Maxillariella variabilis (still referred to as Maxillaria variabilis by some) is a miniature species found over much of South America. Being so widespread, it is quite amenable to a wide range of temperatures and performs well for me in my warm growroom. As it happens, I have several plants, and they too grow well, especially after being outside for the summer.
The foliage is narrow and the pseudobulbs bear one or two leaves. Although it produces its pseudobulbs broadly in a similar manner to M. tenuifolia (also now placed in Maxillariella), it is much better at ‘clumping’ and doesn’t become too straggly. Roots normally occur only at the base of the plant, so when propagating, the brown, papery bracts along the stem need to be removed carefully to allow the underlying roots to emerge. Adult flowering-size plants grow well in 9cm pots, so this species really is one for those who claim to have no space!
I am not sure quite what triggers blooming, but this is a species that blooms in flushes rather than intermittently. There are several different colour forms available, from yellow through to a dark red or purple, approaching black, but I have only the yellow one (M. variabilis var. unipunctata), more’s the pity. Once the delicate blooms open, the first thing that strikes you is the scent. Quite heavy, perfumed and sweet. I find it very pleasant indeed and would quite happily have this species for that reason alone. Although the flowers are quite small, so is the entire plant, so they don’t appear out of proportion at all.
I grow this species in a mixture of bark chips and sphagnum moss, as I have discovered that it doesn’t react well to drying out, especially when grown warm.