Terrestrial Orchids

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.

Cypripedium flower
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.

Bletilla flowerPleione flower and 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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7 Comments on “Terrestrial Orchids”

  1. Brian Says:

    Love those terrestrials! I’m especially fond of Brachypetalums because they can be so spacey-looking (Bellatulum, Gatrix, Concobell). I think they’re a subtribe (?) (subfamily? sub something?) of Paphs. But they’re tricky, I think, because the leaves are often succulent-like and they’re easy to overwater. The leaves lay stacked, so air circulation is especially important. I liked your Kefersteiniana post: http://catsandcatts.blogspot.com/2010/09/thursday-news-watch.html

  2. Janet Shapan Says:

    My never ending fascination with orchids is driven by the incredible orchid types from which I can choose and the unique beauty of each type. Great post. Thanks.


  3. growing orchids Says:

    The orchid is one of the most popular choices of houseplant. This is because there are a lot of types of orchids we can choose from, they don’t need too much attention aside from the basics, and because even beginner gardeners can try growing orchids because it is so easy. It is a hardy plant that can adapt well in either house or office environments.

  4. Amy Waldman Says:

    Thanks for the helpful info.

  5. dav9879z Says:


    Very good blog.

  6. Andrew Lee Says:

    It was helpful to follow links.

  7. AboutOrchids » Blog Archive » The Roadkill Orchid Says:

    […] Satyrium pumilum grows as a terrestrial in wet, sandy soil.[…]