Macodes petola (Lightning Jewel Orchid)

Lightning Jewel Orchid

Macodes petola

True to its name, the lightning jewel orchid is a genuinely striking plant. Jewel orchids are prized for unique foliage rather than their flowers, and this one is no exception. With gorgeous gold venation that pierces the leaves, Macodes petola really does look like a lightning strike in action.

Native to SE Asia, this compact species is fairly unique in that they grow terrestrially rather than epiphytically, so they make a fantastic feature plant in a terrarium. Plus, just like their native rainforest environment, they love the high temperatures and humidities that only a terrarium can provide in the home.

At a Glance

Where to Buy Macodes petola

See the links below to purchase from reputable terrarium plant shops and marketplaces (may include affiliate links). 

Terrarium Plant Guide

Macodes petola Care & Growth

Lighting

Macodes petola is sensitive to lighting, and can be one of the few plants considered to be a “low light plant”. Always keep this plant out of direct sunlight, and if it starts to show signs of stress, try moving the terrarium to a shadier position or try to shield the plant using other larger plant species.

Watering

As a tropical terrestrial plant, the lightning jewel orchid likes regular, even moisture. Keep moist at all times, but avoid water-logging the substrate in the process to reduce the risk of root rot. Keeping the humidity high will help to balance the water requirements.

Substrate

To help keep Macodes petola evenly moist at all times, choose a substrate that has excellent water retention but also great drainage. Light, and airy mixes (e.g. coir, sphagnum moss) are preferable to heavy substrates as orchids need good aeration around their roots.

Temperature & Humidity

Macodes petola really thrives in hot and humid terrarium environments. Try to keep the humidity as high as possible to keep this jewel orchid happy.

Growth

This jewel orchid species is a relatively slow grower and will stay compact well into maturity. It grows along a creeping rhizome, so you can expect it to grow into a denser foliage over time. It will typically flower once a year with simple creamy brown stems that both exhibit an understated beauty.

Propagation

You can propagate Macodes petola through a variety of means. Dividing the plant at the rhizome or the stem can both create new viable plants, or this species also propagates by asexual division – so you can often simply remove new offspring from the parent plant.

Varieties & Similar Plants

Macodes petola has a few known varieties, which differ only in the expression of their venation. M. petola var. robusta shows only longitudinal veins, and var. javanica shows transverse connected with longitudinal veins.

Common Problems

As with many orchids, some people report that the lightning jewel orchid does better when it gets some airflow as it can help to evaporate water from the leaves. So, if you find that the foliage is looking a bit damp and limp, try airing out your terrarium a little. Avoiding watering the leaves directly can help to mitigate the need for airflow.