How to grow Bletilla Orchids How to grow Bletilla Orchids

Basic Cultivation of Bletillas.
This Asiatic genus is of variable hardiness in the UK. The genus forms clumps of pseudo-bulbs that develop on the outside edges in late summer. It is winter dormant producing long sword like leaves in the spring and flowers in June/July. B striata is the commonest species offered and is found in varying shades of pink to purples. B ochracea is a smaller more delicate species with yellow flowers. Over the past twenty years a number of hybrid have been produced using the various species to produce some interesting colours. They can be grown in pots or in sheltered gardens but need some protection from wet winters and heavy frost.

Planting.
Division should take place in the summer after flowering but before the new growth commences. This is the best time to plant but often plants are not available at this time. Alternatively, early spring planting is preferred. If the pseudo-bulb has been stored dry during the winter the roots will be dry and shrivelled. They will not re-grow and such plants may not flower in the first year.
Plant near the front of a herbaceous border where they can get plenty of sun. They are tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions but prefer soils that are free draining and do not hold water in the winter.
Dig a hole three times the volume of the rootball and add grit to the soil removed if it is rather clayey. Hold the pseudo-bulb in the hole with the bulb 2 cm below the surface. Fill with the soil and gently firm. If the soil is dry water thoroughly.
When grown in a pot the best compost contains John Innes, perlite and additional grit for drainage.

Feeding.
Bletillas respond to feeding regularly during the growing season. Feed with ΒΌ strength Tomorite or similar.

Division.
As indicated above division should take place after flowering has ceased. The pseudo-bulb can either be broken up or divided using a sharp knife. The older bulbs go hard and leathery and will not produce new growths so should be thrown away.

Autumn.
To provide winter protection the plant should be covered with 10 cm of bark and pots put in a frost free environment.

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