The way to Develop Terrestrial Orchids


More often than not after we image orchids, we consider the epiphytic varieties that develop clinging to the bark and branches of bushes and shrubs.

Phalaenopsis, Cattleya, and Dendrobium species are often epiphytes.

There’s an entire different class of orchids that many people neglect about and people are those that develop in soil: terrestrial orchids. These varieties are particular, having particular care wants.

A horizontal shot of many different types of terrestrial orchids in full bloom.

We hyperlink to distributors that can assist you discover related merchandise. For those who purchase from certainly one of our hyperlinks, we could earn a fee.

There are over 200 terrestrial orchid species, offering plenty of selection and alternatives to take pleasure in them in our houses and gardens.

Lots of them are each bit as lovely as people who fill the cabinets of shops and trendy resort lobbies. Plus, many will be grown within the floor as ornamentals, even in places the place the temperatures drop under freezing.

For those who’d like to grasp extra about this group of crops, this information may help.

Right here’s what we’ll focus on:

Earlier than we soar in, a observe of warning. Orchids are so numerous that there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” method to their cultivation and care – and that’s very true within the case of terrestrial varieties.

A horizontal close up of a phalus orchid plant with orange blooms.

We offers you basic rising recommendation on this information, however you’ll need to analysis the care necessities of the precise species, or, higher but, the cultivar or hybrid that you just’re working with.

With that mentioned, most of people who you’ll discover in the marketplace will be cared for in an identical manner. We’ll focus on all that developing:

What Are Terrestrial Orchids?

There are three broad groupings of orchids, primarily based on their development habits: they are often epiphytes or lithophytes, climbers, or terrestrial.

Epiphytes and lithophytes spend their lives connected to bushes or rocks, as do climbers, however climbers have rhizomes within the soil under and intensely lengthy stems that unfold additional than the extra compact epiphytes do.

A horizontal close up of three lady slipper blooms. The flowers have orange and white blooms and are set against a background of green foliage.

Terrestrial orchids are people who develop within the soil with their roots anchored within the earth.

Epiphytes make up the biggest group of orchids that we develop in our houses, whereas terrestrial varieties are far much less frequent.

Phalaenopsis, Dendrobium, and Cattleya species are all largely epiphytes. Really, most orchid species are epiphytes, with about 70 p.c becoming that class.

Terrestrial, or floor orchids as they’re additionally recognized, are far much less well-liked with house growers. They’re, nevertheless, the commonest varieties discovered rising natively in Europe and North America.

Within the wild, these crops will be discovered as far north because the Arctic Circle and as far south because the southern tip of Patagonia. They develop on each continent besides Antarctica, although there are sub-Antarctic species.

They develop in environments as assorted as deserts, frozen tundras, and wooded forests.

Some terrestrial species have the flexibility to adapt to their native surroundings and develop into lithophytes, climbing on rocks.

The one factor all of them have in frequent is that they usually develop within the earth and never anchored on different crops or pure constructions. They’ll develop in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 12, relying on the species.

Most terrestrial varieties have what are often known as pseudobulbs, that are storage constructions that may type under or above floor. Some species have horizontal rhizomes, tubers, or corms, and others have fibrous roots. None of them have aerial roots.

The flowers could also be teeny-tiny or large, and will be just about any shade besides true blue. The identical applies to the plant sizes. Some are miniature, only a few inches excessive, and others can develop a number of toes tall.

The one factor that unites them is that they develop within the floor.

Cultivation and Historical past

Orchids have been part of human tradition for a really very long time.

Cypripedium is a genus of terrestrial orchids discovered throughout the Northern Hemisphere which were used medicinally by native North American individuals and in conventional Chinese language drugs for hundreds of years.

Nowadays, species on this genus are cultivated each as houseplants and backyard choices, and you will discover quite a lot of totally different hybrids and cultivars.

A vertical close up shot of a lady's slipper terrestrial orchid in bloom against a blurred background.

Many different species have develop into essential commercially, initially catching on as ornamentals within the early 1800s throughout the exploration craze of the 1700s and 1800s Age of Enlightenment.

For instance, Calanthe orchids have been first described by George Rumph (Rumphius) in 1750 utilizing a specimen introduced from Indonesia. It was formally named in 1821 by Robert Brown.

Phaius tankervilliae was dropped at England in 1778 by plant collector and botanist James Fothergill.

It turned often known as the primary tropical orchid to flower in England when Fothergill’s botanist mates Sarah Hird and Peter Collinson efficiently inspired their specimen to bloom in 1778.

The Ludisia genus was first described in 1818 by English botanist John Bellenden Ker Gawler, although he first referred to as it Goodyera. It was modified in 1825 by French botanist Achille Richard.

The flood saved coming, with Dutch-German botanist Carl Ludwig Blume describing Spathoglottis in 1825, and Bletilla was recognized by German botanist Heinrich Gustav Reichenbach in 1853.

In fact, botanists, researchers, and fans are nonetheless discovering new species like Eulophia graminea, which was recognized in 2018 in Puerto Rico by Adolfo Rodríguez Velázquez, a graduate scholar on the College of Puerto Rico.

Of their native ranges throughout the globe, many species are endangered on account of poaching each for medicinal use and to promote as ornamentals and houseplants. Ludisia, as an illustration, is difficult to seek out in its native Malaysia due to poaching.

On the opposite finish of the spectrum some, like Arundina graminifolia, have develop into a bit of too widespread. This species is taken into account invasive in Hawaii and is smothering out native crops.

Some species, like Spiranthes sinesis, are described as “weedy,” taking on disturbed areas, fields, and grassy areas in colonies made up of hundreds of crops.

Terrestrial Orchid Propagation

Propagating orchids from seed is a frightening proposition, nevertheless it’s definitely potential. We have now a information that can speak you thru the entire course of if that is one thing you’re considering.

Dividing present crops is a neater propagation methodology or you should buy a potted plant for transplanting.

From Division

The simplest and most constant method to produce extra crops is to divide an present specimen. Different strategies are much less profitable for the house grower, so that is the one I like to recommend.

If the plant is in a pot, take away it. If it’s within the floor, dig it up, digging a few foot down and across the circumference of the plant at the least six inches out from the bottom of the outermost leaves.

A horizontal photo of a terrestrial orchid dug out of the ground sitting in a green crate.

Gently brush away as a lot of the soil or potting medium as you possibly can from across the roots.

Discover a pure separation within the plant with each roots and pseudobulbs or stems connected. Tease the plant aside at this level, and use a clear pair of pruners, if wanted, to sever the foundation.

Many terrestrial orchids have a big horizontal root that can must be minimize into sections. Take as many sections as you need as long as every has a stem or pseudobulb connected.

Replant the principle plant again within the gap or pot you took it from, filling in round it with soil. Place the division in a brand new pot or ready space within the backyard.


When you’ve got a potted plant that you just wish to repot or transplant outside, step one is to arrange the brand new location.

A horizontal photo of a paphiopedilum growing in a terra cotta pot set against a black background.

For those who’re utilizing a brand new container, select one which is only one measurement up from the present container. Fill the underside quarter or so with a particularly unfastened, well-draining potting combine.

A product containing a mixture of compost, pumice, coconut coir, wonderful bark, sphagnum moss, and worm castings can be excellent.

That may be arduous to seek out, so search for a potting combine with a majority of these components and add the remainder your self.

De la Tank’s houseplant combine with some wonderful bark blended in can be excellent. The ultimate combine must be a few quarter bark.

A small vertical product shot of a bag of De La Tank's Potting Mix.

De La Tank’s Potting Combine

Choose up some De La Tank’s combine at Arbico Organics in a quart, eight-quart, or 16-quart bag.

For those who’re planting within the floor, work in plenty of well-rotted compost blended with bark in a ratio of three elements compost to at least one half bark.

Dig a gap about the identical measurement because the container the plant is at the moment rising in.

Plant the orchid within the pot or floor and fill in round it with extra soil or potting medium. It must be sitting on the identical top it was initially. Water effectively and add a bit extra soil, if obligatory.

The way to Develop Terrestrial Orchids

What I’ve seen is that most individuals begin their orchid-growing journey with epiphytic varieties and develop into aware of the wants of those crops, and assume that terrestrial varieties are the identical.

Terrestrial orchids are totally different. Often, they want a lot much less frequent watering than the epiphytes, and the highest inch or two of soil must be allowed to dry out. Soil retains moisture longer than orchid bark does.

Most have comparable mild necessities to epiphytes, however not all. Most species want loamy, water-retentive, well-draining soil, however once more, not all.

Is all this sounding imprecise? It is a enormous vary of crops with vastly variable soil, solar, and moisture preferences.

Understanding the pure surroundings of the species you’re working with is crucial. Floor orchids are discovered rising natively in sand dunes, mossy bogs, moist forest beds, and in all places in between, relying on the species.

A horizontal photo of a lady's slipper growing out in a forested, grassy area.

In my neck of the woods, California girl’s slipper (Cypripedium californium) grows in shady, mineral-heavy seepages and river banks.

In southern Africa, the desert orchid (Eulophia petersii) lives in rocky, sandy soil in full solar.

Species within the Orchis genus develop all through Europe and south via northwest Africa in tropical rainforests and semi-arid areas.

They develop in environments as wide-ranging as tundras and sandy ocean seashores, which illustrates how essential it’s to know the wants of the species you wish to develop.

The overwhelming majority of terrestrial orchids want constantly moist however not moist soil – after all, excluding the desert-dwelling species.

Most terrestrial orchids have deep roots that may stretch a foot or extra down, so basically, you should water deeply however sometimes. Permit the highest inch or two of soil to dry out within the backyard or the highest fifth of the medium to dry out for potted crops.

They often want wealthy, loamy potting soil with plenty of pumice or different materials blended in to enhance drainage and water retention.

Or combine one half bark, two elements sphagnum moss, and one half perlite with a splash of worm castings. Backyard soil must be amended with bark and compost, as talked about above. However there are exceptions.

Most Eulophia species are succulents and wish considerably sandy, rocky, or pumice-heavy soil that must be allowed to virtually utterly dry out earlier than watering.

Most species need dappled shade, morning mild, or shiny, oblique mild indoors with morning mild, however once more, test to make sure.

They’ll often deal with a bit extra mild than you would possibly anticipate. However if you wish to improve the sunshine, do it regularly over a number of weeks.

In addition they like average to excessive humidity. A minimal of about 50 p.c is about proper for many species.

Don’t fertilize crops within the floor. For these in containers, feed them a 1-1-1 or 2-2-2 (NPK) fertilizer as soon as a month from spring via fall.

Rising Suggestions

  • Know the wants of the precise species you want to develop.
  • Most species require constantly moist soil and dappled or shiny, oblique mild with direct morning mild.
  • Properly-draining soil is a should.


To tidy up the plant and encourage new blossoms, trim again the flowering stalk as soon as the entire flowers have dropped from the plant. Depart about an inch of stalk behind.

Study extra in our information to encouraging an orchid to rebloom.

Any branches or stems which might be brown, damaged, or yellow must be trimmed off. You may also take away any foliage that appears crowded or any stems which might be crossing.

Whenever you prune your plant, make sure to use a clear pair of clippers and clear them between crops.

For extra particulars, learn our information to pruning orchids.

A vertical photo of a spathoglottis orchid growing in a terracotta pot.

Additionally, you will must repot your orchid each few years. As crops age, they want extra room to accommodate their new measurement.

Even when you aren’t going up in pot measurement, it’s best to change the potting medium each few years as a result of it’ll break down, lowering the quantity of air reaching the roots.

Our information to repotting orchids will stroll you thru the main points.

For deciduous varieties grown outside, take away any lifeless foliage on the finish of the rising season. You may also heap some straw or leaf matter over the roots to supply some insulation.

Terrestrial Orchid Species to Choose

The most effective species so that you can develop goes to be the one that matches in your surroundings, so it by no means hurts to ask native sellers if they’ve a specific sort they’d advocate.

With regards to good houseplant choices, any certainly one of these will work effectively:


Bamboo orchids (Arundina spp.) have strap-like leaves that resemble grass. The showy, aromatic flowers seem on lengthy stems which might be excellent for reducing.

The flowers range from pink to purple and deep violet. Most include some quantity of white and a few even have pure white petals.

A horizontal photo of bamboo orchids growing outdoors. The plants have pale purple blooms and are set against a blurred out background.

Even higher, the blossoms seem all yr lengthy, although they’re significantly prolific throughout the spring and fall.

These crops are native to Asia and have develop into a preferred backyard possibility within the Pacific Islands. As warmth lovers, they develop finest in Zones 10b and up.

Whereas most stay smaller, some species can develop as much as six toes tall.


Eulophia species, generally often known as corduroy orchids, inhabit Africa and Asia, the place they develop in shady forests.

The leaves are held on the finish of fleshy stems and the skinny flower spike produces colourful flowers with massive sepals and small petals.

A horizontal close up photo of a ground orchid with purple flowers set against a blurred out green background.

They arrive within the full vary of orchid colours, like pure white, yellow, pink, crimson, purple, and orange.

This genus is well-liked as a landscaping plant in heat areas like California, Florida, and Hawaii in Zones 9b to 11b.

Most species are succulents that may tolerate some drought, however they like sandy soil with common moisture. Whereas it might probably range, most species develop a few foot tall.


Even non-orchidists have often heard of slipper or girl’s slipper orchids (Cypripedium spp.).

These will be discovered rising natively throughout the Northern Hemisphere in temperate and subtropical areas.

There are even just a few robust species that develop in Alaskan and Siberian tundras. You’ll find species that can develop in Zones 2 to 10.

A horizontal close up photo of a cypripedium slipper orchid flower with dark petals and a light green center.

The flower stems usually prolong effectively past the rectangular leaves, and the inflorescence could consist of 1 single flower or as much as a dozen. Colours embrace pink, purple, yellow, and white.

The customarily bushy leaves develop from a central stem that emerges from the underground rhizomes.

One of many causes slipper orchids are so well-liked is as a result of they’re fairly straightforward to develop and so they can often tolerate an excellent quantity of shade.


Jewel orchids (Ludisia spp.) do have petite, white flowers, however they’re largely appreciated for his or her fairly foliage.

The rhomboid leaves are usually darkish inexperienced with some burgundy and have pale vertical stripes.

A horizontal close up of a jewel orchid with an emerging leaf in the center.

Did I say fairly? Let me be extra clear. The foliage is gorgeous. The veins of the leaves sparkle within the mild like jewels. You actually received’t even discover the flowers.

These are native to Asia however have discovered a house in gardens throughout the globe within the equal of Zones 10 and 11.

Ludisia species must be allowed to dry out a bit of between watering, however the roots ought to by no means be allowed to develop into utterly dry.

Most species are low-growing floor covers however some develop as much as a foot or so tall.


Nun’s orchids (Phaius tankervilliae) have slender, pleated leaves and the crops can attain about three toes tall.

Every pseudobulb grows a single stalk of enormous, colourful, and aromatic blossoms within the winter and early spring. Flowers usually have bronze or brown coloration, together with white, pink, or purple.

A vertical photo of a Thai orchid in full bloom with white flowers and purple centers.

This species can tolerate cool temperatures down to simply above freezing, nevertheless it isn’t a fan of moist roots.

It’s native to islands throughout the Pacific from Asia to North America, which ought to tip you off to their temperature tolerance. Develop them outside in Zones 9 to 11.


Usually often known as purple orchids (Spathoglottis spp.), these often have, you guessed it, purple flowers.

The hues can vary from pale lavender to deep reddish purple. There are even some with white, yellow, and pink hues and these are – confusingly – known as “purple” orchids as effectively.

S. plicata is the commonest species present in cultivation and it at all times has some purple within the flowers.

A horizontal photo of a purple terrestrial orchid growing out in a garden.

They bloom on practically two-foot-tall stalks with aromatic flowers all yr lengthy.

Whereas they will survive freezing temperatures, they actually must be cultivated someplace that stays above 50°F. Under that, they may go dormant and drop their leaves.

They hail from jap and southeastern Asia, Australia, and a few Pacific Islands and are hardy in Zones 10 and 11.


Bletilla species are generally grown as houseplants and outside in Zones 5 to 9.

Hailing from throughout Asia, the lengthy, slender, pleated leaves emerge from corm-like pseudobulbs that sit on the soil stage.

A horizontal close up of a purple blooming Bletilla flower pictured on a soft focus background.

The lengthy flower stalks can attain as much as two toes tall and produce cattleya-like flowers in quite a lot of colours from white to deep purple.

The most typical species present in nurseries is B. striata, which is commonly referred to as “hardy orchid” as a result of it might probably tolerate temperatures all the way down to 25°F, although the plant will go dormant and lose its leaves as soon as temperatures drop under freezing.

Urn orchids are fairly easygoing, they’ll tolerate drought, overwatering, shade, and solar, to a sure diploma.

Managing Pests and Illness

Pests don’t appear to be the largest drawback when rising terrestrial varieties, however ailments, significantly fungal ones, will be a difficulty.


Aphids, mealybugs, scale, and spider mites are all frequent houseplant pests, and that applies to orchids, too. You would possibly see them on outside crops, however a lot much less typically.

As a primary line of protection, everytime you convey a brand new plant into your private home, isolate and monitor it for every week.

If, regardless of your efforts, the pests discover your crops, a stream of water from the hose as soon as every week can wash the spider mites or aphids off.

Scale and mealybugs will be gently scraped off the plant. Neem oil or insecticidal cleaning soap is an efficient resolution, whether or not you employ it as a substitute of or along with the earlier strategies.

A vertical product shot of Bonide Insecticidal Soap white spray bottle with a red label.

Bonide Insecticidal Cleaning soap

I maintain Bonide Insecticidal Cleaning soap available for simply such an occasion. Discover it at Arbico Organics in 16- and 32-ounce spray bottles.


Viruses may cause uncommon patterns and colours on leaves, however there isn’t a remedy, so it’s essential to both eliminate the plant or be taught to dwell with the funkiness.

Odontoglossum ringspot virus (ORSV) and Cymbidium mosaic virus (CyMV) are the commonest.

Spots on the leaves could also be attributable to micro organism or fungi. Micro organism within the Erwinia and Acidovorax genera trigger recognizing, as does fungi within the Cercospora genus.

All are unfold by splashing water, crowded situations, and excessive humidity.

Anthracnose (Colletotrichum spp.) may trigger recognizing, typically with a tan middle.

There’s not a lot you are able to do about bacterial leaf spot besides take away the symptomatic leaves or take out the crops fully.

Rot will be attributable to fungi, as effectively, together with these within the Pythium and Phytophthora genera.

This will trigger black, gentle spots on the leaves or roots. Root rot will also be attributable to overwatering, which drowns the roots.

To be taught extra about potential orchid issues, take a look at our information.

Finest Makes use of for Terrestrial Orchids

Terrestrial orchids are versatile and numerous. They’ll develop as potted houseplants or within the backyard in borders, as mass plantings, in rock gardens, containers, or to fill shaded areas below bushes.

A horizontal photo of a dark foliage jewel orchid in a terra cotta pot set on a white table.

Relying on the species, they will thrive in frigid areas – or they could require tropical situations, making them higher fitted to houseplant life.

Fast Reference Rising Information

Plant Kind: Terrestrial evergreen or deciduous flower Flower/Foliage Shade: White, pink, purple, crimson, yellow, orange, inexperienced, brown, bicolored / inexperienced
Native to: All areas of the globe besides Antarctica Tolerance: Some drought, frost (relying on species)
Hardiness (USDA Zones): 2-12 Upkeep: Average
Bloom Time: Summer season, spring, fall, winter, relying on species Water Wants: Average
Publicity: Shiny, oblique mild, morning mild, dappled mild, full solar to full shade outside relying on species Soil Kind: Sometimes loamy, wealthy, ethereal, some develop in sand
Time to Maturity: 2 years (from seed) Soil pH: 5.5-6.5
Spacing: 1 foot or extra relying on species Soil Drainage: Properly-draining
Planting Depth: Similar depth as container (transplants) Attracts: Pollinators
Top: 8 inches to five toes Order: Asparagales
Unfold: As much as 24 inches Household: Orchidaceae
Widespread Pests and Ailments: Aphids, mealybugs, scale, spider mites; Leaf spots, rot, viruses Genera: Arundina, Bletillia, Cypripedium, Eulophia, Ludisia, Phaius, Spathoglottis, Spriranthes

Attain New Ranges of Gardening With Floor Orchids

Anybody who has the orchid bug must dabble in terrestrial orchids.

The epiphytic varieties will at all times maintain a particular place in our hearts, however till you’ve stuffed a backyard mattress or a giant, ornamental pot with a terrestrial species or two, you haven’t skilled all the pieces these crops have to supply.

Which species is most interesting to you? How will you be rising yours? In a rock backyard subsequent to a pond? Or perhaps a pot in your kitchen desk? Share your plans with us within the feedback part under!

And when you’re in search of extra details about rising orchids, we now have a number of different guides which may catch your fancy. Verify these out:

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles