Chinese Ground Orchid (Bletilla striata)

Dr. William C. Welch, Professor & Landscape Horticulturist
Texas AgriLife Extension Service
Chinese Ground Orchid
Chinese Ground Orchid,
an easily kept terrestrial plant

B. striata is one of the few terrestrial orchids suitable for general cultivation in Texas and the Gulf South. In recent years several variations on the original plant have become available and interest has increased in collecting and growing them. It thrives in the shaded or partially sunny garden with a moist, humus-rich soil. The spikes of purplish-pink flowers emerge early in some springs and can be damaged by late spring freezes unless mulched well. Leaves are usually about 1 inch wide. When established, almost every 12-15" shoot will rise up from the pseudo-bulb containing up to fourteen individual, orchid-like flowers. Foliage is 12-18" in length and pleated. Established clumps can have dozens of flower spikes, each individual flowers resembling a miniature Cattleya orchid. Propagation is by dividing large clumps in late summer to early fall.

Originally from China and Japan, Chinese Ground Orchids were first cultivated in England around 1994. At first only the standard B. striata was available. It is considered to be one of the most hardy, usually thriving from Zone 6 through 9. B. albostriata, which has narrow, pleated, white edged leaves, is also considered substantially hardy. The Japanese striped variety 'Gotemba Stripes' has many narrow streaks of gold over the leaves. 'Kuchibeni', another Japanese cultivar, has two-toned flowers in purple and white, and 'Murasaki Kichibi' displays a pale bluish-lavender with a darker lip. There are also varieties that can be thought of as almost white from a short distance. These varieties are also relatively hardy.

B. ochracea, or Chinese Butterfly Orchid, has flowers that are yellow in color with a purple and yellow lip. It is considered hardy in zones 7 through 9, but is a more finicky plant that takes more care.

For further information and images of various Bletilla, refer to on-line plant nurseries such as Plant Delights Nursery of Raleigh, NC.

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