Indianapolis Museum of Art Hosts Stunning Orchid Exhibition, “Color Me Orchid,” Feb. 19-March 13

ColorMeOrchid-Homepage-Slider-web-1200x500Winter is in full swing, but flowers are blooming at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Step into spring with the new Color Me Orchid exhibition, a vibrant and stunning display of orchids in the IMA’s Madeline F. Elder Greenhouse from Feb. 19 through March 13. The exhibition will pay homage to the brilliant colors, shapes and pattern of orchids, while also highlighting their history and connection to the IMA. Throughout the show, orchids will be available for purchase in the Greenhouse and at a special Pop-Up Shop in the main Museum building. IMA Indianapolis Museum of Art logo (2)horticulture experts will be available to share advice on orchid care.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) is located on a 152-acre campus of lush gardens, historic homes, outdoor sculptures, inspiring performance and gallery spaces. Founded in 1883, the IMA is among the 10 oldest and 10 largest encyclopedic art museums in the United States and features significant collections of African, American, Asian, European, contemporary art and design arts that span 5,000 years of history. With innovative programming designed to engage guests of all ages, the IMA offers a variety of interactive experiences inside the galleries, throughout the campus and within the local community. From gardening demos in the Madeline F. Elder Greenhouse to outdoor film screenings in the IMA Amphitheater to community celebrations in The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres, guests are invited to interact with art and nature in exciting new ways at the IMA. Along with the Indianapolis campus, the IMA also owns the Miller House and Garden in Columbus, Ind., one of the nation’s most highly regarded examples of mid-century Modernist residences.

For more than 40 years, orchids have been a striking staple in the Greenhouse. The orchid was the favorite flower of Madeline F. Elder, who rallied volunteers and support to save the Greenhouse from demolition in 1972. From the beginning of Elder’s involvement, the Greenhouse has housed this exquisite flower. The exhibition is the first of its kind in the Greenhouse in recent years. As a living gallery space, the Greenhouse offers classes, workshops and educational plant displays year-round.

Orchids have a great history of captivating people,” said Sue Nord Peiffer, the IMA’s greenhouse manager. “People really enjoy seeing this exotic and diverse group of plants. They have the most complicated bloom in the flowering world.”

Phalaenopsis hybrid orchid

Phalaenopsis hybrid orchid. Photo by Eric Lubrick. Courtesy of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

The exhibition features the five most popular orchid species among amateur growers: Cattleya, Dendrobium, Oncidium, Phalaenopsis, Paphiopedilum and Phragmipedium. Despite the large number of species, orchid enthusiasts have always wanted more and different plants. Crossbreeding has artificially created more than 100,000 new varieties, which represent the vast majority of plants available for sale today.

Cattleya cultivars

Cattleya cultivars

Cattleya, also known as the corsage orchid, is named for William Cattley who introduced the South American plants to European Society. The species range from tiny to very large with a sprawling habit. They are grown for their colorful, blousy, and often fragrant blooms. Cattleya orchids are from tropical Central and South American, and are grown in loose bark mix in medium light and humidity. Allow to dry between waterings.

Dendrobium anosmum Orchid

Dendrobium anosmum Orchid

Dendrobiums tend to have long lasting colorful blooms. Their Greek meaning is “life in a tree” because many of these plants live upon trees and without soil. Some dendrobiums are evergreen, while others lose their leaves and bloom on bare stems. Native to tropical Asia and South Pacific Islands, most orchids in this group require bright light, high humidity, and an evenly moist bark mix when actively growing. Many dendrobiums require a dry winter dormancy to set new flower buds.



Oncidium comes from the Greek for “swelling” and refers to the bumps on the bloom’s lip. They are also known as the dancing ladies orchids. Besides the bumps on the lips, many oncidiums are known for the large sprays of small blossoms and fragrances that dance in the breeze. Native to tropical Central America and South, oncidiums are easy to grow and prefer bright light, moderate humidity, and nights that are at least 10°F cooler than the days. The bark mix should be allowed to dry slightly between waterings.

Paphiopedilum and Phragmipedium are also known as slipper orchids. The main floral feature is the large slipper shaped lip. Many of these plants are terrestrial and grow on the shady forest floor instead of in trees. They grow in a fine bark or mossy medium and must be kept lightly moist under indirect light with high humidity. Paphiopedilum are native to tropical Asia and Pacific islands; Phragmipedium are from tropical Central and South America.

Phalaenopsis comes from the Greek for “moth-like,” which refers to their wing-shaped blooms. Often multiple blooms appear on arching stems and may continue for many months. This group has more registered hybrids than any other resulting in lush colors and branching stems with high bud counts. Well suited to home cultivation, they are grown in a loose bark mix to prevent overwatering and prefer indirect light and high humidity. Both species are native to tropical Asia and Pacific islands.

For guests looking for extra tips for caring for these complex flowers, the IMA will offer workshops on mounting and repotting orchids on Feb. 27 and March 5. Workshops are $35 and $60 for the public, with special discounts for IMA members.

Color Me Orchid is included with general admission and free for IMA members. During the opening weekend, IMA members will receive a special 20 percent discount in all onsite retail stores, including the Pop-Up Shop and Greenhouse.

Although this exhibition may seem nontraditional for the IMA, it is reflective of our new direction,” said Dr. Charles L. Venable, the IMA’s Melvin & Bren Simon Director and CEO. “We are more than an art museum— we have botanical gardens, a park and a historic estate. We have scientists, horticulturists, teachers and historians on staff. We want to showcase the expertise of our team and the experiences that make our institution unique. When guests visit the IMA, we hope that they not only explore the galleries, but all that we have to offer on our diverse, 152-acre campus.
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