Saturday, June 16, 2018
GROUND ORCHIDS (Spathoglottis plictata)
Ground orchids showed up in Hawaii a few decades ago but it is only now that I am starting to appreciate them. In the past I tended to keep my garden green with "useful plants" only. That meant very few flowers and then they would be shrubs with flowers like Crown Flower where I used the flowers for lei making. (Nov, 2011) I must be getting softer as I am wanting more flowers in my garden these days. Just for decoration.....to give me delight.
Several years ago I found a pot of half dead Ground Orchids in the trash can at our local cemetery. After reviving and re-potting them I gave them to my daughter to put by her front door. A few years ago she gave them back to me as they were going to be living off island for a while. She is back now, but I have kept them near my front door and fallen in love with them. A few months ago I divided up the clump into three and re-potted them in large 3 gallon size cement pots. Fabulous! They loved the new soil and root space and have been putting on a show for me since.
Most orchids grown locally prefer less soil and lots of air space around the roots. This is why these Ground Orchids are different. They are terrestrial orchids as opposed to those that like living on tree branches. They love soil, as the results of my re-potting showed. Ground Orchids do like some shade, especially to protect them from the hot afternoon sun. They look great as ground cover under trees. The Ground Orchid likes moist soil but do not like wet feet so those grown in containers need to be allowed to dry out between watering. The leaves look rather like baby palm leaves, Sometimes you will need to trim off some brown leaf tips with scissors to keep the plant looking attractive.
I have seen two color varieties of Ground Orchids. There is a yellow/mauve flower variety and the dark purple variety which is the more common and the one that I have. Flowering occurs on 1-2 ft long stems during the warm months. It is recommended that your fertilize in spring and summer with a controlled release fertilizer to keep the flowering constant. The tiny flowers come out at the top of the spike while older flower heads will have dead brown sepals on the stem left from older flowers that have died off. When the flower head is new and young it looks very attractive in flower arrangements and will last up to a week in a vase. I do not see it sold in the flower shops here in Hawaii but it is popular in the market in Samoa. To dead head the Ground Orchid you cut off the complete dead slower spike.