Growing Tips for Upland Orchids
Upland Orchids - Hardy Terrestrial Orchids - Cypripedium, Bletilla, Tipularia
Soil: 1:1:1:1: peat:sand:pine bark fines:leaf mould.
Container: 6+" plastic pot.
Watering: moist to well drained.
Light: partial to dappled sun.
Temperature: warm summer, cool winter-tolerates frost.
Location: outdoors, greenhouse.
Upland Orchids are Hardy Orchids that grow naturally in the woodsy areas above bogs, pocosins and fens of primarily eastern N. America. They typically prefer the dappled sunlight of the forest floor where the peat/sand soil is more humusy, drier, but consistently moist, and covered with a thick layer of decomposing leaves. Most species grow across multiple hardiness zones from Zones 3 to 9 making them adaptable from deep winter freezes to milder temperate winters. They frequently grow in association with pine trees, making them excellent companions for the bog garden margins.
Upland Orchids grow in the wooded areas. They typically prefer drier, more humusy soil that is well drained, yet consistently moist. Their habitat is typically partially shaded with dappled, filtered sunlight. It was earlier thought that terrestrial orchids needed a specific mycorrhizal (symbotic fungal) association to grow well and not dwindle over time. However, this is not the case for mature plants which are already strong enough growers to be able to absorb nutrients without their assistance. Grow Upland Orchids as you would woodland wildflowers. The standard Carnivorous Plant soil mix of peat and sand works well, if you add pine bark fines and leaf mould to their soil. Mature upland orchids prefer a wider large pot of 6-8+” (15-20cm) because their roots usually grow long and shallow. Most do best when the soil is evenly moist, but drier than bog orchids and most Carnivorous Plants. Let the soil become drier; yet remain somewhat moist, during winter dormancy. Water from below with mineral-free water. The tray method works very well. Stand the pot in a tray or saucer and keep about 1” (2.5cm) of water in it at all times during the growing season. Upland orchids prefer partial sun growing in a thick layer of dried leaves. Provide a winter mulch of 4-6" of weed-free hay or pine needles. Best flowering occurs in mature, undisturbed plants.
Upland Orchids can be propagated from mature rhizome divisions, by separating individual rooted shoots. Because orchid seeds lack a supply of stored food (cotyledon), they need a mycorrhizal (symbotic fungal) association in order to absorb essential nutrients. Some need stratification (cool, damp winter). Tissue Culture works well for clones.
A winter rest period is required of mature plants. As day length and temperature diminish the plant will slow its growth and die back, starting at the tops. Cut back on winter watering, but allow the soil to stay moist. Provide cooler temperatures during dormancy. A cold porch or garage may work well.
Upland orchids do not need fertilization, and will not tolerate heavy fertility. They can, however, benefit from low doses of commercial orchid fertilizers.
Remove the flower spike after flowering. The development and setting of seeds requires a lot of energy. Strong plants will result, if this energy goes into leaves and roots.
Upland Orchids are best grown outdoors, and are not good house or terrarium plants.
Repot every few years in a fresh Carnivorous Plant soil mix, since the peat breaks down and can create poor drainage.
Plant in the center of the pot with the crown about 1/2" below the surface. This is a good time to divide any multi-bud plants. Repotting is best done in the fall or very early spring, before active growth begins. A soil top dressing of pine needles works well.
When weeding, hold the orchid by one hand and weed with the other. This will keep you from pulling the orchid out by its roots.