Peacock orchid holland grown

Peacock Orchid Planting Guide

Many plants wear common names that are misleading. There are lots of “lilies” out there that aren’t in the lily family. This fragrant “orchid” actually is in the iris family, and pretty closely related to gladiolus. Looking at the upright, slender foliage you can see the family resemblance. Adding to the confusion, these are also called Gladiolus callianthus by some.

Regardless of what you call them, these native to the high country of east Africa deserve to be more widely grown. For fun, we’re adding them to large mixed planters this year.

Choosing a Growing Site

Peacock orchids love the sun and bloom best when provided with lots of light. Their nodding white flowers are lovely with the light behind them so consider siting them where they’ll be illuminated with sunrise or sunset rays. Stand at your kitchen window and figure out where you’ll be able to see them blooming, July through September and beyond, with the summer to autumn rays sparkling through their petals.

Soil Prep

Peacock orchids grow well in average soil and adapt to most soils except heavy clay.

When to Plant Acidanthera

Plant outdoors when frost danger has past.

How to Plant Peacock Orchid Bulbs

Plant these bulbs (corms, if you want to get technical) 5-6″ deep and 3-5″ apart. Position with the pointed end facing upwards. After planting, tamp down soil and water well. The bulbs will begin to develop roots and sprouts within a few weeks.

During the Season

Acidanthera plants require little care during the growing season. Keep soil relatively moist and do not allow to dry out completely. Stake if your site is breezy.

At the Season’s End

For gardeners in zones 7-10 peacock orchids are perennials, successfully overwintering outdoors. In zone 6 and colder areas, wait until after the frost kills the foliage and dig the clumps with a garden fork. Shake off the soil, clip the foliage to 4-6″ and set the plants in a dry, shady area (in the garage is fine) to dry and cure. Then just twist off the old foliage and store the corms in a box of dry peat moss in a dark place that’s 40-60 degrees. A partially heated garage often works well. Replant in spring.

Insider Tips

  1. Plant these for fragrant blooms that appear in mid to late July and continue through frost.
  2. If you are planting these corms in a group, dig a wide hole 5-6″ deep and place the bulbs 3-5″ apart. This is easier and faster than digging closely spaced individual planting holes.
  3. These are plants that once you try them, you’re likely to include them going forward. Easy, graceful, pretty, fragrant and inexpensive.

shop peacock orchids

Gardeners love peacock orchids for their beautiful and fragrant flowers. Peacock orchids, properly known by their botanical name Gladiolus callianthus, trace their family tree to the iris and gladiolus family. They provide masses of color and look stunning at the back of the border or in places where you need to make a dramatic impact in the garden.

Caring for Gladiolus Callianthus

Gardeners in North America consider them tender perennials or annual flowers. Because they originated in the mountains of east Africa, peacock orchids need very warm winters in order to survive. They do best grown in gardens within zones 7a to zone 11.

Purchase corms in home and garden centers or catalogs. Many gardeners report finding bags of healthy peacock orchids on sale and discount racks. Since they’re not as familiar to the average homeowner as Iris, Sword Lily or spring flowering bulbs like tulips and daffodils, they’re often passed up for familiar garden favorites. But peacock orchids are easy to grow and thrive in most garden conditions, and their beauty outshines many other flowers. Peacock orchids come in flower colors ranging from white to a very rich, dark maroon red. All peacock orchids grow to be several feet tall, so you’ll want to plant them at the back of the border or garden so they don’t overshadow more diminutive plants. Foliage is a rich emerald green, with long, slender leaves. Deer generally find peacock orchids unpalatable, which is good news for gardeners living in areas where deer are a problem.

Growing Conditions

Peacock orchids require full sunlight, at least six hours a day, although they may tolerate some afternoon shade. Soil should be mildly acidic with a pH of 6.1 to neutral 7.0. Amending soil with peat moss provides excellent drainage as well as the slightly acidic soil conditions the plant prefers. Keep soil slightly moist at all times. Most gardeners rely upon rainfall to water peacock orchids.

Planting Peacock Orchids

These plants require a long growing season and cannot tolerate cold or frost, so gardeners in zones 7 and above may wish to start their peacock orchids indoors and transplant them into the garden when all danger of frost has passed. For those in temperate zones 7a through 11, plant them in early spring. They’ll bloom by mid July in most gardens and continue producing tall, fragrant and dramatic blossoms right up until the first frost.

Plant the corms approximately three inches deep and spaced about three to four inches apart. The plant isn’t fussy about how you place the corms, but do cluster them in odd numbered groups. Groups of five or seven corms make the best, most natural looking clusters of flowers.

After the first frosts of fall nip the flowers, allow the plant to die back naturally. In cooler climates, the entire plant may die. You can dig up the corms and store them, or simply treat them like annuals and purchase again in the spring for more beautiful plants next year.

Division and Storing

For those areas where peacock orchids survive winter temperatures and return year after year, mature clusters may be divided around the time of the last frost. Simply dig up the cluster and divide the corms using a clean spade. Corms may be stored indoors in vermiculite or dry moss. Keep them cool, around forty degrees, and dry, and plant again in the spring.

Uses for Peacock Orchids

As Cut Flowers

Peacock orchids make great cut flowers, and some gardeners include them in cutting gardens to keep plenty on hand for bouquets and vases inside the home.

In Container Gardens

To make a stunning container garden, plant corms in the center of a large pot. Surround them with draping annuals, like bocapa and vinca vine, and other tall annuals such as dracaena for an unusual architectural effect. These pots look especially beautiful near modern-style homes, perhaps on a patio or near a pool.

In Borders

Incorporate peacock orchids into naturalized sunny borders by planting clusters near the back of the border. Other fragrant midsized perennials and annuals in shades of white and red added to the border create great swaths of color.

Safe Handling of Peacock Orchids

Parts of the plant are poisonous, so store well away from curious children and pets. Some people experience skin irritation when handling the corms. Wear gardening gloves when planting to avoid contact.

Peacock Orchid Bulbs – Gladiolus acidanthera Pre-Sale Now; Ships Spring 2020

Peacock Orchids, although called orchids, are actually in the Gladiolus family. Gladiolus, (from Latin, the diminutive of gladius, a sword) is a genus of perennial bulbous flowering plants in the iris family – Glads actually do not grow from bulbs but from “corm” – a closely related cousin. Peacock Orchids plants are attractive, perennial herbs and semi hardy in temperate climates. Peacock Orchids are easy to grow, colorful and make great cut flowers. With very little work needed, your Peacock Orchids will burst into bloom in mid-Summer, adorning your garden with showy flowers that will make for a wonderful addition to any scheme.
When to Plant your Peacock Orchid Bulbs:

Plant your bulbs in the spring, after any chance of freeze has passed. Peacock Orchids can’t handle any freezes so consult your local extension office or agricultural centers for more information.

Where to Plant your Peacock Orchid Bulbs:

While they prefer full sun, the Peacock Orchid can grow anywhere with at least 6 hours of full sun a day. These plants prefer a rich, soft soil, and plenty of water. If the soil is poor, add a little fertilizer to help stimulate growth.

How to Plant your Peacock Orchid Bulbs:
The Peacock Orchid bulbs (or corm) can be grown in rows, or bunches. They will tolerate a little crowding, but will grow bigger if spaced out. We recommend planting the bulbs 4-6 inches deep – secured deep in the ground, you are less likely to need a stake. Plant them about 6 inches apart. If you have bought quite a few, don’t plant them all at once. Stagger their planting and you will get a better succession of flowers. Add mulch to help retain water, and to keep the weeds down. Peacock Orchids need plenty of water to flower well. On well-drained poorer soil, extra watering will be required. Once planted, your plants should grow well with little attention.

How to Care for your Peacock Orchid Bulbs:

If you leave in a temperate region, mulch the bulbs deeply with 2.5 in of compost to give them an insulating duvet over their heads in late autumn. In colder regions, grow them in a sheltered spot and lift them for the winter when the leaves turn yellow-brown. Lift them and snap the corms from the stems. Dry them out for a couple of weeks, then snap the new corms from the old, discarding the old. The new must be kept dry and cold (but frost-free) until they are replanted. You can dig and divide the clumps every few years to select the best corms for replanting. Without this, the new cormlets forming will invade the space of the original corm and the nutrients will have to be shared. The risk is lots of foliage and no flower spikes.

Peacock Orchid Planting Guide: Tips For Growing Peacock Orchids

The elegant peacock orchid features showy summer blooms with nodding, white flowers and a maroon center. Foliage of growing peacock orchids is an attractive, sword-like shape, colored green with hints of red near the base. Growing peacock orchids is not as hard as the name and description implies, they are, in fact, easy to grow and may well be one of the most beautiful flowers in the summer garden.

What are Peacock Orchids?

You may ask, “What are peacock orchids” and the answer may surprise you. Acidanthera bicolor is not an orchid at all. It is a member of the iris family and related to gladiolus. Blooming peacock orchid bulbs display a different flowering form than one finds on the typical gladiola.

Also labeled botanically as Gladiolus callianthus, the showy blooms are fragrant and offer a range of possibilities in the garden or in containers.

Plant peacock orchid bulbs in spring. Space the small bulbs, which are technically corms, 3 to 6 inches apart in moist, well-draining soil and 3 to 5 inches deep.

Growing peacock orchids prefer full sun and like the hot afternoon sun, particularly in colder zones.

Plant peacock orchid bulbs in masses for a dramatic show in the summer landscape.

Peacock Orchid Care

Peacock orchid care involves watering regularly, as they like damp soil and hot afternoon sunlight. Keep soil moist and your Acidanthera blooms may continue until frost.

As a tender bulb in USDA plant hardiness zones 7 and below, peacock orchid bulbs may require indoor storage in winter. This peacock orchid care involves digging the corms, cleaning them and storing indoors until you replant them in spring. When using this method, dig bulbs after foliage has yellowed, following a light frost, but before a hard freeze. Rinse them off and allow to dry, keeping them away from direct sunlight or freezing temperatures.

Store the bulbs in a vented container, surrounded by peat moss, where they will get air circulation. Storage temperatures should remain around 50 F. (10 C.). Some peacock orchid planting guide information suggests a 3-week period of curing, before storing for the winter. This is done at temperatures of 85 F. (29 C.).

I leave the corms in my northern zone 7 garden in the ground for the winter and have not had difficulty with blooms the following year. If you choose to try leaving them in the ground, provide a heavy layer of mulch over them for the winter.

If bulbs are not dug yearly for winter storage, division of the small peacock orchid bulbs is necessary every three to five years for continued blooms when growing peacock orchids.

The “peacock orchid” (Acidanthera) is a lovely mid to late summer and early fall plant with a strong fragrant-flowers and a unique appearance.

The plant belongs to the Gladiolus genus in the Iris family (Iridaceae), which means that it is not an orchid.

It’s native to parts of East Africa, but it has become a staple in gardens throughout the world.

The acidanthera is recognizable due to its sword-like foliage and white flowers that start to bloom in the mid-summer.

The name even references the foliage, as it is taken from the Greek “akis,” which means “sharp point.”

“Peacock Orchid” is the common name for Acidanthera, which is pronounced . It’s also sometimes called “Sword Lily.”

NOTE: Some refer to Acidanthera with the botanical name of Gladiolus callianthus or as Gladiolus acidanthera.

Acidanthera Care: How To Plant Peacock Orchid Bulbs

Size & Growth

Acidanthera is easy to grow and care for. The bulbs should be planted in early spring in full sun after the threat of frost has passed.

They are best suited for the USDA hardiness zone 7 to 11.

The plant grows slowly throughout the first half of the season. In fact, you may not see any leaves until late June.

These plants are late bloomers, but the leaves can reach 10″ to 36″ inches in length.

Orchid Glad Flowering and Fragrance

Peacock orchids bloom time runs from late summer or early fall.

Many gardeners eagerly anticipate the arrival of the flowers and may mistakenly assume that they aren’t coming.

When the flowers arrive, they open from the bottom, revealing funnel-shaped white flowers. Most people find that they have a pleasant, aromatic fragrance.

Light & Temperature

These plants grow best in full sun. If you don’t have an area in your garden with full sun, you may want to plant the bulbs in outdoor pots.

You can then move them to a suitable location later in the season after the flowers bloom.

Watering, Feeding, and Fertilizing

When you first plant the bulbs, they only need light watering. This a drought-tolerant plant that can survive without frequent watering.

Keep in mind that if you want full, bright flowers from the late summer flowering bulb, make sure the plant gets enough water throughout the season.

Fertilizer may be added when you first start to notice growth, which typically occurs in the late spring.

Use a 10-10-10 liquid fertilizer every two to three weeks until the end of the growing season.

Soil & Transplanting

The plant requires well-drained soil. If your soil is very compacted, take the time to break up the dirt or consider adding fresh topsoil.

You may also want to think about starting the bulbs in pots. The Acidanthera corms are slow-growers and may get taken over by faster growing plants.

You can plant about a dozen Acidanthera corms in a 12-inch garden pot. Wait until the foliage starts to grow before transplanting.

  • When planting the corms, loosen the soil at least six inches.
  • Place the larger corms to a planting depth of about five to six inches deep.
  • The smaller corms may only need to be about four inches deep.
  • Cover the corms with soil and water until the soil is moist.
  • Avoid over-watering.


No grooming is necessary for the Acidanthera. However, feel free to remove some of the foliage if you notice dead leaves.

Question: Will Acidantheras grow outdoors, like gladioli?

Yes, Acidanthera will grow outdoors where the growing season is long.

However, in most parts of the country, it is better to plant several bulbs together in large pots or containers with good well-draining soil.

Grow the plants outside during summer and bring into a cool situation indoors before frost.

After blooming, dry off and rest.

How To Propagate The Peacock Orchid

The best way to propagate acidanthera is to wait until the end of the season when you remove the bulbs.

You may notice smaller bulbs clinging to the corms. You can remove these bulbs and save them for propagation.

You can remove the peacock orchid bulbs (corms) from the garden or pots when the foliage begins to die. Here are a few tips for ensuring that the bulbs are stored correctly:

  • Place the corms indoors on newspaper to dry
  • After they dry, brush off the soil
  • Store the dry, clean corms in a paper bag filled with peat moss
  • Keep the bag in a cool, dark spot through the winter

When next spring arrives, you’ll have corms ready for planting.

NOTE: You may also leave the plants in the pots and bring them indoors. In the spring, dump the soil and replant.

Pest, Disease or Problems Peacock Lily Orchid Encounters

The peacock orchid is prone to many of the usual pest and disease suspects:

  • Spider mites
  • Thrips
  • Aphids
  • Corm rot

In some warmer climates, the plant may start to grow in large clumps. You may need to occasionally thin the plant.

If you do notice pests, you can use your preferred pest spray (Neem oil) to keep them away from the foliage.

What Is The Most Popular Acidanthera Variety?

There are many cultivars in the Peacock Gladiolus genus which the Acidanthera belongs to.

While the Acidanthera flowers is one of the most popular plants in this group, there are a few popular options. Look for Acidanthera bicolor var. murielaes in a variety of flower colors

  • Scarlet (dark red)
  • Maroon/Burgundy
  • White/Near White

These variations offer more of a rainbow of colors, compared to the solid white flowers on the peacock orchid. If you want more color in your garden, consider pairing a few of these options.

Best Uses For The Peacock Orchid Indoors or Outdoors

When planted outdoors in a garden, the plant works best in rows or along the border of your garden.

Acidanthera peacock orchid is also great in a pot, where the tall stalks and bright white flowers can stand out.

Ten Tips for Peacock Orchid Care

Posted November 9th, 2012 by Garden & Greenhouse in Orchid Articles, March 2013

Peacock Orchids, known botanically and sold as “Acidanthera”, are a fairly rare sight in gardens yet they are some of the most enticingly fragrant flowers available. Their elegant white petals and maroon-to-purple throat are highly appealing to both experienced and novice gardeners.

Acidanthera are very easy to care for, ergo their low maintenance is particularly appealing to people who would like to plant beautiful, fragrant flowers but don’t have a lot of time to care for them. It’s also important to note that this flower is not an orchid but is actually related to gladiolus and iris.

Growing Requirements

It won’t take long for you to know if something is wrong with your Acidanthera just by looking at it. They may be complaining’ of too-wet soil, or their need for lots of sun is not being met.

  1. Make sure the soil you plant your Acidanthera in drains well enough to prevent the flowers’ roots (or the bulbs upon planting) from resting in water because Peacock Orchids hate standing water. The soil should be at least 4 inches deep to allow for root growth.
  2. Peacock Orchids will thrive in the sunniest location you can provide for them. The sun does not need to shine 16 hours a day, but the more sun the more fragrant the flowers will become. Partial shade will work but with Acidanthera you can bring on the heat.
  3. Do not plant your Peacock Orchids with other fragrant flowers such as lilies. They are fragrant but you do not want the wonderfully clean fragrance to clash with other fragrances in the garden. Acidanthera can be paired with low-growing foliage like hostas, as their stems reach 2-3ft and droop lovingly over their lower growing underbrush.
  4. Use tweezers or another small instrument to keep weeds and other invading roots and plants from moving invading Peacock Orchids. You don’t want to allow your fragrant Acidanthera to be stunted in any way.
  5. The soil pH for Peacock Orchids should be acidic to neutral (clay is fine)
  6. Keep your Peacock Orchids away from strong winds if possible. Protection from the wind can be achieved by planting them in bunches of at least 5 and preferably 10. Acidanthera is definitely a group flower.
  7. Peacock Orchids are perfect for planting in between rocks as a wonderful visual and scented display. They can also be grown against heat-reflecting walls.
  8. Don’t worry about deer gobbling up your Acidanthera, these wonderful, fragrant white flowers are known to be deer-resistant, as well as rabbit resistant.
  9. Peacock Orchids require minimal care and following these simple guidelines will produce several weeks of lovely, scented blooms 2-3 months after planting.
  10. Enjoy your Acidanthera with both eyes and nose!

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Want more information? Read these articles:

Air Management for Orchids

Artificial Lighting for Orchids

Beginners Advice for Orchid Growers

Chilling Phalaenopsis Orchids to Induce Blooming

Hydroculture for Care Free Orchids

Orchid Plant Feeding Regimen

Peacock Orchid (Gladiolus acidanthera)

Us vs. The Big Box Store: Gladiolus Bulbs

Each season, we head over to the big box store in our area and choose several Bulbs, Plants and Seeds to compare against our selection. This spring, we purchased 50 Gladiolus Bulbs to compare and the difference is quite revealing.

I’d like to start out by mentioning the difference in shopping experiences. I walked into the big box store and headed straight to the back, where I knew the garden section was. I walked through aisles of grills, patio sets and annual hanging baskets until I found someone to speak with. They quickly answered the phone and I waited several more minutes until I could ask, “Do you know where the Gladiolus Bulbs are?” They weren’t sure what I meant and finally an entire wall of Summer-Blooming Bulbs caught my eye. I chose their “Gladiolus Mix” bag of 50, which most resembled our Gladiolus Rainbow Mix, which we also carry in a bag of 50 bulbs.

When you shop on our site, we have a wealth of information on growing and caring for Gladiolus at your fingertips, as well as an extremely helpful and knowledgeable garden staff, several of which are certified Master Gardeners. We not only want you to have success in growing our products, but also want you to feel confident in everything you plant – Which is why we focus so intently on how-to information as well as have a 100% satisfaction guarantee. We urge our customers to write reviews on our products, positive or negative, so you know what grows well in different areas and what doesn’t. We also offer live chat and service over the phone 6 days a week, offering growing advice as well as helping to place orders.

This photo also helps to show the true difference between us and the Big Box Stores. Brian, one of our employees and garden-enthusiasts helps to explain why a bigger flower bulb is better.

“Several flower bulbs are part of the onion family, and because of this I like to use Onions as a representation of how important bulb size is. Which of the onions on your shelf go bad first? The smallest ones! Larger onions are more resilient, taking longer to dry out/rot and can withstand swings in temperature better. Flower bulbs are the same. Larger bulbs will withstand disease, draught, large amounts of moisture, and colder temperatures significantly better than the smaller ones. They also produce taller growth and larger blooms.”

With American Meadows, you’re not only getting access to our thirty years of gardening experience, but are also receiving the largest, highest-quality bulbs available, inevitably producing larger, healthier blooms in your garden. Happy Gardening!

Further Reading:

  • Spring-Planted Bulbs Guide
  • Storing Your Bulbs Before Planting in Spring
  • View all Spring-Planted Bulbs Guides
  • Improving Garden Soil

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