In the Garden

Bletilla may be readily grown outside in warmer temperate climates all year round. Below zone 7, however, Bletilla ochracea becomes tender although there are reports of it surviving zone 6 winters with plenty of mulch. Below zone 6, the other species become tender although in our zone 5b garden we do keep Bletilla striata outside all year, making sure that we add several inches of leaves as mulch over the winter.


In siting your Bletilla beds keep in mind that these plants like a partially shaded location. They readily tolerate and enjoy several hours of morning sun but should be sited where noon sun does not cook them during the summer. We have found that Bletilla ochracea will tolerate more sun than the other species.

Growing Media

Unlike many of the other terrestrial orchids we keep, Bletilla do not require specialized media. They are happy with a very well draining garden soil. We use a mixture of loose potting soil or rich forest soil and Soil Perfector® or pea gravel in a 50:50 mixture. The Soil Perfector or pea gravel assures good drainage and discourages voles and mice from making meals of the tubers.


Usually Bletilla are obtained in the fall or spring as tubers. These are planted in the fall in warmer climates or in the spring in colder near the date of last frost. We plant the tubers with about two inches of soil covering them. Once the ground warms, the stems will sprout quickly.

Fall/Winter Care

In our zone 5b gardens we keep a few large specimens outside during the winter under a thick layer of leaves and they do well. We have not been able to successfully overwinter Bletilla ochracea outside in our climate. Most of our plants are dug from the beds in late November after the first few frosts have killed the stems. Because we use a growing medium with a large amount of Soil Perfector®, this is an easy task. The tubers are placed into large pans and left in the kitchen to dry for a day. Then they are packed in vermiculite in freezer bags and placed into the refrigerator until early May (our last frost date is May 22).

In zone 7 and higher, Bletilla striata is hardy in the garden during winter. We recommend that Bletilla ochracea be dug up in zone 7, but with some winter mulch, this species will survive outside.

Bletilla tubers

Freshly-dug Bletilla tubers drying prior to being placed in the refrigerator for winter.


Happy Bletilla expand their tubers exuberantly with many offsets. To expand your collection of plants, you may simply break off these offsets every few years. If the offsets are small, they will survive and grow well but may not bloom for a couple of years. Larger offsets usually bloom the first year they were divided.

Bletilla tubers

Bletilla tuber that may be divided into three separate plants.