Dazzling Disas

Reading time 4 minutes


Being a man of the world, it takes quite a lot to impress me. Yet Dave Parkinson’s display of South African disa orchids at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show never fails to take my breath away. The shocking vitality of the shades displayed in the flowers of these remarkable little plants is off the scale. Be it magenta, coral, tangerine, sunshine yellow or lipstick-pink there’s a diminutive disa to belt out every saturated, eye-popping shade one can imagine.


Disa orchids, Dave Parksinson Plants, Hampton Court 2016


Disas are terrestrial, moisture loving orchids, native to Table Mountain where they are found growing near springs and streams with their roots in cool water and heads in the clouds. Flowers, each with three prominent petals, appear to be upside down and are held singly or in clusters on short stems, depending on the species. The leaves are elongated and grassy.


Disa "Foam", Dave Parksinson Plants, Hampton Court 2016


Should you fancy growing disas at home, the first piece of advice is to forget everything you know about growing other kinds of orchids. Disas will die if they dry out and do not like to be too warm. On Table Mountain disas are sometimes found completely submerged in water, or at the very least in places where they are constantly wet. In the house or cool greenhouse they must be watered at daily and with pure, soft, unchlorinated water. They can be left standing in trays of water without any ill effects. However, disas cannot stand hard water and other pollutants, including concentrated fertilisers. Any plant food must be delivered highly diluted.


Disa orchids, Dave Parksinson Plants, Hampton Court 2016


Dave Parkinson suggests planting in a mix of 60% coarse peat and 40% super coarse perlite and warns against any form of pre-mixed orchid or potting compost which is likely to be far too rich. Disas like to be cool but cannot withstand subzero temperatures: they need a frost-free greenhouse or unheated spare room with good light. Disas make ideal gifts for anyone who collects rainwater, is stingy with heating and a bit heavy-handed with the watering. Me? I am happy enough to leave all the hard work to Dave Parkinson and simply enjoy having my socks knocked off by his incredible display once a year.

To find out more about how to grow dazzling disa orchids take a look at Dave Parkinson Plants’ website.


Disa orchids, Dave Parksinson Plants, Hampton Court 2016






Categories: Flower Shows, Flowers, Photography, Plants

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

Greetings Garden Lover! Welcome to my blog. Plants are my passion and this is my way of sharing that joyful emotion with the world. You'll find over 1000 posts here featuring everything from abutilons to zinnias. If you've enjoyed what you've read, please leave a comment and consider subscribing using the yellow 'Follow' button in the bottom, right-hand corner of your screen. You will receive an email every time I post something new.

Leave a Reply

7 comments On "Dazzling Disas"

  1. All the colors presented together are a bit overwhelming for me, but the individual colors themselves are fabulous. I especially like the use of ferns and rock in the display. The bicolor white and pink has a very interesting form. In the bottom photo you can see the upper petal (or is it a sepal?) has a hooded shape with a bit of a spur on the back. It’s very unique and interesting. The yellow seems to be the same. Are they all like that?

    1. Yes, this seems to be a distinctive trait of the disas. I imagine the ferns and rocks are intended to evoke the orchids’ natural habitat and help to take some of the heat out of the display.

  2. There’s a chance I may have averted my eyes from Disas until last year, as I’ve only just noticed them which makes me think how much of a sea change I’ve gone through. They are the kind of flower you see, go ‘Oh wow!’, then think ‘I won’t get a decent picture of that!’ yet the camera captures them surprisingly well as your lovely shots show.

    Your ideal recipient of a Disa does sound like a bit of a rare breed. I’d agree that some plants are like grandchildren – much better when you can enjoy them and rely on someone else for their daily upkeep.

  3. Emailing from Cape Town, where Disa’s are indigenous … 🙂 love them! I would love to find out where I could get the first image from if possible? I would like to enlarge it for an accent wall in a reception area?
    Any idea how I could get in touch with someone who has the image in hi resolution?

    Crossing fingers I hear from someone.

    Kind regards

    Liesl van Rensburg, Cape Town

Follow The Frustrated Gardener and have new posts sent directly to your inbox

Join 8,218 other subscribers

Wordpress users click to subscribe here

Follow The Frustrated Gardener