How to Grow a Ground Orchid
Many people think that orchids are just too hard to grow, but the ground orchid (Spathoglottis Plicata) does not require the same time and attention of some of the other orchid varieties. It can be grown in an ordinary outside flower garden because, unlike air orchids which are grown in trees, it grows in the earth like other plants. You can grow a ground orchid in a pot inside the house as well.
There are actually a couple of different types of ground orchids, the Bletilla striata or Chinese ground orchid, and Spathoglottis plicata, just known as ground orchid. The ground orchid originated in the Philippines and Southeast Asia and now is grown throughout Florida and Hawaii. One of the reasons they are very popular is that in these warm climates, the ground orchid can flower just about year-round.
You can grow this orchid in a normal flower bed or in pots. Propagating the plant is done by division; you can start out by growing your first ground orchid and then separate plants from your original clump. You can buy tubers at the gardening store or nursery as well. If not growing them in pots, you can plant the orchids between three and six inches apart in your garden bed.
The ground orchid does not need full sun and will actually perform better in partial shade. They need a lot of water, particularly when they are flowering. They are the type of plant where you can let the top dry out before watering. These Spathoglottis come in a variety of colors, including yellow, orange, white, pink, lavender and violet.
The Chinese ground orchid has small flowers in the two inch range and grows to be around one foot high. They are much more adaptable to cold than a lot of the orchids that prefer zone 11. In fact, they can be grown down to USDA hardiness zone 6 without much trouble. They will die back in the colder climates and bloom year-round in the warmer ones. If you do live in a colder zone, you should heavily mulch these plants for the winter. Gardeners who live furthest north will want to dig up the bulbs, bring them inside in the winter and then replant them in the spring. When it gets down into the twenties, it is too cold for this plant.
When you first plant your Chinese ground orchid, make sure that you add lots of organic matter to the soil. Moist, cool and shady conditions are not what you normally look for when growing orchids but they are good for this one. In fact, too much sun and heat and the plant can actually burn. There is a big difference between six to eight hours of full sun and the same amount of time in indirect light and partial shade. Aim for the latter when growing a ground orchid.
Over-watering, as with many other kinds of plants, can cause the rot diseases to move in and cause illness. If you start your tubers in a pot, a little moss or rocks in the bottom can help keep it dry and the roots healthy. You can transplant the orchids to serve as ground cover or to make a border of a driveway or walkway. You should remove any dead flowers and stems to keep the plants producing as long as possible.
Like the ground orchid, the Chinese ground orchid can be brought to full bloom inside as well as outside. A blooming orchid in winter is sure to be a great topic of conversation. And, you don’t have to let on how easy they are to grow.