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Bletilla striata – Hardy Orchid

Categories:For the Shade Garden Perennials Rare Plants

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I included Bletilla striata, common name hardy orchid or Chinese ground orchid, in for those who might enjoy growing an orchid in their gardens. Bletilla striata is a bona fide orchid, a member of the Orchidaceae family. Bletilla striata is native to China, Japan, and Tibet.

Bletilla striata is generally recognized as being one of the first orchids grown in cultivation in England.

Bletilla striata - Chinese ground orchid
Bletilla striata is an orchid that can be grown in the garden.

The photographs here make the flowers look huge. They are not huge, maybe 1″-1 1/2″. They do look like small Cattleya orchid flowers. The color of the hardy orchid’s flowers is spectacular, ranging from lavender to pink to vivid purple depending on the light. Hardy orchid blooms in April and May, and the photographs included here have caught Chinese ground orchid nearing the end of this season’s flowering.

Bletilla striata, hardy orchid, is best in lightly shaded garden spots.

Hardy orchid’s flowers shine best in light to medium shade…not the crushing shade of deep forest or woodland. Morning sun and afternoon shade or filtered light all day will allow hardy orchid to grow at its best, and the flowers will show better as well.

The leaves are strap-like and remind me of cast iron plant, albeit healthier looking. Bletilla striata is not considered fragrant. It grows about 18″ high. Chinese ground orchid will slowly spread and colonize the area around it. It is not invasive nor aggressive.

Chinese ground orchid - Blitella striata
Hardy orchid (Bletilla striata) in the garden.

Many orchids are epiphytes. One of the qualities of epiphytes is they do not root in soil. Chinese ground orchid grows in soil, as it is not an epiphyte. Soil should be moist and well-drained. Hardy orchid is a pseudobulb. Bulbs and corms will rot in soil that is poorly drained.

Orchids don’t need much fertilizer…keep it light or non-existent. Bletilla striata also prefers moisture in the soil. If it gets dry in your area, you may need to supplement by watering.

Hardy orchid is winter hardy zones 5-9, although the Missouri Botanical Garden reports hardy orchid may not be reliably hardy in parts of zone 5. It is recommended gardeners in zone 5 heavily mulch hardy orchid. In zone 6 and warmer, a light mulch will protect Chinese ground orchid through winter.


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