This month’s cover photo
The ground orchid (Spathoglottis sp.) are terrestrial orchids native to tropical areas in Australia and the Pacific Islands including New Guinea, Malaya, East Indies and Southern China.
The foliage is grass-like in appearance and suitable for modern landscape themes. The long flower stalks are held erect above the foliage and produce many flowers as they grow and elongate over many weeks. A wide range of flower colours occur through the varieties, from white to pink or purple, and even deep sulphur yellow. Some have reddish specks on the lip of the flower (lower lobe).
The genus Spathoglottis has over 40 species including Spathoglottis plicata, which flowers for most of the year with generous displays of graceful, long-lasting blooms. This variety (species??) is extremely hardy and suitable for planting in most styles of landscaped gardens (ie formal, native).
When planting outdoors, good drainage is essential because the pseudobulbs are prone to rot. All spathoglottis species should be planted with the bulbs exposed and never mulched. For optimum growth the garden bed should be a combination of compost, crusher dust, perlite and soil. Generous watering is needed in hot weather however during the cooler months, water only once a week.
The foliage of the plant can be host to spiraling whitefly. Regular applications of fish and kelp will deter this pest or alternatively, remove affected foliage and spray the plant on a regular basis with pyrethrum.
Rust and other fungal problems can occur in prolonged wet weather and an occasional spray with lime sulphur should control this problem.
Some varieties of Spathoglottis are deciduous and die back to bulbils. Deciduous varieties are best kept in pots were watering can be controlled during such dormancy periods.
Foliar and root fertilising with fish and kelp will keep the foliage healthy and the flowers strong. A tablespoon of organic slow release fertiliser (such as organic extra) spread over the rhizome once a month during warm weather will improve growth and plant vigour.
Propagation can be achieved in spring by dividing the rhizome into three or four bulbs. These can be potted up into125 mm squat pots and placed in a shady area. When the new plants show active growth they can be hardened up in full sun.
Ground orchids are suitable as indoor plants during the flowering period. Water regularly and you will enjoy these natives for many weeks.