Leptotes is a very small orchid genus of only nine species from Brazil, Paraguay or Argentina. Five of the recorded species have been described as late as this millennium, so perhaps it is not so strange that they are quite rare in cultivation. But still I cannot help wondering why this is such an under appreciated genus.
Leptotes bicolor is a lovely epiphyte from the subtropical rainforests and coastal mountains of Brazil and Paraguay where it grows at elevations of 500 to 900 meters. The thin terete (smooth and round) leaves are similar to that of Brassavola and makes for a rather attractive plant even when not in bloom. It was recorded by John Lindley as in 1833, so it is not surprising that this is the species most commonly grown. Mine comes from the German grower Karge and is a faithful bloomer every year in the early spring. The flowers measure about 5 cm wide and each inflorescence produces 3 or more flowers in succession. You can see the new buds coming already behind the flower on the second photo below. The pure white elegance is offset only by a stunning purple lip as well as a hint of color on the edges of the sensual lateral lobes – hence the name bicolor.
I grow mine mounted on cork in the warm/intermediate vivarium, in high humidity, medium light and making sure it is allowed to dry quite a bit in between watering. I hear that it is supposed to be fragrant, but I have never detected any scent from mine… but an interesting side note is that the seed pods has been used as a substitute for vanilla flavoring.