Masdevallia nidifica, the “Nesting Masdevallia,” is an adorable super-mini species from Central and South America that grows warm to cool. I can’t tell you how great this guy is: he’s very compact, grows great mounted (I prefer it this way for floral display) or potted, and the flowers just cover the plant. He actually stays in my boiling hot greenhouse (in low light) all summer and doesn’t care. He may be the cutest of the masdevallias and certainly one of the easiest.
Masdevallia is a New World genus named for Dr. Jose Masdeval, a Spanish botanist in the time of Charles III, and comprised of about 600 miniature to medium sized epiphytic or lithophytic species from Mexico to the southern Andes. Like their close relative the draculas (for example Dracula andreettae), masdevallias have creeping rhizomes and an inflorescence that arises from an annulus, but it’s the structure of the flower that really stands out. The sepals are fused into a tube, of sorts, and the petals stand out in various triangular arrangements. Colors range from white to yellow to brilliant reds and purples. It is hard to pick favorites.
Being mostly from montane cloud forest, Masdevallia is generally considered a cool grower; however, there are species that grow naturally in intermediate and even warm conditions, like Masdevallia cuprea, M. ayabacana, M. discoidea, and M. herradurae. In my experience, most (if not all) can tolerate temperatures in the 80’s and even 90’s if they are kept in the shade, and they grow well in pots with sphagnum or small bark mix (I favor moss). They like low light, high humidity and watering throughout the year but be careful not to overwater. I grow mine in net or closed pots with sphagnum moss, and I keep them in intermediate (when it’s cooler) to low (when it’s warmer) light.