Learn how to grow and care for terrestrial orchids in our growing guide! When people think of orchids, most often the iconic showy plants with ornate blooms along a single arced stem come to mind. But popular orchids that you’ve seen at your local grocery store or nursery are only one type of orchid plant.
In addition to countless tropical varieties, the orchid family includes over 200 terrestrial species that make fantastic additions to outside gardens or outdoor flower arrangements.
Let’s dive into the unique features of terrestrial orchids and learn how to care for them so you can get started including these soil-loving orchids into your garden right away.
What are terrestrial orchids?
Terrestrial orchids are one of two main categories of orchid plants.
Epiphytic orchids are native to tropical or subtropical areas and grow clinging to the branches of thick canopies.
Terrestrial orchids, on the other hand, are native to woodland areas in the Americas. They’re sometimes referred to as hardy orchids or ground orchids since they grow from traditional ground soil.
They’re known for their surprising and natural beauty, as they come in a myriad of colors, shapes, and sizes—some species even letting off a sweet aroma into the night air.
Terrestrial orchids do not have aerial roots like their tropical counterparts. Instead, most terrestrial orchids have traditional root systems that thrive in outdoor settings. For this reason, potting these orchids is fairly simple. Your plant will enjoy garden beds and big outdoor planters.
If you’d like to plant your terrestrial orchids in an outdoor pot, choose one with plenty of drainage holes to allow for quick-drying soil and root aeration—two important aspects of ensuring your terrestrial orchid stays happy and healthy.
Professional Tip: When planting terrestrial orchids in a garden bed, spread the roots out as widely as possible and be sure the plant’s crown isn’t buried beneath the soil. Crowns that are buried too deep may be prone to root rot.
Preferred Potting Mix
Terrestrial orchids enjoy cool, moist, well-draining soil. It’s best to mix compost or mulch with your garden bed since the additional organic matter allows air into the soil which encourages it to dry quickly.
It’s safe to use nutrient-rich potting soil for your outdoor garden since terrestrial orchids and other outdoor garden plants are amenable to it.
Professional Tip: If you’re potting terrestrial orchids in outdoor pots, use a terrestrial orchid potting soil specifically designed for hardy orchids.
Since there are many varieties of terrestrial orchids, water requirements for your plant will vary based on its species. Some terrestrial orchids have shallow root systems, and require frequent watering, while others store water in hollow bulbs located at the base of the plant’s primary stem. These stores are called pseudobulbs; they act as water reserves so the plant requires less frequent watering.
Professional Tip: All orchids require more water when they are actively growing or in bloom. As a general rule, pull back on your water routine in the winter and ramp it up a bit during the blooming season.
Aside from their ability to grow from traditional soil, terrestrial orchids are unique because most species have the ability to tolerate cold temperatures. In fact, some terrestrial orchids require periods of sub-freezing temperatures to produce blooms.
Professional Tip: Like tulips and other bulb plants, terrestrial orchids go dormant during the winter months and bloom again when temperatures warm in spring.
Optimal Light Conditions
Since terrestrial orchids grow naturally in wooded areas and alpine forests, they prefer indirect or dappled sunlight conditions. Only a few terrestrial orchid species can tolerate direct sunlight, so check the care recommendations for your plant species if you’re considering a sunny location.
Professional Tip: When scoping out the perfect spot choose an area beneath a leafy tree. The tree will provide shade and dappled light conditions that mimic that of the terrestrial orchid’s natural habitat.
Terrestrial Orchid Fertilizer Requirements
While terrestrial orchids can thrive with the right sunlight, water, and temperature conditions, a gentle orchid fertilizer will support all of your efforts and ensure your plant boasts big bountiful flowers.
Premium Orchid Food is engineered to encourage your orchid to grow and bloom. It’s gentle enough to apply at every watering and, unlike traditional plant fertilizers, it includes a special formula that won’t harm your orchid’s roots.
Here are a few of the features that make Premium Orchid Food the go-to fertilizer for supporting your orchid plants:
- Simple application: The pre-mixed spray acts as a root stimulator for plants to improve their ability to use nutrients. This is especially important for young plants.
- Nutrient-dense formula: Sea kelp extract and humic acids address the unique needs of your orchid. With regular use, you’ll see healthy and vibrant orchids that grow larger year after year.
- Safe to use at every watering: The standard orchid fertilizer ratio is diluted, so it’s gentle enough to use at every watering without burning your orchid’s roots.
- Works with many orchid varieties: Premium Orchid Food is compatible with many indoor varieties, including phalaenopsis, epidendrum, Miltonia, cattleya, vanda, cymbidium, and oncidium.
Professional Tip: For best results, simply use Premium Orchid Food every time you water. Then sit back and watch your orchid’s blooms explode.
Join Our Orchid Care Facebook Community
Our Facebook Community is a place for all orchid lovers. We strive to create a rich and engaging environment where plant lovers can share tips, tricks, experiences, and source advice from fellow growers.
Whether you’re new to growing orchids or a seasoned pro, join our Facebook community and get professional tips on all things orchids! We can’t wait to see you there to celebrate your successes and help you troubleshoot your care routine.