Phaius tankervilliae is a terrestrial orchid called Nun’s Orchid. It is a vigorous plant with thin, pleated leaves that produces erect flower spikes to 4 feet high with numerous flowers to 4 inches across. The flowers last 4 to 6 weeks and have yellow-brown petals with a white back, rose lip with a dark throat. Nun’s Orchid is easy to grow but does require winter protection near a bright window with evenly moist soil. Bloom is during late winter when large specimens will send up three-foot stalks of white and reddish brown flowers. When the danger of frost has passed, move the plant outdoors to a spot that gets filtered sun. The plant’s common name refers to its hooded flowers that resemble a nun’s veil.
Unlike the cattleya or familiar corsage orchid, the Phaius is a terrestrial orchid plant, which means, they grow in soil. It is a native plant throughout northeastern Australia, southeastern Asia, and the Pacific Islands. It is also naturalized in many places in the tropics, including Cuba, Puerto Rico, Florida, and Hawaii. This species is a popular orchid in cultivation and has naturalized in several habitats, including dense swamps, bayheads and hardwood hammocks.