Growing Ground Orchids: How To Care For Spathoglottis Garden Orchids

Growing Ground Orchids: How To Care For Spathoglottis Garden Orchids

By: Anne Baley

If you live in a warm environment such as central or southern Florida, ground orchids can do well in your flower beds almost year round. In other parts of the country, you can grow them in containers and bring them indoors when the weather begins to cool in the fall. Spathoglottis garden orchids are a terrestrial orchid, which means it developed in the soil instead of in the air on tree branches.

Growing ground orchids is not much more difficult than growing other bedding plants, and you’ll be rewarded with 2-foot (61 cm.) spikes of brightly colored flowers that bloom almost continually throughout the growing season.

What is a Spathoglottis Orchid?

What is a Spathoglottis orchid and how is it different from other potted orchids you may want to grow? These stunning plants do well in the ground, so they’re well-suited as a bedding plant in very warm environments. They make a striking landscape statement with their tall spikes and almost constant blooms.

These plants will grow to 2 feet (61 cm.) tall and will tolerate light shade to full sunlight. Spathoglottis is very forgiving, with the only crucial element they have being the air temperature around them. They like to live in the high 80s during the day and no cooler than 50 F. (10 C.) at night.

Information on Ground Orchid Care

Ground orchid care begins with the correct type of planting medium. Fortunately, these plants are relatively forgiving and can be grown in general orchid mixes or a combination of orchid mix and soilless potting mix for general potted plants.

Watering is an important concern when considering care for Spathoglottis. This plant needs its moisture, but can’t stand to have its roots constantly wet. Water the plant thoroughly, then allow the surface and top layer of the planting media to dry out before you water it again. In a protected area, it will probably need watering twice a week, but you may have to increase this in very warm or breezy areas.

Ground orchids are relatively heavy feeders and need regular fertilization. The easiest way to accomplish this is by using a timed-release orchid food and applying it every four to six months. This will avoid the feast-and-famine routine of a regular feeding schedule, and will give your plants the best amount of food to create regular blooms.

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Ground Orchids for South Florida

Spathoglottis plicata & Epidendrum radicans

Afraid to grow orchids? Try landscaping with easy care ground orchids - colorful and unusual plants for South Florida gardens.

These plants have a different look than the typical (though very beautiful) epiphytes.

But they blossom more often and have less of a learning-curve challenge, especially when planted in the right spot.

Some people say growing orchids is easy. Others say it's hard to do.

Terrestrial orchids may have complicated names but their care is anything but. Plus they're generally less expensive to buy, though they may have to be special ordered at your local nursery.

On this page we feature two types of these plants - one for shade, one for sun - each with a unique look and both are simple to care for.

Spathoglottis plicata

Spathoglottis plicata is a shade loving plant sometimes known as "Philippine Ground Orchid."

Some sources say it takes full sun, but in South Florida part shade to full shade (with bright indirect light) is best.

This plant grows about a foot tall and spreads slowly. It has the look of a wildflower with blooms in purple, peach, yellow or multi-colored.

The small and pretty blossoms appear during warm months of the year. The arched leaves have the pleated look of baby palm fronds.

Landscape uses: These ground orchids are very effective in the landscape when massed as a groundcover under trees. They also work in the front of the border, along a walk or around the base of a small palm.

Epidendrum radicans

Epidendrum radicans - sometimes called "Reed-stem Orchid" - is probably the easiest orchid to grow. It flowers on and off all year with bright orange blossoms. (They're also available in reddish-purple.)

The ideal light is partial sun to produce plenty of flowers.

Too much sun (or cold weather) can turn the leaves bronze in color - not unattractive but it indicates the plant isn't happy. Too much shade and you'll get no flowers.

The east side of the house or a spot with shade midday through mid-afternoon works well.

The plant will spread out and its foliage will show white roots trailing from the stems. this can give the plant a somewhat wild look, so it's better when used in an informal landscape.

These ground orchids are moderate growers that grow about 2-1/2 to 3 feet tall and wide.

Landscape uses: This plant functions as an accent (especially nice for color near the entry), or it can be used to line a walk, grow along a porch or deck, or surround a palm or other specimen.

Plant specs & care

Both of these plants need the warmth of Zone 10 to flourish. In Zone 9B they can be container grown and moved indoors during cold weather.

Amend the soil with top soil (or organic peat humus) for dry sandy areas.

Give these orchids a well-drained location. Water on a regular basis but don't keep the area overly wet.

Spathoglottis may need to have browned leaves trimmed off now and then. Epidendrum's flower stalks should be cut back to the ground once they're done.

Fertilize during early spring and late summer with controlled release fertilizer. You can supplement feedings with liquid fertilizer.

Plant spacing

The smaller shade orchid can be planted 12 to 15 inches apart. Come in from walks about a foot. To fill in a naturalized setting, place them in a random pattern rather than in straight rows.

The larger one should be placed about 2-1/2 to 3 feet from the nearest plant. Come in from walks and drives 3 feet, and out from the house about 2 feet.

These plants will grow in containers.



Other plants you might like: Heliconia, African Iris

Ground Orchid

Scientific Name : Spathoglottis Plicata
Family : Orchidaceae
Colour : White, Violet/Lavender, Light pink, Orange-Yellow
Common names : Ground Orchid
Colour : Throughout the year

Spathoglottis plicata or Ground orchid, native of Southeastern Asia to the Philippines, is the common species of Orchid which blooms round the year. This easily grown terrestrial herb has pretty, arching broad leaves with prominent parallel veins and a few or large cluster of small flowers at the end of a long stalk as tall as 1 metre arising from a basal leaf axil. The flowers are seen from the morecommon purple to white, yellow, peach, pink and magenta shades. and The leaves emerge from round pseudo bulbs that become increasingly multiple and larger as the orchid matures. Ground orchids can be grown as potted plants and also do well in beds and borders.

It is an easy to grow, extremely adaptable orchid which blooms round the year. Propagation of Spathoglottis plicata is by division. Many plants can be separated from the large clump and can be planted in individual pots or in ground 3 to 6 inches apart. Before planting, enrich the soil with a mixture of garden soil, dried cow dung and leaf mould. Addition of broken bricks and charcoal makes the growing medium loose for roots to spread easily.

Heavy watering is essential during the growing season but allow the plant to get almost dry before watering again. Some good fertilizer can be used to enhance its growth. The plant requires medium shade to full sun and should be watered regularly. In warm places, partial shade is ideal.

Cut off the flower stems after it finishes blooming. Remove dead or rotted foliage regularly.

Questions of Questions

I am growing an Orchid in a small pot filled with charcoal (that's how it came). It was flowering when it came, and now I see 3 new shoots emerging from the sides. How should I care for it and how much should I water it? Also, what is a good potting medium? I am living in Delhi, and currently it is monsoon season, but soon dry winters will set in.

few of my phaelanopsis orchids started to loose the topmost leaf(the blooms were present) and eventually all the leaves fell off.The roots are fine,not dry totally but will the plant grow back? what could be the problem and what do i do?

As long as the bulbs are still there and not rotten, it will still grow but takes time to wait for new leaves.

water got into the center of the plant and rotted must water from the bottom and keep tops dry and no it wont grow back

I separated my ground orchid, Spathoglottis plicata this spring as it was over crowed and it has not shown any sige of blooming, What so I need to do to encourage blooming?

Hi. I had the same problem. However, I solved it with a bi-weekly watering of a small orchid fertilizer (literally 1/8 of a teaspoon). The water itself was taken from my patio pond. I placed the plant in a high humidity area near other plants. Let the plants drain out completely between waterings. The soil mix comprised real, finely chopped coconut bark, crushed egg shells, charcoal, phosphorus, lumus soil - basically nothing compact. Watch out for mealy bugs as they love these plants.

Steps for Caring

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The best planting site for this plant is a full sunlit area in colder regions and partially shaded place for warm climatic conditions. Accordingly, select an apt plantation site in your garden. If you are growing it in a container, then the location is not an issue. You can always move a potted plant from sunlight to shade and vice versa. While planting them in garden soil, make sure you maintain a spacing of about 3 – 6 inches between two plants.

Soil Conditions

Enrich the garden soil with a heavy dose of farmyard compost or organic fertilizer. Also supplement broken charcoal, rocks, and bricks to promote healthy growth and spreading of the root system. The ideal soil pH for growing these orchids is mild acidic (pH 6.1) to neutral (pH 7.5).

Watering Frequency

During the growing season, regular watering is a must to induce maximum flower development. Nevertheless, allow the top soil layer to dry between two watering sessions. Heavy watering will cause water logging of the soil. In nature, these plants thrive well in high humidity and moist soil. Hence, you can adjust the soil and growth conditions to mimic their natural habitat.

Adding Fertilizers

Ground orchids require less efforts and care as compared to other types of orchids. As far as fertilization is concerned, supplement the soil with a slow release liquid fertilizer in appropriate dosage before the flower buds have developed. Also, do not forget to irrigate the plants on a regular basis after adding fertilizers. This will promote absorption of the nutrients by the root system.

Other Care Instructions

A major concern with these plants is that they cannot tolerate extreme cold weather conditions (below 40º F). If you are residing in a cold area, make arrangements for protection of the plants in the winter season. One solution is to transfer the orchids into pots and bring them inside the house. During flowering season, remove dead stems and flowers to promote production of more flower buds.

When your ground orchids are well established and matured, you can consider propagating them by division method. To do this, divide the large parent plant into smaller clumps without injuring the roots, and plant each individual clump into separate pots, or in ground soil.

Ground Orchids Spathoglottis Hybrids

Spathoglottis is a genus of tropical terrestial orchids that are native in regions from Sri Lanka and South East Asia to the Pacific islands. There are about 45 species of spathoglottis growing in diverse habitats in South East Asia, India, New Caledonia, Tonga, Solomon Islands and Cape York Peninsular, Australia. I'm sure you can find it in Hawaii, Florida and other tropical and sub-tropical USA regions too.

Spathoglottis orchids are easy to cultivate here and sought after for their pretty flowers and evergreen foliage. Leaves are long, slender and parallel-veined. This orchid is used as a ground cover in tropical landscaped gardens and it can also be grown in a container as a houseplant.

Botanical name: Spathoglottis hybrids
Common name: Garden orchid, boat orchid, ground orchid, Philippines ground orchid, palm orchid*
Family: Orchidaceae

* info, thanks to James Missier of Garden Chronicles blog.

Spathoglottis orchids prefer well drained loamy soil. Water them regularly but do not overwater. Here they grow well in light shade to full sun exposure. I think their biggest enemy is the white mealy bugs that forms in clusters behind the leaves.

I have this magenta or pinkish purple Spathoglottis plicata in my garden.

Spathoglottis plicata is listed as vulnerable in Australia.

In Malaysia, we used to find this orchid in many homes in the kampungs and villages. In my next post about other ground orchids, I shall share more about these simple, pretty orchids, and my special orchid.

I am very eager to know if you are growing these ground orchids in your climate zone. Do share your experience in a comment here.

Note: The pinkish-yellow and white spathoglottis pictures are taken at The Secret Garden of 1-Utama while the purple one in the last picture is from my garden.

My post today is dedicated to Ms Sunny from USA, of Barnyards and Barnacles - An America Photo Journey blog. She was the first commenter of my previous post, tittled " Datura metel - Wordless Wednesday". She has a great blog full of beautiful, beautiful pictures which I have already found and admired even before joining Blotanical. I am so glad she still visits and comments on my blog. Yay, yay, yay :).

This is my entry for Blooming Friday, 3rd week of February 2010. The theme this week is "Eye Candy for the Weekend." My grateful thanks to Katarina at Roses and Stuff for hosting Blooming Friday. To see what others have posted or to participate, click here . This is also my entry for Today's Flowers #81. My grateful thanks to the TF folks: Santilli, Denise, Pupo and Valkyrien for hosting Today's Flowers. To participate or view other floral displays around the world, click here .

Grower’s Tips

Given lots of fertilizer and nutrition, light, and warmth, Spathoglottis orchids will generally reward you with bright flowers about six to seven months after initial planting. Keep them out of frost, and plant them in a peat-based, well-drained, organic soil mix. During the growing season in spring, they will need to be watered more heavily. Make sure to remove dead foliage to give the plant space to grow, as well.

Spathoglottis make good beginner orchids because of their ease new gardeners looking for introductory orchids would do well to start here.