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What Are Ground Orchids?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 12 August 2014
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Ground orchids are orchids which grow in the soil, rather than in the air, like the epiphytic orchids with which many people are more familiar. A number of orchid species grow in the ground, with Bletilla striata and Spathoglottis plicata being two popular ornamental cultivars. People who are interested in growing these orchids can find them at some nurseries and garden supply stores, or they can order them from specialty growers.

These plants produce pseudobulbs from which the leaves and flowers develop. The leaves tend to be spear-like and deep green, and can be quite long in some species. The flowers emerge in a cluster on a long stalk, and they may be purple, white, yellow, or variegated, with some cultivars coming in more exotic shades. Most species are native to Southeast Asia, with Borneo being a region which is particularly famous for its ground orchids.

Like other orchids, ground orchids have evolved to prefer the environment of the tropical and subtropical rainforest. They prefer damp, humid conditions which reflect their natural environment, and they like to be grown in partial shade. Full sun is too intense for these orchids. These orchids are less fussy about having wet roots than orchids which have developed to grow in the air, but they can develop mold and mildew if they are allowed to stay wet for too long.

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Some cultivars are very fragile, and will only grow well in zone 11 or in well-controlled greenhouses. Others may thrive well through zone six. Chinese ground orchids are famously hardy, with delicate flowers and leaves which can be quite charming in the garden. People may also see ground orchids labeled as yellow, purple, Bornean, or Philippine ground orchids in a nursery. Rather than relying on common names, gardeners should find out about the scientific name of an orchid so that they can get proper directions about its care.

In addition to being grown outdoors in the garden, ground orchids can also be cultivated indoors. They can be less challenging to grow than epiphytic orchids because they do not require a highly specialized planting mix and attentive care. Like their canopy dwelling cousins, when ground orchids are grown indoors, they should be kept out of direct sunlight and provided with ample bright ambient light. If a house is particularly dark, it may be necessary to use a grow light to coax ground orchids into thriving.

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