Bletilla: hardy and easy to grow ground orchids

Whereas Pleione Orchid is often called Crocus Orchid, Bletilla Orchid is another easy-growing terrestrial, sometimes called Hyacinth Orchid for its superficial resemblance to these popular vernal plants. Besides the fact that Bletilla orchids are extremely decorative and lovely, they are also fragrant and they are hardy – yes, you hear it right. They can grow both indoors in a pot and in your garden if the frost is not very strong or prolonged. So, Bletilla orchids are an excellent choice for those, who’d like to grow some undemanding orchids on their windowsill, as well as for those, who’d like to grow them outside, hence another common name Urn Orchid.

Bletilla orchids are related to both Coelogyne and Pleione orchids, but do not bear many similarities in their form. They are terrestrials from Asia (most common in cultivation species Bletilla striata is often called Chinese Hardy Orchid for their origin, though they grow in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Okinawa, not only in China), and they are sympodial plants. Their pseudobulbs are located below ground level and resemble forms of ornamental bulbous plants, hence the name Hyacinth Orchid. They have deciduous leaves and flowers, born in racemes. There are only five currently recognized species in this genus, including popular Bletilla striata, which comes in two colors – purple and alba variety, Bletilla ochracea with yellow flowers, and Bletilla formosana with lovely pink flowers.

The indoor cultivation of Bletilla orchids is quite simple. These orchids need dry and cool winter rest (you can use a refrigerator to mimic winter), and when new growth is visible just move it to a bright windowsill and start to water it and use fertilizers. When actively growing, Bletilla orchid tolerates a wide range of temperatures from intermediate to warm, so it is perfectly suited to nearly any windowsill. The light should be bright, without direct sunlight – so, it doesn’t demand high light levels. The potting mixture is as for terrestrial orchid – sphagnum, cocoa chips, debris, bark, perlite and some soil, but some grow Bletilla in a pure soil for African Violets. When these plants are growing outside it is even easier to grow – just plant them in a shady place in your garden and regularly water them and they will grow and bloom in spring with lovely, fragrant flowers. It is hardy enough to withstand winters in most regions with sufficient protection from frost.



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