Pretty Hardy Orchids for the Garden
Bletilla, Cypripedium, Calanthes, Calopogon, Dactylorhiza, Epipactis, Habenaria, Orchis, Platantherea, Pleione, Pogonia, Spiranthes
About 80% of orchids are natives of tropical latitudes, but a surprising number of terrestrial orchids are hardy, some even able to fearlessly withstand temperatures below -22°F (-30°C). With hardiness zones ranging from zone 2 to zone 9, they add an unexpected touch of exoticism in the landscape with their vibrant colors and long-lived blossoms.
Some orchids originate from North America, temperate Europe, and Asia. Others are hybrids and cultivated varieties that have been bred to grow outdoors.
Growing Hardy Orchids
Growing hardy orchids can be easier than you think, provided you choose the right species for your garden and follow a few cultural needs.
Most hardy orchids prefer filtered to partial sun and thrive in moist, humus-rich soil that drains well. Some species, however, prefer a sunny exposure and drier soils.
Soil moisture requirements vary across hardy orchids, depending on their natural habitat.
Upland orchid species do not tolerate constantly moist soil. They grow naturally in the woodsy areas above bogs, pocosins and fens. They include Lady Slippers (Cypripedium) and Chinese Ground Orchids (Bletilla).
Transition orchid species are those that can tolerate more constant moisture, but thrive under drier conditions similar to the upland species. They include Egret Orchids (Habaneria) and Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza).
Wetland orchid species require constantly moist or even wet soil. They also prefer full sun. They grow naturally in the bogs, pocosins and fens. These bog orchids include Dragon's Mouth (Arethusa), Rose Pogonia (Pogonia), Grass Pink (Calopogon), Ladies Tresses (Spiranthes), Fringed Orchids (Platanthera).
Hardy orchids do not tolerate heavy fertility, hence they do not need much fertilizer.
After blooming, remove the old faded flowers. This keeps the plant energy going into the roots and not into seed production. This will enable your orchid to become stronger.
Hardy orchids have shallow roots so please take attention while doing weeding.
For extra winter protection you may wish to add a couple inches of weed-free straw or pine needles on top.
For decades Orchid species have been sought after for their beauty, unique flowers, fragrances, foliage, and medicinal uses. Unfortunately, many species are endangered or close to extinction, due to their shrinking natural habitat and widespread collection. Several species are legally protected in some regions where it has become illegal to dig or pick the orchids. It is essential to purchase plants from nurseries and refrain from collecting wild orchids.
Here is a list of the best hardy orchids for the garden.
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While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.
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