Orchids are tropical flowers from one of the most diverse plant families on earth. With 750 to 100 genera and 18,000 to 20,000 species, and distributed worldwide, is it any wonder they are such popular flowers and prized by collectors? Orchid flowers are as varied as the family itself, and grow as solitary flowers, in panicles, racemes or spikes. As varied as they are, it is not surprising that there are other plants with orchid-like flowers. You don't have to live in the tropics to have flowers similar to orchids in your landscape.
Roscoea ("Roscoea" sp.) is a member of the ginger family native to the Himalayan mountains of southern China and northern Vietnam. Shoots appear in the late spring, and pale blue, purple or white orchid-like flowers bloom over tall, blade-like leaves in late summer. Plants grow to 15 inches tall and like partial shade and moist soil. Propagation is by division of rhizomes in the spring. Roscoea can withstand temperatures from 16 degrees F to 92 degrees F.
Angelonia ("Angelonia angustifolia") is an erect perennial plant whose foliage is reported by some to smell like ripe apples. Angelonia bears 1-inch orchid-like blooms on spikes in colors of rose, lilac and blue. Angelonia blooms over a four- to six-week period during the summer in temperate climates.
Toad lily ("Tricyrtis formosana") is hardy from zones 4 to 9, and is a herbaceous perennial that blooms in August and September. Toad lily grows to 2 feet in height. The orchid-like flowers are white with red-purple spots and yellow throats. These low-maintenance beauties like full to partial shade and medium to wet soil.