handsome, oblong to oval and pointed leaves 23 ft. long. Fragrant, 2- to 3-in.-wide blooms appear from late winter into spring; they are dusty rose inside and creamy white outside, with a rosy purple lip.
Although they'll take full sun for short periods, these orchids prefer light shade. Those grown indoors will bloom just fine if placed next to a bright window (they will, however, need protection from hot, direct sun). Give them fertile, well-drained soil that contains plenty of organic matter. From winter through the end of summer, keep the soil evenly moist (use room- temperature water); then let it go slightly dry for three to four weeks in fall. From spring through summer, feed every other week with water-soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer diluted to half-strength. Be careful with the leaves, which break easily. Plants are easy to divide. Scale can be a serious pest, especially on indoor plants; control it by spraying with horticultural oil.