Most gardeners are familiar with the beautiful tropical orchids that are grown indoors in our area but did you know that there are some beautiful perennial orchids that will grow and thrive in your perennial beds? Hardy Orchid or Chinese Ground Orchid, Bletilla striata, is an under-used but easy to grow hardy orchid that will bloom profusely in your garden for up to six weeks each spring.
The small graceful, lightly scented flowers of Bletilla striata are a beautiful soft lavender-rose and have unusual pleated tongues. Deep purple flower scapes rise from the attractive foliage and bear racemes of up to ten individual flowers. The great abundance of these flowering stems creates a stunning show when Bletilla is planted en masse in a part shade perennial border or in a woodland garden setting.
Bletilla forms an attractive clump with broad, arching, ribbed foliage which adds texture to the garden from spring through frost. The slow spreading clumps reach about 18" in height and are covered from May through June with a profusion of flower stems and beautiful, brightly colored blooms. Give this wonderful terrestrial orchid a prominent place in your garden where you can enjoy it close up - it will dazzle you with its uniqueness and exotic flowers for years to come!
Bletilla grows best in well-drained, humusy soil that is kept moist but not wet. Plant in partial shade where it receives morning sun. A woodland garden or part shade rock garden is the perfect setting. Bletilla also grows well in containers. It is hardy in Zones 6-9 and will grow well in Zone 5 if provided with winter protection.