Ground orchids south florida

Deciding on a Potting Mix for Orchids

By Steven A. Frowine, National Gardening Association

The right potting mix for orchids provides plenty of drainage, air circulation, or moisture — depending on the needs of your particular orchid. Orchid mixes consist of a variety of potting materials, each of which has its pros and cons. You can mix your own blend from the recipes below, or you can buy ready-made orchid mixes.

Knowing your potting material options

The phrase potting material isn’t just a fancy way of saying dirt. Potting materials can consist of gravel, dried plant fibers, bark, and more. You won’t find potting soil in orchid mixes, because most orchids have roots that need more air space than soil can provide. Orchids also need potting material that drains rapidly and at the same time retains moisture. Because orchids usually go at least a year, and many times longer, between repotting, they also need materials that are slow to decompose.

No single potting material works best for every orchid or orchid grower. The following table shows some of the most common potting materials used, along with some of their pros and cons.

Pros and Cons of Potting Materials for Orchids

Potting Material Pros Cons
Aliflor Doesn’t decompose; provides good aeration Heavy
Coco husk chunks Retains moisture while also providing sufficient air; slower to
decompose than bark
Must be rinsed thoroughly to remove any salt residue; smaller
grades may retain too much moisture
Coco husk fiber Retains water well; decomposes slowly Does not drain as well as bark or coco husk chunks
Fir bark Easy to obtain; inexpensive; available in many grades
Can be difficult to wet; decomposes relatively quickly
Gravel Drains well; inexpensive Heavy; holds no nutrients
Hardwood charcoal Very slow to decompose; absorbs contaminants Holds very little moisture; can be dusty to handle
Lava rock Never decomposes; drains well Heavy
Osmunda fiber Retains moisture; slow to break down Very expensive; hard to find
Perlite (sponge rock) Lightweight; provides good aeration and water retention;
Retains too much water if used alone
Redwood bark Lasts longer than fir bark Hard to find
Sphagnum moss Retains water and air; readily available Can retain too much water if packed tightly in the pot or after
it starts to decompose
Styrofoam peanuts Inexpensive; readily available; doesn’t decompose; rapid
Should not be used alone because doesn’t retain water or
nutrients; best used as drainage in bottoms of pots; can be too
light for top-heavy plants
Tree fern fiber Rapidly draining; slow to decompose Expensive; low water retention

Make your own orchid mix

Following are recipes for two basic mixes that suit most orchids. The growing mixes are based on the texture or particle size of the mix, which is connected to the size of the orchid roots and their need for water retention.

Fine mix

This mix works well for smaller plants of all types of orchids, slipper orchids, most oncidiums, miltonias, and any other orchids with small roots that like to stay on the damp side:

4 parts fine-grade fir bark or fine-grade coco husk chips or redwood bark

1 part fine charcoal

1 part horticultural-grade perlite or small-grade Aliflor

Medium mix

This is your middle-of-the-road mix. If you aren’t sure which mix to use, try this one. This mix is also good for cattleyas, phalaenopsis, and most mature orchids:

4 parts medium-grade fir bark or medium-grade coco husk chunks

1 part medium charcoal

1 part horticultural-grade perlite or medium-grade Aliflor

If you’d rather just buy your mix ready-made, prepared potting mixes are readily available from most places that sell orchids, including home-improvement stores. Most mixes contain fir bark, perlite, charcoal, and sometimes some peat moss and are suitable for most orchids.

Ground Orchid


Scientific Name : Spathoglottis Plicata

Family : Orchidaceae

Colour : White, Violet/Lavender, Light pink, Orange-Yellow

Common names : Ground Orchid

Colour : Throughout the year

Spathoglottis plicata or Ground orchid, native of Southeastern Asia to the Philippines, is the common species of Orchid which blooms round the year. This easily grown terrestrial herb has pretty, arching broad leaves with prominent parallel veins and a few or large cluster of small flowers at the end of a long stalk as tall as 1 metre arising from a basal leaf axil. The flowers are seen from the morecommon purple to white, yellow, peach, pink and magenta shades. and The leaves emerge from round pseudo bulbs that become increasingly multiple and larger as the orchid matures. Ground orchids can be grown as potted plants and also do well in beds and borders.

Propagation and Care

It is an easy to grow, extremely adaptable orchid which blooms round the year. Propagation of Spathoglottis plicata is by division. Many plants can be separated from the large clump and can be planted in individual pots or in ground 3 to 6 inches apart. Before planting, enrich the soil with a mixture of garden soil, dried cow dung and leaf mould. Addition of broken bricks and charcoal makes the growing medium loose for roots to spread easily.

Heavy watering is essential during the growing season but allow the plant to get almost dry before watering again. Some good fertilizer can be used to enhance its growth. The plant requires medium shade to full sun and should be watered regularly. In warm places, partial shade is ideal.

Cut off the flower stems after it finishes blooming. Remove dead or rotted foliage regularly.

Questions of

Questions & Answers
1. Posted on : 2.9.2013 By : Shaleen Chikara , Gurgaon, NCR View Answer (0) Post Answer

I am growing an Orchid in a small pot filled with charcoal (that’s how it came). It was flowering when it came, and now I see 3 new shoots emerging from the sides. How should I care for it and how much should I water it? Also, what is a good potting medium? I am living in Delhi, and currently it is monsoon season, but soon dry winters will set in.

2. Posted on : 24.1.2011 By : shruthi , bangalore View Answer (2) Post Answer

few of my phaelanopsis orchids started to loose the topmost leaf(the blooms were present) and eventually all the leaves fell off.The roots are fine,not dry totally but will the plant grow back? what could be the problem and what do i do?


As long as the bulbs are still there and not rotten, it will still grow but takes time to wait for new leaves.

Posted By :grace de la pena , Cagayan de Oro City, Mindanao | On 9.5.2013

water got into the center of the plant and rotted must water from the bottom and keep tops dry and no it wont grow back

Posted By :kevin , las vegas | On 22.2.2011
3. Posted on : 5.9.2010 By : Maxine , Spring Hill. Fl, Spring Hill. Fl View Answer (1) Post Answer

I separated my ground orchid, Spathoglottis plicata this spring as it was over crowed and it has not shown any sige of blooming, What so I need to do to encourage blooming?


Hi. I had the same problem. However, I solved it with a bi-weekly watering of a small orchid fertilizer (literally 1/8 of a teaspoon). The water itself was taken from my patio pond. I placed the plant in a high humidity area near other plants. Let the plants drain out completely between waterings. The soil mix comprised real, finely chopped coconut bark, crushed egg shells, charcoal, phosphorus, lumus soil – basically nothing compact. Watch out for mealy bugs as they love these plants.

Posted By :Paulos , Trinidad | On 15.7.2016
” more…

The cold woodlands of the northern hemisphere are the dwelling place of a tiny, delicate orchid, Calypso bulbosa, aptly named after the Greek nymph. When you first see it in person you are immediately taken back by its seductive beauty and elusive stature. This diminutive plant, also known as the fairy slipper, can be found from cold temperate regions across the northern US, up through the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska, straight across the taiga of Russia, into Scandinavia, and south through the mountains of western China, Korea and northern Japan. It is nowhere truly common, and is often overlooked.

C. bulbosa, as the name indicates, grows from a single oval subterranean bulb no bigger than the average fingernail. In the winter months a single broad, lightly pleated leaf arises just above the forest floor, only to wither in the summer months during the plant’s dormancy. It regrows again in the fall, just before the snows of winter hit. The flower stalk, occasionally up to 15 cm tall, but often much shorter, begins growth once the cold of winter has abated. Depending on exposure, as well as altitude and latitude, plants are in flower from April to June. The flowers are borne singly at the apex of the flower stalk, and are accompanied by a whitish, translucent floral bract at the pinnacle of the stalk.

Adult plants of Calypso bulbuosa typically are no more than hand high.

Despite being quite small, the flowers are startlingly beautiful, though you’ll have to get on your belly to really appreciate them. Five of the flower parts are nearly identical in size and shape, two petals and three sepals, splayed out in a star-like pattern. The lip is slipper-like, similar to a lady slipper (genus Cypripedium), but more elongated with a frilled front plate with upward curling margins. At the front of the mouth of the lip are a number of hairy bristles. At the base of the lip, sometimes extending a fairly long distance beyond the lip proper (especially in v. speciosa) are two horn-like projections. Overall flower color is pink-purple. The column is held horizontal to the ground, is relatively long and has a broad hood.

The lip is striated with white and various shades of darker purple, or purple brown veins and spots. Variety americana is known for a bright yellow patch in around the area where the bristles protrude, making it perhaps the most attractive of the four known varieties. Pure white alba flowers, as well as pale “semi-alba” types are also known. Occasionally, two flowers can be found on one stalk. Seed pods develop in an upward standing position.

A pair of Calypso bulbosa v. occidentalis growing in a coniferous forest in East Sooke Park, Vancouver Island, Canada.

There are currently four accepted varieties of C. bulbosa:

C. bulbosa v. bulbosa – a denizen of northern Eurasia from Scandinavia and extending across the boreal forest regions of Russia to the Korean Peninsula and northern Japan. This was the first variety to be described by the father of binomial nomenclature, Linnaeus, in 1753.

C. bulbosa v. speciosa – confined to the high mountains of western China, parts of inner Mongolia and central Japan (limited to high elevations of the Southern Japanese Alps; Yamanashi, Nagano, Shizuoka, and Saitama Prefectures). Somewhat of an enigma, it is not completely certain that Chinese and Japanese plants are of the same type. In China and Japan it is found in subalpine coniferous forest up to 3,200 m (~10,500’) elevation.

C. bulbosa v. americana – found across the entire boreal region of North America from the Atlantic to Pacific, as well as the mountainous regions of the western US (in Canada it is widespread in forested regions, in the US from northern Maine, Vermont, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota (Black Hills), Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska; historically N.Y. (last seen in 1969) and New Hampshire. Known for growing into large, clumping colonies and having yellow crested lips. Largely restricted to northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) and balsam fir (Abies balsamea) swamps east of the Mississippi River, but occasionally found on drier sites in mixed coniferous/deciduous forest often over limestone bedrock. In Michigan it can be found in swales between old lakeside dunes in jack pine forest (Pinus banksiana) alongside Cypripedium arietinum. In the western US it is found at mid-elevation coniferous forest in the northern Rocky Mountains, and up to 3,000 m (10,000’) in Arizona, its southernmost distribution. In Canada it is found from Labrador to British Columbia, and northward to the Northwest Territories, typically in coniferous forest.

C. bulbosa v. occidentalis – confined to western North America from California to Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, British Columbia, and Alaska. In the south it is found exclusively in cool, “fog-belt” coastal forests, and further north (Idaho and Montana and northward) it can be seen in moister inland mid-elevation mountains as well. It is a characteristic plant of the Pacific Northwest rain forest belt often seen near sea level, and flowering earlier than most other varieties.

The leaves of Calypso bulbosa grow in the fall, persist through the winter months and go dormant after flowering in the spring. In this photo you can also see the flower buds have formed and they too overwinter, so care must be taken to protect these if you are growing the plant.

My first encounter with this species was in the high mountains of Colorado near Rocky Mountain National Park. I was there in the early fall and so did not see them in flower, but their distinctive leaves gave them away. Years later I saw large colonies in the mountains around Bozeman, Montana, again in the fall. It wasn’t until I finally made a trip to the Victoria, British Columbia area in May 2019 that I finally got to see v. occidentalis in flower, growing in Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and western red cedar forest (Thuja plicata) just above the pounding waves of the Salish Sea. It was a magical experience for me, and upon seeing them I was immediately convinced that both Calypso and fairy slipper are very apt names for this little jewel.

Calypso bulbosa, though widely distributed, is becoming increasingly rare, particularly in the southern end of its range. It is considered rare in the lower 48 states except in a handful of states, and in the northeast it is either vulnerable, endangered or extinct. Populations in Minnesota as well as the northern Rockies and Pacific coast appear secure for now, and likely Canadian populations are by and large in pretty good shape, too. In Japan plants are in danger due to climate change since populations are confined to high mountain forests that are undergoing rapid warming. Populations in Europe are considered near threatened by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). In all regions where urbanization is occurring (for instance around Victoria, B.C.) populations are being adversely effected by development and increased human disturbance. In various places it is also subject to over collection for the horticultural trade, for example, in the Japanese Southern Alps and the Pacific Northwest of North America.

All varieties of Calypso bulbosa have individuals that are either true pure white “alba” flowers, or very pale ones like this “semi-alba” flower.

First and foremost, this is a plant of cool to cold forests, hence if you want to grow it, you need to keep this in mind. It likely will not endure temperatures above 26 C (80 F) for long periods of time. The main reason it lives either at high altitude or in cedar bogs at the southern end of its range is due to the cool conditions these environments provide. Another important point is that this species does not live in soil, but rather in the thin layer of humus overlaying forest soils, or moss covered humus of bog environments. Third, this orchid appears to have a dependency on mycorrhizal fungi even throughout adulthood. For all these reasons it will be a challenge to maintain in most typical garden settings, particularly in areas that experience heat spells for more than say a few days.

Another issue in growing them is their diminutive size. They can be harmed by foot traffic, either human or animal made, very easily either through mechanical damage or the compacting of the growing medium. Snails and slugs are another bane of this plant, and unless diligently controlled, will be the end of them in short order. Rodents as well need to be kept away. Mice, voles, pika, marmots, rats and the like can make an easy snack out of a Calypso in just a few bites. Likewise, moles and burrowing animals need to be controlled lest the thin roots and tiny bulbs are damaged or exposed to the air. Finally, these plants are so small that they cannot endure much competition from neighboring plants including grasses, any type of ground cover, spreading bushes, or indeed even vigorously growing mosses.

If all that weren’t enough, something like 99.9% of the plants that you might find for sale are for certain wild collected. While that may not actually be a legal issue, and in truth this species is considered globally secure for the time being, it may give you an ethical pause. In this world of online auctions and on demand next day delivery, one can easily see that all collectable plants are more at risk than ever before. Yes, this species has been produced artificially, but only by a handful of knowledgeable enthusiasts, and certainly not on a commercial scale. So, as with all terrestrial orchid sales, buyer beware.

With all that in mind, if you still desire to grow C. bulbosa, and have access to healthy plants and proper fungal symbionts (best acquired by getting humus or conifer duff from a known habitat), then you may succeed with this species. It should be grown in shady conditions, never in direct sun. The compost needs to remain moist during the growth phase extending from fall until late spring. In summer some drying is tolerated, but droughty conditions are not recommended. Never use chlorinated water or high mineral water or you will kill them quick. Keep the growing compost cool at all times, even if the air temperatures exceed the mid 20s C (above 80 F). A northern exposure is recommended rather than southern to prevent overheating.

Grow the plants in a thin layer of partially decomposed conifer duff no more than 5 cm (2”) deep over a continuously moist layer of neutral to slightly acidic inorganic material such as river sand, perlite, Turface, small size pumice or the like. The point is that you don’t want this layer to modify the conifer duff layer chemically or mechanically, say from earthworms or soil burrowing insects. Companion plants need to be completely noncompetitive or absent altogether. A layer of moss is OK as long as it doesn’t overgrow the orchids (that’s one way they are overwhelmed even in the wild), and in fact the plants will do better by themselves. If you have a native forest, or forest-like condition in the outside garden, and you live near natural populations, you may try this one in the open garden. Otherwise I recommend growing them in containers and keeping these well protected throughout the season in an outdoor shade house or the like. Refrain from using fertilizer of any kind, even at weak dilution rates.

A group of Calypso bulbosa v. occidentalis in their full glory, East Sooke Park, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

So, there you have it: a tiny little jewel of a plant better suited to being appreciated in nature than in a garden setting. Let’s hope this lovely little orchid continues to grace the far flung woods of the north county for many years to come.

Think You Know How to Take Care of Ground Orchids? Read This

Unlike common orchid species, the ground orchid is naturally adapted to ground soil. Growing and caring for this flower is easy, making them a preferred garden plant for hobbyists.

Ground orchid is a perennial orchid variety that grows in the soil. Contrary to this, regular orchids are epiphytes, meaning they absorb water and nutrients from air. Hence, ground orchids are similar in growing habits to terrestrial flowering herbs; whereas their flowers and leaves resemble plants belonging to the Orchidaceae family. They are best grown in containers for maintaining as houseplants, but can also be planted in garden beds and borders.

A unique feature about this flower is its ability to bloom for an extended period of time if the growth conditions are optimal. It blossoms in all seasons. This variety is available in shades of white, peach, pink, purple, yellow, and magenta. These flowers are of two types, Chinese (Bletilla hyacinthina) and Malayan (Spathoglottis plicata). The latter species is more popular in the floral industry, mainly because of its cold hardy nature and long blooming period.

Steps for Caring

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The best planting site for this plant is a full sunlit area in colder regions and partially shaded place for warm climatic conditions. Accordingly, select an apt plantation site in your garden. If you are growing it in a container, then the location is not an issue. You can always move a potted plant from sunlight to shade and vice versa. While planting them in garden soil, make sure you maintain a spacing of about 3 – 6 inches between two plants.

Soil Conditions

Enrich the garden soil with a heavy dose of farmyard compost or organic fertilizer. Also supplement broken charcoal, rocks, and bricks to promote healthy growth and spreading of the root system. The ideal soil pH for growing these orchids is mild acidic (pH 6.1) to neutral (pH 7.5).

Watering Frequency

During the growing season, regular watering is a must to induce maximum flower development. Nevertheless, allow the top soil layer to dry between two watering sessions. Heavy watering will cause water logging of the soil. In nature, these plants thrive well in high humidity and moist soil. Hence, you can adjust the soil and growth conditions to mimic their natural habitat.

Adding Fertilizers

Ground orchids require less efforts and care as compared to other types of orchids. As far as fertilization is concerned, supplement the soil with a slow release liquid fertilizer in appropriate dosage before the flower buds have developed. Also, do not forget to irrigate the plants on a regular basis after adding fertilizers. This will promote absorption of the nutrients by the root system.

Other Care Instructions

A major concern with these plants is that they cannot tolerate extreme cold weather conditions (below 40º F). If you are residing in a cold area, make arrangements for protection of the plants in the winter season. One solution is to transfer the orchids into pots and bring them inside the house. During flowering season, remove dead stems and flowers to promote production of more flower buds.

When your ground orchids are well established and matured, you can consider propagating them by division method. To do this, divide the large parent plant into smaller clumps without injuring the roots, and plant each individual clump into separate pots, or in ground soil.

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Proper Care for Ground Orchids

Posted July 24th, 2015 by Garden & Greenhouse in November-December 2015, Orchid Articles, Ornamental Plant Articles

Ground Orchids, or Spathoglottis Pilata, are a plant from the Orchidaceae family. They flower year round and are native to southeastern Asia and the Philippians. They are found in the colors of white, lavender, violet, light pink, orange and yellow.

There are several conditions that need to be addressed about the care of these orchids. These include the type of light, humidity, spacing, how often to water, how to water, what type of soil or covering is best and lastly, what type of fertilizers, if any should be used.


The Ground Orchids grow best when they are provided light shade from the sun’s harmful rays. They like light just not direct light in the heat of the day.


They do not like it extremely humid but they do thrive in about 75-80 % humidity. This is not required though, but they do prefer it.

Spacing Requirements

Ground Orchids should have 3-6 inches between each other. From one cluster it is possible to split and make 3 or more individual plants.


Watering the flowers regularly is the key. Do not let the flowers wilt or dry up by not receiving enough water. How much water depends on the type of cover or medium being used. A plant should not sit in water yet it should have enough that the media stays irrigated. Too little water and your plant and flowers will shrivel and wilt; too much water and they will start to collect harmful bacteria that can eventually kill your orchid.


The coverings best suited for these Orchids are moss or stones. Any media that allows the water to flow through to the roots and have sufficient room for the roots to grow will be alright to use.

Want more information? Read these articles:

5 Endangered Orchid Species

Beginners Advice for Orchid Growers

Miltonia Orchid Care

Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow? Find Out Why and How to Solve It

Orchid Plant Feeding Regimen

The #1 Method for Successful Orchid Propagation

Ground Orchids for South Florida

Spathoglottis plicata &
Epidendrum radicans

Afraid to grow orchids? Try landscaping with easy care ground orchids – colorful and unusual plants for South Florida gardens.

These plants have a different look than the typical (though very beautiful) epiphytes.

But they blossom more often and have less of a learning-curve challenge, especially when planted in the right spot.

Some people say growing orchids is easy. Others say it’s hard to do.

Terrestrial orchids may have complicated names but their care is anything but. Plus they’re generally less expensive to buy, though they may have to be special ordered at your local nursery.
On this page we feature two types of these plants – one for shade, one for sun – each with a unique look and both are simple to care for.

Spathoglottis plicata

Spathoglottis plicata is a shade loving plant sometmes known as “Philippine Ground Orchid.”

Some sources say it takes full sun, but in South Florida part shade to full shade (with bright indirect light) is best.
This plant grows about a foot tall and spreads slowly. It has the look of a wildflower with blooms in purple, peach, yellow or multi-colored.
The small and pretty blossoms appear during warm months of the year. The arched leaves have the pleated look of baby palm fronds.

Landscape uses: These ground orchids are very effective in the landscape when massed as a groundcover under trees. They also work in the front of the border, along a walk or around the base of a small palm.

Epidendrum radicans

Epidendrum radicans – sometimes called “Reed-stem Orchid” – is probably the easiest orchid to grow. It flowers on and off all year with bright orange blossoms. (They’re also available in reddish-purple.)

The ideal light is partial sun to produce plenty of flowers.

Too much sun (or cold weather) can turn the leaves bronze in color – not unattractive but it indicates the plant isn’t happy. Too much shade and you’ll get no flowers.

The east side of the house or a spot with shade midday through mid-afternoon works well.

The plant will spread out and its foliage will show white roots trailing from the stems…this can give the plant a somewhat wild look, so it’s better when used in an informal landscape.

These ground orchids are moderate growers that grow about 2-1/2 to 3 feet tall and wide.

Landscape uses: This plant functions as an accent (especially nice for color near the entry), or it can be used to line a walk, grow along a porch or deck, or surround a palm or other specimen.

Plant specs & care

Both of these plants need the warmth of Zone 10 to flourish. In Zone 9B they can be container grown and moved indoors during cold weather.

Amend the soil with top soil (or organic peat humus) for dry sandy areas.

Give these orchids a well-drained location. Water on a regular basis but don’t keep the area overly wet.

Spathoglottis may need to have browned leaves trimmed off now and then. Epidendrum’s flower stalks should be cut back to the ground once they’re done.

Fertilize during early spring and late summer with controlled release fertilizer. You can supplement feedings with liquid fertilizer.

Plant spacing

The smaller shade orchid can be planted 12 to 15 inches apart. Come in from walks about a foot. To fill in a naturalized setting, place them in a random pattern rather than in straight rows.

The larger one should be placed about 2-1/2 to 3 feet from the nearest plant. Come in from walks and drives 3 feet, and out from the house about 2 feet.

These plants will grow in containers.


Spathoglottis – alocasia, ferns, dwarf tibouchina, cordyline, pentas and variegated arboricola.

Epidendrum – Hope philodendron, thunbergia, firespike, blue daze, and croton.

Other plants you might like: Heliconia, African Iris

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Palmer: Wild orchids are worth the search

Finding orchids in the Florida wilds is often a chance event. Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors trying to improve my chances.

Finding orchids in the Florida wilds is often a chance event.
Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors trying to improve my chances.
More than 100 species of native orchids are found in Florida. More than 30 of them are found in and around Polk County.
All are protected by state and sometimes federal law. That means you can admire them or photograph them, but you can’t collect them.
My most recent foray involved an all-day tour through a section of the Green Swamp north of Polk City.
There are two general types of orchids.
Epiphytic orchids attach themselves to tree trunks.
The most common of these locally is the butterfly orchid, which is easy to spot hanging from live oak trees in places such as Circle B Bar Reserve.
The recent field trip yielded a green fly orchid, another epiphyte. It was nestled among the resurrection ferns and the bromeliads in an oak tree along a path near the Withlacoochee River.
The other Florida orchids are terrestrial orchids that sprout from the ground in various habitats.
One of those, a beauty called a rose pogonia, was the object of our Green Swamp expedition.
We found them in two places, both damp open areas at the edge of a cypress dome.
One of the spots was damp enough to encourage the growth of some clumps of pitchers plants, an insect-eating plant composed of several Florida species that are interesting in their own right.
Earlier this year I was hiking through a recently burned area in another section of the Green Swamp when I encountered one of the species of Calopogon orchids, all of them pink-flowered beauties often found in open pinewoods.
Earlier this year on the other side of the county I found a stretch of country roadside that was orchid rich.
A water spider orchid, which has a cluster of green blossoms, was growing in a roadside ditch.
On drier land further along the road were clusters of various species of Spiranthes orchids, which are named for the white spiral of blooms that wrap around the main stem. There are several species
Along this stretch I have also encountered leafless beaked orchids, which are larger, showier species with red blossoms.
Whether I see them on this stretch of road often depends on the timing of the mowing crews. Last year I arrived ahead of the tractors. This year I didn’t.
There has been some talk of designating a roadside wildflower network in Polk County that would involve modifying mowing times to preserve peak viewing periods, but it hasn’t progressed very far.
Most of the terrestrial orchids are relatively small plants, mostly less than knee height.
There is one exception: the giant orchid.
I encountered a patch of them for the first time several years ago while I was looking for rare plants in a scrub site where I volunteer.
The flowers aren’t particularly large, but the plant stalks are about 4 feet high.
There are more orchids growing locally, including some other spectacular-looking plants such as the snowy orchid and the Southern white-fringed orchid.
Many of the better-known orchids, such as the ghost orchid, are confined to South Florida and when they are seen blooming on public conservation land it is often an event.
In addition to the native orchids, Florida also is home to a few species of non-native orchids that grow in the wild.
The most common is a small plant with white flowers called the lawn orchid, which is found in Polk County. Other exotic orchid species are primarily confined to the Miami area.
If you’d like to learn more about Florida orchids, there is a good field guide titled “Wild Orchids of Florida” by Paul Martin Brown that is worth acquiring.
Circle B work day
Ancient Islands Sierra Club will be adding to the native landscape at Circle B Bar Reserve from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday.
The work will involve planting saw palmettos, which were absent from the site when it was acquired in 2000, as well as winged elm and green ash trees.
If you’d like to help, contact Andy Quinn at [email protected] .
Astronomy night
The next local astronomy night will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday at Colt Creek State Park. The program will focus on Saturn and, sky conditions permitting, participants will be able to view Saturn through one of the telescopes set up for the occasion.
Colt Creek State Park is at 16000 State Road 471. Admission is $4 per vehicle.
For more information on the local astronomy programs, go to .
— Tom Palmer can be reached at [email protected] or 863-802-7535. Read more views on the environment at and more views on county government at Follow on Twitter @LedgerTom.

 The Floristic Inventory of South Florida Conservation of rare plants, animals, and ecosystems

Family: Orchidaceae
Group: Monocot
Substrate: Terrestrial
Habit: Herb
Perennation: Perennial
Native Range: Peninsular Florida, the West Indies, Mexico, Central America and northern South America. In Central Florida, known only from the Avon Park Air Force Range, where perphaps introduced with road fill (see Orzell 25213 USF).
Map of select IRC data for peninsular Florida
NatureServe Global Status: Secure
State of Florida Status: Threatened
Florida Natural Areas Inventory State Status: Not listed
SOUTH FLORIDA Occurrence: Present
SOUTH FLORIDA Native Status: Native
South Florida History and Distribution: A rare terrestrial orchid widespread in South Florida from Martin and Lee counties south to southern Miami-Dade County and the Monroe County mainland, then disjunct to the lower Florida Keys in the vicinity of Big Pine Key. Also visit our Natives For Your Neighborhood website for more information about using this species for native plant landscaping and restoration in South Florida.
SOUTH FLORIDA Cultivated Status: Cultivated
Comments: See also the North American Orchid Conservation Center’s Go Orchids website.
Synonyms: Bletia verecunda (Salisb.) R. Br.

Yard Doc: Ground orchids brighten shady gardens, balconies, patios


Here we are in the teeth of a very hot summer. Shade in the garden or landscape is a good thing to keep us cool though it can be challenging to find the right plants for the shade.

Ground orchids are a nice choice for beds and containers for year-round color in the shade.

There are several species of terrestrial (grows in soil) orchids found in Treasure Coast landscapes. Today, let’s look at the plant sold in many nurseries and garden centers as “Ground Orchid.”

Known as Spathoglottis species to scientists and horticulturists, Ground orchids hail from Asia and the islands of the South Pacific including Malaysia, Borneo and the Philippines.

These plants are true orchids. The leaves are large, up to 2 feet long and are often crinkled or folded like a fan. They emerge from pseudobulbs, which are thickened, bulb-like, fleshy stems found in many orchids used to store water and nutrients. The plants form large clumps by spreading along lateral, sometimes underground stems.

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Beautiful flowers are produced on tall, loose spikes which grow from the base of the pseudobulbs and last for several months. The flowers are found in a range of colors from white to pink, yellow and purple, depending on species. The flowers have three sepals (the part on the outside of the flower buds) and three petals, one petal forming a rose to orange spotted lip.

Flowers appear in cycles throughout the year in warm locations and in the summer in cooler zones. The fruit is a typical orchid pod containing many dust-like naked seeds.

Many experts recommend full sun for ground orchids, however, in Central and South Florida, partial to full shade is best. Protect them from frost and select an area with well-draining soil and adequate water. These orchids like regular water from rain or irrigation, but not soggy feet. Ground orchids have little to no salt tolerance.

Ground orchids are tough and of easy cultivation. Grow this orchid in large containers for beautiful color on balconies, patios and around the pool. They also are beautiful in mass for foundation plantings and in beds. Plant on 2- to 3-foot centers and plan to thin occasionally. Apply mulch heavily to keep the plants moist and the area free of weeds.

Remove spent flower spikes to encourage more flowers, but be sure the long lasting spike is finished blooming. Flower spikes will produce more flowers per spike as the plants mature. This orchid spreads by clumping and is easily propagated by division.

Ground orchids are generally not bothered by pests or diseases. The leaves bleach out or turn yellowish in hot, sunny, dry conditions, and very wet locations can cause root rot.

Carol Cloud Bailey is a landscape counselor and horticulturist. Send questions to [email protected] or visit for more information.

We already have a page for “consumer education”, where we cover topics like “monkey” orchids, “blue” orchids, “black” orchids, “ice” orchids and more, but it was getting long so we decided to add new material here instead. We’ll cover different topics on this page, with the intent of helping you understand some common misconceptions, urban legends and more.

“Ground Orchids”

We get a lot of inquiries about this, “do you have ground orchids”?, and more often than not the caller isn’t really sure what he or she is actually asking about. So we want to offer some enlightenment, if we can, on this topic. Note that we sometimes have some of these plants available at the nursery, even if they are not listed in our online catalog.

Most cultivated orchids are epiphytes, their natural habitat is in the branches and on the trunks of tropical and subtropical trees. But some orchids from the tropics and subtropics are “terrestrial”, meaning they naturally grow in the ground. (All temperate-zone orchids are terrestrial.) Some of these orchids are available in nurseries and they make good subjects for tropical landscaping, or in containers in climates where winters are too cold for them. We’ll summarize several of the most common types here, so when you are looking for “ground orchids” you can ask for them by name.

Epidendrum radicans

Epidendrum radicans This is one of the “reed stem” epis, native to Mexico where it can be a roadside weed. The orange-flowered plants are scrambling with lots of aerial roots. Plant them in a sunny, well-drained location and they’ll reward you with flowers for months. Note: not all of the similar “reed stem” epis are terrestrial; many of the brightly-colored hybrids (red, yellow, lavender, pink) are semi-terrestrial and more suitable for containers than for landscaping.

Spathoglottis plicata

Spathoglottis There are several species and some hybrids available, the most common is the lavender-pink Spa. plicata. They have very attractive foliage and the plants are sequential bloomers, producing flowers over a long period of time. They want bright light (not full sun all day, however) and good drainage. Spa. unguiculata has dark purple, grape-scented flowers; it’s a smaller plant than plicata and fussier to grow. Several yellow-flowered species are sometimes available as well; note that some of the yellow-flowered species are deciduous during their winter resting period.

Phaius tankervilleiae

Phaius, Calanthe and hybrids From Asia, these are sometimes known as the “nun” orchids and they can be quite large plants. They want a moist, shady spot in the garden, and they bloom in the late winter or early spring. Snails love the lush foliage, so be aware of that and apply snail bait if you see damage.

Sobralia sp.

Sobralia This is a genus of incredibly beautiful terrestrials from Central and South America. The flowers resemble Cattleyas, but they are very short-lived. Most Sobralia flowers only last a single day, although the plants may produce flowers for several days, several times a year. Some are quite large plants, leafy and handsome even when not flowering. They are not as common in cultivation as the other orchids listed above, we rarely have them.

Terete “vandas” Technically these are not terrestrials at all, but they can be trained to climb on a tree or fence. Eventually the lower part of the plant dies back so they are no longer growing in the ground.

Arundina graminifolia

Arundina Also from Asia, this is the “Bamboo orchid”, Arundina graminifolia. They are usually tall plants with grassy foliage on bamboo-like cane stems, and medium-size pink and white flowers resembling small Cattleyas. They will grow in full sun and need good drainage. Plants can be propagated from keikis on the stems.

Pleione These are cool-growing terrestrials from Asia. You may see “bulbs” for sale in garden centers (we don’t carry them), but they are unsuitable for subtropical gardens.

Bletia Many species, native in Florida, the Caribbean, Central America. Common in the Everglades, not common in cultivation. We don’t sell them.

Other terrestrials, some of them native orchids, include species of Calopogon, Habenaria, Platanthera, Spiranthes, but these plants are usually protected and uncommon in cultivation. Occasionally plants of Cyrtopodium andersonii are available, too.

“Orchid Trees”

We get a fair number of inquiries about this, too, and indeed, recently got a call from someone who actually argued with us when we explained that an “orchid tree” is not an orchid at all. Just because the common name is “orchid tree”, don’t believe for a moment that the plants are even remotely related to orchids. They have that common name because the flowers, to some eyes, superficially resemble orchids. In fact, “orchid trees” are one or another species of Bauhinia, a genus of flowering trees. There are more than 500 species of Bauhinia around the world, and a few dozen are cultivated as ornamental plants.

Bauhinia × blakeana

The “orchid tree” or “Hong Kong orchid tree” is a hybrid, Bauhinia × blakeana, popular because – unlike most Bauhinias – it’s sterile and doesn’t produce messy seedpods. So no, it isn’t an orchid and we don’t sell it; you might find it at nurseries offering tropical flowering trees or shrubs.

(an interesting factoid: the Bauhinia flowers are very attractive to several of the naturalized populations of amazon and conure parrots in South Florida; the birds flock to the trees to feast on the flowers, making a mess and a racket as they eat)

(image © Ianare /via Wikimedia commons)

“Parrot” Orchids

This is more internet nonsense, and the story makes the rounds every few years.: “Rare parrot orchid from Thailand…” (with a photo). Let’s set this straight… the plant exists, but it isn’t an orchid. It’s Impatiens psittacina, sometimes called “parrot flower”, and it is native to Thailand and some other parts of southeast Asia. Repeat: not an orchid, and no, we don’t sell it.

Now ordinarily we’d include a photo but this time we weren’t able to find one we could include here (none in Wikimedia Commons), because of copyright issues. If you have an image of Impatiens psittacina (and you own copyright on it) that you’d be willing to let us use here, with attribution and copyright notice, let us know. Otherwise a quick internet search will turn up dozens of photos.

Florida’s Wild Native Orchids – Cymbidieae

  • March 18, 2016
  • Rich Leighton
  • Florida, Florida Nature Photography, Natural History, Nature & Wildlife, Nature Photography, Orchids, Photography

One of my very favorite types of wild native orchids I’ve found in the wild are those belonging to the tribe Cymbidieae, all of which are found in the tropics or subtropics. Not only are the flowers spectacularly colorful and often large, each plant often has many flowers in bloom at the same time. Some species can be found either growing off the ground in or on trees (epiphytic), or they can be found growing in the soil (terrestrial). This all depends on the species. What they all do have in common, is their growth pattern: none of them grow from a single vertical stem, but rather a horizontal stem called a rhizome that produces pseudobulbs (structures that physically look similar to flower bulbs) that are water-storing organs that help them survive prolonged dry periods and drought. Each of these pseudobulbs can grow its own leaves and flower-bearing stem. Because of this, when you find one flowering stalk, you will almost always find many more at varying stages of growth or development nearby. The following are some of the many species I’ve found and photographed in the wild across Southern Florida.

click on any image to enlarge

Wild Coco Orchid (Eulophia alta)

Close-up of a wild coco growing in the Fakahatchee Strand. These large flowers can vary in color and shape from one plant to another.

Photographed from above in the Estero Bay Preserve, the wild coco is one of the most spectacular and common terrestrial orchids to be found in Southern Florida.

Pott’s Giant Orchid (Pteroglossaspis pottsii)

The newly named P. pottsii growing in a pine scrub in Citrus County, Florida.

Close-up of the flower of the Pott’s giant orchid.

Yellow Cowhorn Orchid (Cyrtopodium polyphyllum)

The terrestrial cowhorn orchid found growing in the Fakahatchee Strand – in full flower weeks before it was stolen from the wild. This is why I no longer tell anyone where the rare orchids are – this happens all too often! They are too hard to find, and very disheartening when they are taken – usually to die in some orchid enthusiast’s collection because it has been shocked by its removal from the conditions in which it grew from seed.

Yellow cowhorn orchid found in the Fakahatchee Strand by another orchid enthusiast, and he told me where to find it. This plant was stolen from the wild a couple of weeks later by some lowlife.

Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum)

This incredible orchid has a long history of being taken from the wild for the orchid trade. There are stories of single plants weighing hundreds of pounds being pulled out of the Everglades by the wagon load. These days, small ones are difficult to find.

Cigar orchids are most often found growing on old cypress stumps or knees.

How it gets its name. In the summer, these orchids lose all their leaves, and the result looks like a clump of cigars attached to the base of a tree or cypress knee. This massive cigar orchid is the biggest I’ve ever seen!

Wild coco growing in the Estero Bay Preserve in Lee County, Florida. This classic roadside orchid is regularly found in fall and winter, and can reach up to three feet in height.

Crestless Plume Orchid (Pteroglossaspis ecristata)

Also known as a giant orchid – this terrestrial orchid looks like anything but and orchid. Many of the ones I’ve photographed have been about 40-50 inches tall on average.

Beautiful pink flowers with a deep burgundy lip make this recent discovery to the orchid world a pleasure to see in the wild.

Yellow cowhorn orchid photographed in the pre-dawn in South Florida with a ring-flash. Hopefully this one will be safe from poachers!

Beautifully colored form of the wild coco orchid. This one was found growing next to a ditch in Charlotte County, Florida.

A location in Lee County has well over a hundred of these unusual tall orchids growing in two distinct colonies. The location will remain undisclosed as these orchids are becoming very rare at an alarming rate.

The fantastically mottled and twisted flowers of the cigar orchid in a massive display deep in the Big Cypress National Preserve. This is by far the largest one I’ve found, and hopefully will provide plenty of seeds for this orchid to recover after decades of poaching.

African Spotted Orchid (Oeceoclades maculata)

The unmistakable variegated leaf of the African spotted orchid. The underground pseudobulb is partially exposed for this shot.

Although not truly native, this naturalized orchid can be found in just about every wooded area in South Florida.

The African spotted orchid, also known as the monk orchid, has its roots in Africa, from where it is believed it was accidentally or unknowingly brought to Florida. It has also been found in many parts of Puerto Rico.

A close-up of a cigar orchid flower against a black diffuser (a photographer’s tool for adjusting natural light) in the Big Cypress National Preserve.


Sharing and commenting via the social media links below helps me greatly, and is much appreciated. Thank you in advance!

Rich Leighton
March 18, 2016
©2016 Leighton Photography & Imaging

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