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This orchid is easy and outdoorsy.

For a surprise in late spring, tuck these little orchids in a pot or among low ferns or ground covers near a patio or walk. With minimal care, Chinese ground orchids (Bletilla striata) will reward you year after year.

You can buy the bulbs from now into March. Plant them I inch deep in potting soil for containers, or in loose, humus-rich soil in the ground.

Give the orchids full sun or light shade near the coast, partial shade inland. To prevent frost damage in areas that have irregular temperatures in early spring, plant in containers and keep them in a sheltered spot.

First-year bloom tends to be sparse; in following years, bloom gets better as clumps get denser. But flowers are always at their best up close, where you can appreciate fully the ridges and color variations in their tiny throats.

Water regularly when in leaf-about once a week in cool climates, almost daily misting in hot climates. Fertilize about twice a year: in spring when leaves begin to grow, and again when flowers fade. Bait as needed for snails and slugs.

Leaves stay green all summer, then die back to the ground. Mark the location so you don't dig into bulbs by mistake in winter. Dormant roots can survive temperatures down to 20[degrees] or even 10[degrees] if they're under a fluffy mulch.
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Date:Feb 1, 1989
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