After returning from a very pleasant few days away earlier in the month, I found that the flowers I had been watching develop on Coelia bella had opened at last. I have been growing this plant for a while, and it has finally reached flowering size. This species seems to need to reach quite a size before blooming. It originates from Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala, and can be found at a range of elevations, giving the plant good temperature tolerance. I grow it at warm temperatures (such as might be appropriate for Phalaenopsis species and hybrids) with good results. Regardless of temperature, the plant takes a brief rest between maturing its pseudobulbs and starting to produce new ones, at which time it blooms.
I give plenty of water to this plant, treating it much like a Coelogyne species. It does not like to dry out at all, even while it is resting, and seems to enjoy quite wet conditions, at least under warm temperatures. It is possible that it would appreciate being kept a little drier under cooler conditions, but I haven’t tried that.
It was interesting watching the flower spike develop because it starts out rather like a new growth emerging from a mature pseudobulb, but quickly becomes much fatter, though I can’t call its development fast, with buds only becoming visible right before they are about to open, and remaining partially hidden between their protective bracts, even after opening.
The flowers are produced on short racemes with long bracts, the flowers remaining tubular and opening fully only at the tip. There are around 5 flowers per raceme, and they are quite large, but due to their habit of not opening fully, they are much longer than they are wide, and they barely escape from their surrounding bracts. They have a heavy, almost crystalline, texture and are mostly white with pinkish-purple tips, and a narrow, yellow, pointed lip. This species is reported as being marzipan-scented, but I can only assume that whoever wrote that has never smelled marzipan (mine smells of marzipan / oil of almonds / benzaldehyde – editor). The scent is very pleasant indeed but is (at least to me) more reminiscent of that of species such as Dendrochilum glumaceum, but slightly spicier. The flowers last just over a week, though they may last longer under cooler conditions.
The flowering racemes sit well below the foliage and cluster among the pseudobulbs. The leaves are long and strap-like, with each pseudobulb bearing around five leaves, emerging erect from the apex of the pseudobulbs and arching over gracefully. The plant itself puts me in mind of one of the narrower-leaved Aspidistra species. Pseudobulbs are rounded, ovoid and pale green. On my plant, they are around 5cm or more in diameter, but may increase further as the plant grows.
Coelia bella is one of those unfortunate plants that has had taxonomic tennis played with it quite a lot in the past, being assigned to genera such as Bothriochilus and Bifrenaria before finally finding a home in Coelia.