We normally think of orchids as houseplants that need to be kept indoors, but there are some hardy varieties that can be grown outside in the garden. Some are even able to cope with a measure of frost although others will need to be brought inside over the winter. This collection of eight has been compiled by Andy McIndoe and are described in an article on the Learning With Experts website.
When I say hardy orchids, I mean those that are likely to grow outside in milder areas of temperate regions. Some are very frost hardy, others will need winter protection, but these are not the warm blooded tropical characters that need cossetting in a glasshouse throughout the year. So they should be easier to grow for anyone that cherishes their plants and likes the idea of growing a botanical treasure. The good news is that in recent years modern propagation techniques have made many of these orchids more available.
Pleione formosana, a lovely little terrestrial orchid from the foothills of Asian mountains is an orchid often mentioned, but too rarely seen. A few years ago it was widely promoted as an easy hardy orchid and was sold in pots of peat with a picture on the top promising eternal beauty. Then the bulbs were often wild collected and directions on how to make them grow were non-existent, even if they were still alive when you bought them. Today, if you buy from a reputable source, pleiones can give many years of pleasure, if you follow a few rules in their cultivation.
Most species like Pleione formosana and Pleione grandiflora need a distinct dormant period. They like cool conditions and they hate summer heat and winter wet. Therefore few will be successful growing in the open ground. They are best in pots, and perfect for alpine house conditions. Pot up the dormant bulbs in late winter in orchid mix which is nice and open and free draining. The bulbs should be nestling on the growing medium surface. Place in a cool, light position and flowers follow in spring. After the flowers fade the leaves emerge, this is the growing period so water and feed regularly with a general liquid fertiliser. A lightly shaded position outdoors is ideal through the summer. Gradually withhold water in late summer and as leaves die back stop watering, move the plants indoors and keep cool. Some take the bulbs out of the pots, wrap in paper and keep in the salad compartment of the refrigerator. A cold garage should suffice. Start again the following season and all should be well.