The Bletilla is an orchid that develops in the garden, in full earth, since it resists the cold and produces robust rhizomes, which tend to widen; about ten species of Asian origin belong to this genus.
It is a rhizomatous herbaceous plant, which therefore produces underground rhizomes, which in spring produce rosettes of long wrinkled, erect or arched leaves, which reach 25-45 cm in length; among the leaves of bletilla in late spring and summer there are thin erect stems, on which numerous very decorative flowers bloom, in the colors of pink, lilac, yellow and white. Over the years, bletillas tend to form large tufts of leaves, with many floral stems for each tuft.
Bletille in the garden
These orchids are geophytes, that is, they like to develop in the earth, unlike many other plants belonging to this family; then they settle down in the garden, using the common garden soil, lightened with universal soil and a few handfuls of chopped bark. In order to allow the plant to develop at best a couple of weeks after seeing the first shoots sprouting from the ground we will begin to water the bletilla, avoiding to leave the soil dry for too long periods of time, until the end of flowering. When in autumn the temperatures tend to decrease the foliage of the bletillas turn yellow and dry, and the plants enter in vegetative rest. During the cold months it is good that the rhizomes remain in a pretty dry place, in these conditions they can stand temperatures of some degrees below zero. If we fear that the winter is too rigid we can mulch the soil above the rhizomes with straw, bark or dry foliage, so as to prevent them from getting too cold directly. If we live in places with very, very rigid winters, for long periods of time, or where summers are torrid, it is advisable to cultivate the bletillas in pots, so as to be able to move the plants if necessary, either in a sheltered place, or in place fresh and shady.
Bletilla - Bletilla: Some tricks
Water is of fundamental importance in the development of bletillas: during the period of vegetative growth, they prefer a fairly humid, but not soaked, soil; water can quickly cause fungal diseases of rhizomes. Moreover we avoid watering the plant immediately after the first shoots, because often these orchids take a couple of weeks to reactivate their root system; we therefore await a couple of weeks from the first sprout produced. From March to July we supply fertilizer for flowering plants, mixed with the water used for watering, but in half the dosage compared to other plants.
The ideal place to grow these orchids is at the foot of deciduous trees or shrubs, so they will enjoy the sun in winter, which will keep the soil warm and dry enough, and the spring foliage will provide some shade to keep the flowers are away from direct sunlight, and the soil is slightly damp, avoiding the summer heat.