Terrestrial Orchids

Terrestrial Pleione Orchid
Terrestrial Pleione Orchid

Terrestrial Orchids (ground orchids) are a large and varied group of orchids that grow in the ground.

Some terrestrial orchid species are very hardy and can easily be grown in the perennial garden.

Although cymbidium orchids are probably the best known and widely grown of all the terrestrial (or semi terrestrial) orchids however many other fascinating species are included in the group.

Growing Terrestrial Orchids

Some terrestrial orchids seem to grow best in pots in cultivation however you will find that well known species such as Bletilla, Phaius, Calopogon, Pachystoma, Pogonia as well as Cypripedium can also be grown in the ground in the perennial garden given appropriate conditions and care .

The cool growing terrestrial Pleione species includes Pleione pricei and formosa.

Tropical terrestrial orchids include species such Phaius tankervilliae or ‘nun’s orchid’ originally from China and South East Asia. Tall flower spikes in spring are very attractive, can be grown in the ground in warmer climates however they are usually grown in containers in cultivation especially in cooler areas.

Terrestrial Orchid Varieties

Some examples of Terrestrial orchids are listed below.

  • Arundina species (bamboo orchid) such as Arundina graminifolia are again from Tropical Asia. The long stems (up to 2m) hold flowers erect in summer through to autumn.
  • Ludisia discolor or ‘black jewel orchid’ is another clumping terrestrial orchid originally from Indonesia. The foliage is very attractive with broad dark green to purple leaves with golden veins. Flowers are white held on spikes above the foliage. Again a moist but well drained soil is best. A fairly easy orchid to grow.
  • Spathoglottis spp such as Spathoglottis plicata is again from South East Asia, they do require a warm position and a well drained moist soil. This one requires a fair amount of sun to flower.
  • Habenaria myriotricha or “medusa orchid” is a fascinating plant originally from Thailand. Again a well drained but moist growing medium and lots of filtered light. Requires a warm position so probably best in a pot or container in all but sub tropical areas. The flowers which form in spring are amazing.
  • Calanthe discolor and other species are a fairly easy to grow terrestrial orchid. Flowering in spring to summer Calanthes are a clump forming orchid that do not like frost, and do require a very well drained soil. Some Calanthe species are evergreen and other deciduous
  • Stenoglottis longifolia is originally from Africa and is a fairly tough orchid. Sometimes called the ‘African plume orchid’ it is a very attractive orchid with tall flowers spikes forming in late summer. Requires a dry dormancy.
  • Dactylorhiza species such as Dactylorhiza majalis and Dactylorhiza purpurella prefer a damp but well drained position, sun to part shade, where possible allow to dry out during dormancy. Again tall flower spikes, a very attractive plant that does well in cooler climates.
  • We have not touched on many species of terrestrial orchids, especially those from Australia, however many of these are well worth consideration.