Bamboo orchids are terrestrial orchids with grasslike leaves that are native to Asia, India, and the western Pacific. They hold their showy, purple and white, catteleya-like blooms on lanky stalks, from 8 inches to 6 feet tall. These orchids respond to minimal care with a profusion of nodding flowers up to several times a year. In frost-free areas, they can be grown year round in the garden. They are easily grown in pots as well.
Choose a place to plant bamboo orchids outdoors in groups, in a spot that receives full to partial sun and is well protected from strong winds. Amend the soil so that it drains well, or use a well-draining soil mix in pots.
Cut back the stems of the plants by half just before planting. If you are starting with a rooted division, place it so the soil is just over the root crown, at the same level it was previously growing. If you are planting side shoots that don’t have any roots yet, place them 1 inch deep in damp sand. Keep them moist and in the shade until new growth appears.
Tie the long stems to stakes to prevent wind damage and to keep the flowering tips upright. For large plantings, you may prefer to attach the stems of the outer plants to low, metal garden fencing around the perimeter of the bed.
Things You Will Need
- Potting soil
- 8-inch pot
- Pruning shears
- Garden stakes
- Cotton twine
- Keep the soil around bamboo orchids constantly moist. In drought, water them at least every three days or sooner if wilting occurs.
- Maintain a two to three inch layer of organic mulch around these orchids, avoiding an area a few inches in diameter around the base of each plant.
- Fertilize bamboo orchids with a slow release fertilizer every six to eight weeks.
- Plant these orchids outdoors in masses because they look their best in groups, and have better resistance to wind and drought than when planted singly.
- Grow bamboo orchids in large pots or planters in areas with frost in winter, for their cheery mid-winter blooms.
- Divide your orchid plants every three to four years by digging them up and then cutting the root ball with a sharp knife into four to six inch wide pieces.
- Break off the side shoots, which emerge just below the flowers, when their bases are slightly swollen, and then plant them in moist sand to increase your supply.
- Enjoy a bouquet of long lasting, fragrant bamboo orchids. The cut flowers will last up to five days in water if the stems are at least ten inches long.
- Bamboo orchids are considered a pest plant in the State of Hawaii were they escaped cultivation in the 1940's. (See Reference 3)