Orchids continue to get easier and easier to grow. Hybridizers have been working round the clock developing new and improved varieties particularly in the areas of Phalaenopsis and Oncidiums. Commercial nurseries have been implementing state-of-the-art cultural techniques in order to bring their crop to market as quickly as possible. The exciting news for the consumer is that today's plants provide years of enjoyment with only minimal care.
Unquestionably, the easiest orchid of all time is the Bletilla (pronounced bleh-TIL-ah) - a terrestrial grower that is simply planted in a flower bed in the yard. There is no need for special media, pots, or fertilizer. Temperatures can drop below freezing for quite a while (technically USDA Zone 5) and sun light can be dappled to full.
There are five recognized species within the Bletilla genus of which striata is the most widely circulated. Nicknamed the ‘Chinese Ground Orchid’, Bletilla striata is found in the wild in Japan and China. Large clumps of this species can produce a hundred sprays of pinky purple or white blossoms. Another species, Ble ochracea, has yellow flowers and is quite rare.
Bystanders instantly recognize Bletillas as being in the orchid family because the flowers resemble miniature Catteyas. The leaves are deciduous but return each year bigger and better. If the blossoms are pollinated (typically by bees), seed pods will form and the tiny seeds can sprout into mature plants.
These orchids are commonly sold as bulbs (tuberous rhizomes) or young plants and bloom every spring. Now is the best time to plant, 2-4” deep in loose moist soil.