Our Plant of the Week this week is Chinese Hardy Ground Orchid, Bletilla striata. This is an under-appreciated plant in the Tennessee Valley region, but it blooms and grows as reliably as daffodils. Unlike their tropical cousins, these orchids from temperate Asia are hardy as far north as Zone 5. Magenta blooms have an interesting ruffled lip and a light fragrance reminiscent of hyacinths.
Contact me for information on where to obtain plants.
Set container-grown plants in full sun to partial shade in any well-drained garden soil suitable for perennial flowers. Amend heavy clay soil with organic matter to improve aeration and retain moisture. They grow very well in containers, also.
Plants should receive irrigation if rainfall is insufficient, up until the time the blooms fade. After blooming, they can get along with less water. Plants in full sun may develop brown leaf tips if water stressed during the hottest part of summer. This does not appear to harm them.
Feed a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer once a season, in spring as the leaves unfurl. Plants grown in containers should be fertilized with a liquid product monthly.When foliage dies back and the ground is cold, usually after Thanksgiving, mulch the plants with three or four inches of autumn leaves or pine needles. This is not absolutely necessary, but it helps to prevent early spring emergence. New growth that appears too early can be damaged by a late frost, making the leaves less attractive. The plants usually recover and bloom normally.
Still Time for Cool Season Veggies
You still have time to plant carrots, scallions and radishes for early summer harvest. Leafy greens, especially heat tolerant ones like Romaine lettuce, can also be planted now.
We have likely had our last frost of the year, although we are not completely out of the woods. We have had frost in May, but only rarely. Go ahead and transplant tomatoes, but wait another couple of weeks before transplanting peppers, cucumbers or other heat-loving crops.
Hosta Society Sale
The local Hosta Society is having their annual sale tomorrow, May 5, in the UT Gardens parking lot from noon until 4 PM. Find many varieties of hosta, as well as ferns and other shade lovers, on sale from members. Rain or shine.