INFORMATION ABOUT HARDY ORCHID…
By: Nikki Phipps
Image by Col Ford and Natasha de Vere The Hardy Orchid (Bletilla striata) is a terrestrial orchid originating from southern Japan and China. In Japan the species is called shi-ran, meaning purple orchid, while in China it is known as pai chi or Chinese Ground Orchid.
Bletilla is a genus of nine species that grow from rhizomes. The hardy orchid forms clusters of long, pointy, sword-like leaves and flowers, which look similar to miniature Cattleyas (corsage orchids), that remain partially closed.
The blooms are usually anywhere from a pale pink to deep fuchsia or purple; however, a white variant also exists in cultivation called Bletilla striata‘Alba’. Another interesting version is Albostriata Bletilla, which has white-edged leaves and purple flowers. Hardy orchids bloom in spring or early summer and can reach anywhere from 2-3 feet in height.
Hardy orchids are elegant in both foliage and flower. These plants are very easy to grow and can be planted in outdoor beds or pots. Hardy orchid makes an excellent accent in woodland gardens. Contrast the bold leaves with fine textures, such as ferns.
Hardy orchids will also work well in shady areas alongside sedges, hellebores, and other shade-loving perennials. Shrubs are excellent companions as well. These plants are especially stunning in containers placed in the garden or patio.
Hardy orchids prefer to be located in shaded areas and should be planted in autumn in moist, well-drained, humus-rich soil. The rhizomes should be planted just at the surface of the soil, deeper in colder climates. In addition, mulch heavily with composted pine bark or other suitable mulch for winter protection.
Although the plants are quite hardy, these orchids should still be protected from hard freezes. The mulch can be removed in the spring. If grown in containers, hardy orchids should be kept indoors for over wintering.
Also during this time watering should be reduced (even withheld) until the first signs of new growth in spring. Give hardy orchids ample water while growing but allow them to dry between watering intervals.
Hardy orchids grow quickly, with many new growths produced each year. Hardy orchids can be easily propagated by dividing the fleshy tubers (or rhizomes) in the fall.
Hardy orchid has been cultivated as a medicinal plant. In Vietnam, the rhizome is used to treat tuberculosis and other pulmonary diseases, as well as to relieve pain from burns. There is an unknown component in the rhizome that also promotes the clotting of the blood.