Spathoglottis, or Philippine Ground Orchids, are hallmarks of the tropics. This great terrestrial orchid family offers a range of colors and sizes for tropical gardeners. The best known member of the family is the species Spathoglottis plicata. Shown in the first photo below, its purple and yellow flowers are a common sight in moist tropical and subtropical climates, where it can be an invasive weed. However, this type is just the start of the show. The Spathoglottis family includes dozens of other species with dazzling color variations. In addition, orchid growers have created countless hybrids with electric hues and bold patterns. These photos show only a few choices.
Despite their name, Philippine Ground Orchids aren’t just from the Philippines. They’re native to a large area from India through Southeast Asia, Indonesia, New Guinea, northern Australia, and many Pacific islands besides the Philippines. They’ve spread to Hawaii, Florida, Puerto Rico, and other parts of the Caribbean.
All of these photos came from Hawaii, including Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu, and Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden near Hilo. You may need to look closely to see that each photo shows a different variety. Some have subtle distinctions, such as inverted colors or modifications of the flower lip.
Many Spathoglottis hybrids have larger flowers, but there are also small varieties. They are found in shades of yellow, pink, purple, orange, red, and white. Many are fast growing, and can continue to bloom for months. Their graceful pleated leaves add to their charm, making them popular landscaping plants. I’ve seen Philippine Ground Orchids growing in full sun and in dappled shade. They enjoy regular water and fertilizer, but less during winter dormancy. Remove any seedpods to suppress their invasive nature in tropical gardens and in greenhouses.
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