With the incredible size and diversity of the orchid family, surprises abound. So when basic orchid care info says that orchids are epiphytes, or air plants, keep in mind that there are exceptions to the rule. Some orchid varieties are terrestrials, or ground orchids, and grow in soil. Terrestrials grow in forests, meadows, grasslands, marshes, and alongside streams and rivers. While most commonly sold orchids are epiphytes, there are also many terrestrial varieties.
- some Dendrobium varieties
- some Epidendrum varieties
- some Lady Slipper varieties
- Jewel Orchids like Ludisia and Malaxis
Almost all orchid varieties outside the tropics, in climates ranging from temperate to frigid, are terrestrials. They have thick roots, tubers, or pseudobulbs, and go through a dormant period when they drop their leaves.
Some varieties need special soil conditions, but others, like Bletillas and Cymbidiums, can grow in regular garden beds. Most enjoy frequent waterings during their growing seasons. Repot terrestrials in fresh soil every 2-3 years. And don’t be surprised when orchids don’t always follow the rules.
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