Kew Orchid Festival: Celebrate the colour of Colombia

9 February to 10 March 2019

Release date: 9 January 2019

  • Kew’s first ever orchid festival on the theme of Colombia
  • Over 4000 orchid species are found in Colombia - more than anywhere else in the world
  • Dazzling displays inspired by Colombia’s wildlife and plant diversity
  • Festival to showcase Kew’s vital science work in Colombia to protect biodiversity
  • Carnival music, street food, coffee and crafts during half term and after-hours events

Colombia’s landscape is as diverse as the flora and fauna that inhabit it, from tropical beaches to snow-capped mountains and everything in between. Home to more orchid species than anywhere else in the world, Colombia’s unparalleled biodiversity and vibrant culture is the inspiration for Kew’s 24th annual orchid festival in February 2019. 

Stepping into the Princess of Wales Conservatory, visitors will find themselves transported to an entrancing paradise evoking the sights, smells and sounds of Colombia. The experience is an immersive journey through the different zones of the glasshouse where visitors will encounter staggeringly beautiful displays representing aspects of Colombian wildlife and culture. Over 6,200 orchids will feature in the festival including the exquisite Flor de Mayo (Cattleya trianae), Colombia’s national flower. 

Colombia is famed for its wildlife diversity and boasts the greatest number of bird species of any country in the world. To celebrate this, the central display of the festival will be a ‘carnival of animals’ depicting a toucan in flight, a hanging sloth and swimming turtle, all composed of stunning orchids, bromeliads and other tropical plants.

A breath-taking cascade of hundreds of colourful hanging vandas will represent Colombia’s famous rainbow river, Caño Cristales, and visitors will also delight in an enchanting forest scene complete with life-sized jaguars. Elsewhere, a dazzling display of hundreds of colourful butterflies will be suspended from the glasshouse ceiling, and an intricate, golden floating display bursting with bright yellow orchids in the glasshouse pond will depict the legend of El Dorado.

To capture the essence of the festival, Kew has also enlisted the help of a Colombian multidisciplinary artist, Vanessa Moncayo González, who has transformed the glasshouse film room into with colourful Boyacá-style street-art murals. Another Colombian artist, Omar Castañeda, has created exquisite original sculptures that will feature in a 'treasures of Colombia' display alongside Colombian orchids from Kew's collections.

The festival will also feature a number of traditional artisanal objects from different regions of Colombia provided by Artesanias de Colombia, Tu Taller Design, Yurupari Grupo Folclorico, in collaboration of the Embassy of Colombia in London.   

Kew has worked closely with the Colombian Embassy in London and Procolombia to bring to life some of Colombia’s rich culture at the festival. The Ambassador of Colombia to the UK, Néstor Osorio Londoño says:

“Building on our ongoing scientific collaboration, we have once more, partnered with Kew Gardens to celebrate Colombia’s biodiversity through this magnificent orchid festival. An opportunity for visitors from around the world to experience Colombia through the colours, scents and exuberance of the orchid, our national flower “.

Elisa Biondi, Supervisor of the Princess of Wales Conservatory says:

Colombia has formed a unique inspiration for the next orchid festival at Kew. The Princess of Wales Conservatory will be transformed by awe-inspiring orchid displays that will showcase Colombia’s biodiversity and Kew’s work in the country to help to protect, conserve and study its plants.” 

Entry to the orchid festival is included in the standard ticket to the Gardens. Throughout the festival, there will also be an exciting programme of events and activities featuring Colombian music, dance and cuisine.  

Kew Science in Colombia

Kew is a global leader in plant and fungal science and this year’s festival will also showcase some of its ground-breaking work with Colombia to help identify, protect and promote the country’s biodiversity. Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world, only behind Brazil (which is seven times larger than Colombia). Over 6,000 endemic plant species, found nowhere else on Earth, have been identified in Colombia (the UK has fewer than 100).

Since the signing of the peace accord between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla group, huge areas of the country previously unknown to science are now waiting to be explored. Working with their Colombian counterparts, Kew’s scientists are undertaking intrepid field trips to discover new plants, aid conservation efforts, and promote sustainable development in the country.

Orchids After Hours

For six evenings only, visitors can experience a taste of Colombia after dark at Kew. As night falls, the carnival atmosphere will be in full swing with Latin big band and tropical fusion music raising the roof of the glasshouse.

Guests can craft their own floral headdress or mask, sample authentic Colombian coffee, try their hand at Colombian dancing, and tuck into classic street food. All while sipping on a delicious Colombia-inspired cocktail from the pop-up bar.

Short talks from horticulturists who created the orchid displays, and from Kew’s own intrepid Colombian scientists, will uncover the mysteries behind the fascinating family of orchids.

Orchids After Hours will run on 14, 15, 28 February and 1, 7, 8 March 2019 at 6pm and 7:30pm.

Tickets are £18 and must be bought online in advance from  

February Half Term

La Batalla de Flores (Battle of the Flowers), part of the Barranquilla Carnival, will serve as the theme for the half term activities on offer for families. The annual festival in Barranquilla is the second largest carnival in the world (surpassed only by Rio) with thousands flocking to the city each year for four days of music, dance and fun. Carnival workshops during half term will feature flower costume making, drumming, and dancing, with an hourly carnival parade leading to the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

Half term activities will run from 16 – 24 February 2019, 10:30 – 16:00 daily.

Tours of the Tropical Nursery

The festival will offer the chance to go behind the scenes in Kew’s Tropical Nursery where thousands of rare and exotic plants are cultivated and nurtured by Kew’s horticulturalists across 25 different climatic zones. The nursery plays a key role in not only supplying the plants seen on display in the glasshouses, but also contributes towards Kew’s vital conservation efforts and scientific research.

Orchid Nursery tours will run on Thursdays throughout the festival at 12.45, 13.30 and 14.15.

General Tropical Nursery tours will run on Saturdays at 12.45, 13.30 and 12.15.

Tickets are £10 and must be booked online in advance from 


For images and more information please contact the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Press Office on 020 8332 5607 or email