The Peacock Orchid Is Fragrant, Beautiful, And Little Known
Look at a few photos of the peacock orchid and you'll see what you've been missing these many years. The peacock orchid is becoming more and more well known due to its stunning beauty and equality wonderful fragrance. The fragrance, as pleasing as it is for most, is so strong as to be almost overpowering to some people. You might want to take that into account before planting an entire bed of the flowers.
Not Really An Orchid - Do some research on the peacock orchid and one of the first things you'll find out, and often repeated, is that the plant is not an orchid at all, but a member of the gladiolus family. The botanical name (Gladiolus callianthis) tells you that. The Scientific name for the plant is Acidanthera. It is no doubt called an orchid because it resembles an orchid, much more so than a gladiolus.
The peacock orchid is a native of east Africa, growing in locations where winters are warm. This can present a challenge to growers in Europe or North America, as the plant requires a long growing season and cannot tolerate frost or cold. In the United States, it is grown either as a tender perennial or as an annual. In some southern states the plant's corms can overwinter where they were planted, but in most of the country the corms either need to be dug up in the fall, or you simply purchase new corms come spring. In areas where the winters are either warm or very mild, the peacock orchid will naturalize when left alone. In clusters it is an extremely attractive and showy plant. You can plant it along borders, in beds, or in clusters. The plant reaches a height of 2 to 3 feet, so is best planted behind other flowers in the garden. You'll want several plants, as it blooms all summer long and makes a great cut flower. A hint: when planting in small clusters, plant an odd number of bulbs. The plant doesn't care, but an odd number gives a nicer looking cluster. It's hard to be creative with a cluster of 2 or 4. You can also plant the peacock orchid in containers where it will look fantastic in combination with other types of plants.
Planting Guidelines - The peacock orchid is planted from corms. The corms need to be placed in the soil 5 months or 20 weeks before the expected blooming period. If you live in an area with a moderate to short growing season, you may wish to start the plants indoors. Generally speaking, if you start them indoors about 5 weeks before planning to set them out, everything should work out about right. Just start them where they'll get plenty of light. After the date of last frost the plants can be transplanted to their permanent outdoor location. If there's a chance for a late frost where you live, mulch the plants fairly heavily to protect them. Plant in a location where they'll get at least 6 hours of full sun each day, in soil that has good drainage, and is mildly acidic with a pH in the range from 6.1 to 7.0.
The corms need to be placed 3 inches deep and 3 to 4 inches apart. Once planted, keep the soil moist though not soggy. A little mulch will help here. The peacock orchid needs to be watered fairly regularly until it sets blooms, at which time watering can taper off. Once the plant begins to die back it requires watering only sparingly. The corms do best when they are allowed to dry out over the winter. If you do choose to dig the corms up, store them in dry sand in a place where the temperature will be 60 degrees or slightly higher.
If the growing conditions in your area are at all reasonable, the peacock orchid is easy to grow. Besides its beautiful blossoms and wonderful fragrance, the plant has another plus. Deer don't like the taste of it.