Acidanthera murieliae "peacock orchid" in bloom.
image by Bouba:commons.wikimedia.org
Native to tropical Eastern Africa, peacock orchids are not actually orchids but a perennial flowering type of gladiolus and a member of the iris family. Gladiolus murielae or peacock orchids grow from underground corms and bloom from the middle of summer to the middle of fall. A tropical tender perennial they are hardy in USDA zones 7a through 11 and can readily be grown in containers that are overwintered indoors. Plant peacock corms in spring when daily temperatures reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Select a planting site for your peacock orchid corms that receives full direct sun for at least 6 hours each day. Provide a well drained friable soil that will allow water movement through it. For heavy clay soils amend with generous amounts sharp sand, coarse compost and well aged manure to raise the organic content and drainage capability of the soil.
Prepare a well tilled planting bed for the corms by churning up the soil to a depth of at least 8 inches. This will aid the new roots in penetrating the soil. Plant corms pointed side up and rounded side down between 2 and 6 inches deep in the soil and at intervals of between 4 and 6 inches apart. Give larger corms deeper planting and more space to spread. Plants the corms en masse in an irregular drift pattern instead of rows for a naturalized appearance.
Plant your peacock orchid corms in containers in commercial potting soil. Ensure that the containers have adequate drainage; follow the depth and spacing for in-ground planting. Shelter containers indoors in a sunny location when temperatures drop below 50-degrees.
Water your newly planted corms in well and maintain an evenly moist but never sopping wet soil around the corms throughout the growing season. Learn to gauge the need for water by feel testing the soil for moisture with your finger dipped into it. Scale back watering after fall bloom finishes to a lightly moist level so that the corms are not saturated going into winter.
Harvest fresh flowers for fragrant household displays during summer and fall by cutting down at the base of the stem. Prune away any damaged, diseased or dying foliage as you come across it.
Dig and clean the peacock corms in the fall after the foliage dies back. Cut off the dead foliage and brush off excess soil on the corms. Place in a cool dry location to allow the corms to dry out for a few weeks. Store your corms nestled three-quarters of the way down in a bed of clean sand or peat moss at 40 degrees Fahrenheit until planting again in spring.