Orchids

Explore the world of hardy orchids that grow in the garden like perennials.
Bletilla striata  (03) Habit

Bletilla striata (03) Habit

Chinese Ground Orchid Bletilla striata

Chinese Ground Orchid Bletilla striata

Did you know you can grow orchids in your garden? There’s a whole group of orchid plants known as hardy orchids or terrestrial orchids. Winter hardiness varies by orchid type, but the range of the group covers Zones 2 to 9. These hardy orchids are native North American wildflowers and number over 1,000 species. Learn about these native plants, including orchid meanings in the language of flowers.  

Native orchid plants are basically low-maintenance perennials in the garden. They’re easy to grow, but they’re not always easy to site. Hardy orchids have specific growing conditions that sometimes prove tricky to provide. In the wild, these pretty bloomers appear mostly in lightly shaded woodland settings or along the edges of forests. A few hardy orchid plants thrive in grassland areas.  

Some gardeners grow hardy orchids in containers, placing the containers in different spots in the garden until they see the orchids are thriving. That growing success marks the right planting spot. Hardy orchids need moist but well-drained soil. You want soil that offers the moisture and air content of a damp sponge. Mixing compost into planting areas, blending it with native soil, should provide the right consistency.  

Understanding orchid meaning enhances the beauty of these exotic-looking perennials. Perhaps the most interesting orchid meaning—luxury—stems from a period in Victorian London referred to as “orchidelirium.” In this time, private individuals financed secretive campaigns for plant collectors to travel the world in search of orchids. These collecting journeys were highly competitive and the price of the orchids obtained was astronomical. Hence the orchid meaning of luxury was born.  

Other orchid meanings include perfection, in deference to the exquisitely shaped blossoms, and love. The flowers are also symbols of fertility and virility. In ancient Greek culture, pregnant women would feed their husbands orchid tubers in an attempt to birth a son. Another orchid meaning is strength, referring to the fact that these plants grow and flower in even the most diverse and difficult growing conditions.  

One of the most important things when entering the world of hardy orchids is to obtain plants from reputable sources. Only purchase nursery-propagated plants. Never obtain wild-collected plants. Many hardy orchid species are protected by law.  

Hardy orchids require up to eight years to grow from seed to flowering size. These plants offer various price points. You may see plants costing from $12 to $120—or more. When just starting out growing hardy orchids, try some of the easier types to get your feet wet and build your confidence. Ground orchid (bletilla) and calanthe are two of the easiest to grow hardy orchids and widely available in a variety of flower colors.  

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