Terrestrial Orchid Info: What Are Terrestrial Orchids


By: Jackie Carroll

Orchids have a reputation for being tender, temperamental plants, but this isn’t always true. Growing terrestrial orchids successfully depends on finding the right location and keeping the soil moisture just right. Read on to find out how to provide the right environment for your orchid.

What are Terrestrial Orchids?

The two main categories of orchids are epiphytic and terrestrial. Epiphytic orchids generally grow in trees, clinging to the branches with their tough roots. Terrestrial orchids grow on the ground. Some have roots that spread in the soil, but most grow from pseudobulbs.

Some terrestrial orchids need a frost free environment, while others tolerate frost. Some species actually need a hard freeze in winter in order to bloom the following year. Called hardy orchids, some of these cold-weather types are deciduous, losing their leaves in winter and growing new ones in spring.

Terrestrial Orchid Info

There are over 200 species of terrestrial orchids and like other plants, their care varies from species to species. While we can make some general assumptions about orchids, refer to the plant tag or catalog description to make sure you can provide the right care for your species.

Some terrestrial orchids form pseudobulbs at the base of the plant. These structures store water and the soil for these types should be allowed to dry out slightly before you water them. Others grow on shallow roots that need frequent watering to keep the soil moist. All orchids need more water when they are actively growing and flowering and less moisture in winter.

Most orchids need bright light. A sunny windowsill is ideal for indoor orchids. Orchids accustomed to outdoor conditions need a partly sunny site. If the leaves bleach out, the orchid is getting too much light. The foliage is normally light to medium green and if it becomes dark green, the plant is getting too much light. Reddish edges on the leaves mean that the plant is getting about all the light it can stand.

Care of Hardy Terrestrial Orchids

Pay careful attention to your plant tag before planting terrestrial orchids. You can move them, but they are more likely to thrive if you get it right the first time. If you aren’t sure, planting hardy orchids in containers makes them easier to move around until the foliage tells you that you have found the right site. You can leave the orchid in the container if you’d like, but sink it into the ground before winter.

Weeding terrestrial orchids requires a little special care. Orchid roots are shallow and it’s easy to pull up the orchid when you pull up a nearby weed. Hold down the orchid with one hand while you pull the weed with the other.

Orchids need less fertilizer than other plants. In good garden soil, they probably won’t need any fertilizer at all. In poor soil, feed orchids with an orchid fertilizer or a general purpose liquid fertilizer mixed at one-quarter strength.

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Terrestrial Orchids

Terrestrial Orchids are also referred to as ground orchids. They are orchids that grows on the ground rather then clinging to stones or trees. Most orchids are Epiphytic, IE they grow on trees or in some cases rock surfaces. They use their roots to attach themselves to a tree or a rock. Most people think about Epiphytic orchids when they think about orchids. This is understandable considering that many of the most popular types of orchids including Phalaenopsis and Cattleya are epiphytic orchids.

Terrestrial orchids can however be just as interesting and just as beautiful as epiphytic orchids. There are more than 200 species of terrestrial orchids. This might sound like a lot but the orchid family has more than 28 000 recognized species. Less then 1% of all orchid species are terrestrial.


How to Grow Orchids Outside

Last Updated: November 15, 2020 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Monique Capanelli. Monique Capanelli is a Plant Specialist and the Owner and Designer for Articulture Designs, an innovative design firm and boutique in Austin, Texas. With over 15 years of experience, Monique specializes in interior botanical design, living walls, event decor, and sustainable landscape design. She attended the University of Texas at Austin. Monique is a Certified Permaculture Designer. She provides plant and botanical design experiences, from small gifts to entire transformations, to shoppers as well as commercial clients including Whole Foods Market and The Four Seasons.

There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

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If you want to grow orchids outside, there are some fairly simple steps you'll need to take. You'll have to find out which orchids will grow in your region and climate. You'll also need to regulate shade and water to help the orchid grow. While the most common method is to grow orchids in pots, you can also grow them in the ground, in raised beds, or even on trees.


Terrestrial Orchids

Most ground orchids still don't grow in dirt! Bogs, leaf litter, and clumps of moss are more common. So they should still have a freely draining, airy potting mix. But it should have considerably smaller particles than you'd use for epiphytes. A mixture of equal parts sand, sphagnum moss, and gravel or fine-grade fir bark is a good starting point. Some plants like to be kept moist, while others come from drier climates adjust the water-retentiveness of the potting mix accordingly. For example, Cypripedium s come from bogs, and can tolerate a somewhat denser mix, so recommend equal parts sand and peat. (There are more instructions on the Cypripedium page.)

Some of these plants don't like their roots disturbed. For these, use potting mixes that last a number of years before they break down! Inorganic components, such as sand, gravel, perlite, and lava rock last practically forever. Peat also lasts well, because it has preservative properties: long-dead people are sometimes discovered sunk in peat bogs, undecayed!

As with all orchids, the key to growing these is to reproduce their natural habitats. Mimic the sorts of materials they'd be growing in naturally, and they'll do well.


Growing Hardy Orchids

Growing Hardy Orchids

This is a book for adventurous gardeners with an appreciation for temperate orchid species and native wildflowers. A surprising number of terrestrial orchids are hardy, some able to withstand temperatures down to minus 50°F or minus 45.5°C. Though they have a reputation for being challenging to cultivate, in truth, most hardy orchids are no more so than a rose.

his is great news for gardeners, who will enjoy filling their gardens with their enchanting fragrances, vibrant color displays, and long-lived blooms. At the center of the book is a catalog of 103 hardy and half-hardy orchids. In addition to detailing the techniques of cultivation and propagation, the book covers conservation and includes lists of suppliers and organizations offering nursery-propagated plants-an especially critical issue for species in danger of extinction.

Author: John Tullock,
Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated 2005-07-01


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.


Watch the video: Seed pod on terrestrial orchid - Phaius tankervilleae


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