Story by Russell Studebaker
One doesn’t usually think of orchids growing outside in Oklahoma; however, the hardy Chinese orchid is an exception, and after a few years, clumps of this perennial can become so vigorous in the garden that division may become necessary. Some years ago, I saw a planting in Tulsa that had was 3 feet wide and 5 feet long.
This hardy orchid produces many flowering spikes per clump and will have open flowers on each spike at the time of flowering. The flowers begin opening on the lowest part to the stems and proceed upward. Individual flowers on orchids have a long life; therefore, the plant is showy for many weeks in the garden.
Quick Facts and Keys to Success
Common Name: Chinese ground orchid
Botanical Name: Bletilla striata
Type: Hardy herbaceous perennial from a tuberous rhizome
Height: 12-18 inches
Flowers: Pinkish purple (‘Alba’ has white flowers), 1½-2-inches wide; six to 12 flowers per spike
Bloom Time: April into May
Foliage: Light green, pleated, linear, and palm-like; 8 inches or longer, 1½-2-inches wide; yellow fall foliage
Pests: Sometimes bothered by slugs, but no major pests.
Exposure: Sun with afternoon shade; partial shade
Planting: Plant 1 inch deep, 1 foot apart
Soil: Well drained, loose, organic, and moist; not suited to dry conditions.
Maintenance: A layer of organic mulch in fall helps delay spring growth and protects emerging flower spikes from frost. Divide and transplant only when dormant.
In the Landscape: As an accent plant, in rock gardens, in a flower border
Sources: Brent and Becky’s Bulbs: brentandbeckysbulbs.com, 877-661-2852