Show me: Outdoor orchids in landscape design

homey_birdMarch 17, 2011


I have a few cymbidiums growing in SSZ 15/16 in Bay Area, outdoors. I wanted to look at inspiration pictures of orchids in outdoor landscape design.

I am open to in-ground or container arrangements; I definitely would keep them outdoors and therefore need species that can survive in local winters.

Did extensive Google search but relevant pictures have been hard to come by. Thanks in advance!

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
bahia(SF Bay Area)

There's a simple reason you won't find a lot of great photos of outdoor grown landscape Cymbidiums in northern California gardens. They need the conditions to allow them to thrive, as well as drier winter conditions and protection from mollusks to preserve the flowers. Best displays will be when grown as container plants and spotted into the garden, or on a porch where they are protected from the rains. I've had them last for up to 6 months in perfect condition on a north facing covered porch as containers. The same Cymbidiums out in the garden only last about 6 weeks for me.

I think it is easier with orchids such as Bletilla striata, which is dead easy and can give massive displays with age/bigger clumps. I also do well with Epidendrum hybrids and species, as long as they get some protection from the worst of the winter rains as well. But I have seen brilliant displays of Epidendrums in nearby Alameda, planted out in very well drained sandy loam and full sun, and they can remain in bloom all winter.

Orchids in the landscape require more pampering to pull off, in my opinion. Regular fertilizing, regular baiting for snails, regular repotting as the orchid potting medium breaks down. Mounted orchids on cork may be easier to care for, and give a good show in the garden, but they also have their special needs. I'd consider joining your local orchid society if you want to pursue this.

To sum up, I typically only use them in landscapes where I can give them what they want, and more as accents than all over the garden. I find I can get just as much color from bromeliads with so much less work, that I get spoiled. If you do want to try some species Epidendrum orchids, I can highly recommend E. porphyreum, E. capricornu and E. embreii. I've got nice photos of each on my Flickr album. I don't have enough sun or good enough drainage to plant Cymbidiums in the ground and expect them to do well, but I have seen it done well, such as the old Harland Hand Garden up in El Cerrito, where Harland would plant Cymbidiums in Supersoil in and amongst boulders below sheltering Live Oaks, in areas that would get at least 6 hours of dappled sun, and were clear of other plants that would harbor mollusks. I think it also worked because the evergreen canopy would tend to lessen the rain fall hitting them, so they lasted longer.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2011 at 7:30PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Bahia, thanks for your informative post.

My original plan was to create an array of cymbidiums by a north facing fence wall to create sort of a focal point in the small portion of my yard. If it worked, then no doubt it'd steal the show!!

I think I will take your advice -- and try to think of some container arrangements where I can leave them in summer and in winter, perhaps move them to a more protected location under the eaves etc.

I chose Cymbidiums because they are really inexpensive -- saw tons in Costco around the Valentines Day -- and all in pretty colors too. But I will look for other species you mentioned as well.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 12:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I continue to be surprised at how forgiving Cymbidiums are here in the north bay where we do get more rain and frost than the bay as a whole. I have them for years in the same soil(home made fir bark)potted in the garden and ignored. If I am walking by with a watering can of fertilizer I will give them a little, but they seem to do as well with or without. Al

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 8:04AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Here, Epidendrums are far better, rather more like cactus in their level of care required (near zero), plus twelve months of bloom, truly non-stop.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 2:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
wanda(Z9 CA)

I don't have a picture, but if you have a wet, boggy area, an orchid by the name of Spiranthes (Ladie's Tresses) grows quite well by my pond. You'll have to order them on-line as I haven't found them available locally. Not as showy as many orchids, but they do make a nice display in late summer.
I also have tons of cymbidiums, but like everyone else, they are potted and under the cover of a patio. Dendrobium kingianum is another good, cool growing orchid with tiny purple or white flowers that grows well outdoors. I keep mine in hanging pots.

Here is a link that might be useful: Spiranthes

    Bookmark   March 23, 2011 at 1:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It's all about sluggo & handpicking, cymbidiums are like chocolate to snails & slugs, apparently. But I prefer orchids in containers, raised beds or indoors -- they just aren't great in-the-ground plants, imo. Daylilies share their same sword-shaped leaves and long stems, although cyms are admittedly much showier, but daylilies are soooo much easier in the ground.

Man, did I ever make some good cash in Tiburon/Belvedere the one year I pimped myself for cymbidium replanting. Hand torch, hand axe and a mountain of various barks gained me temporary access to the land of the uber-rich's fields of cymbidiums. Those roots are strong!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2011 at 11:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you all. While on this topic, all of you who have lots of cymbidiums: what's your typical time of bloom? I know that around Valentine's day cymbidiums were selling for dirt cheap prices -- making me wonder if February is the season - but it's too cold then, and my cymbidiums only had unopened spikes! So it looked like they were forced to flower during the peak sale time.

I have two that have spikes growing for almost 3 months now (since I noticed) -- and it looks like they will open soon, but the wait is killing me!

(This is my second year of having them (first year they came with blooms already) -- so please forgive me for asking dumb questions).

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 1:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
peggiewho(z9 Ca)

I have the specimen pot bahia is talking about, but it ain't no daylily. This plant is viewed from the couch of total indulgence in the living room where I sit, eat chocolate and watch TV. Oh wait, that's my husband in there. I am the one working outside in the rain!
These blooms have been developing for a while now. It's the first year it has bloomed. They like to be crowded to bloom and I wanted this big tall pot. It lives under Japanese maples on the southeast corner of the house, Sacramento area. It is on drip and this garden gets a 'fog' watering during the summer, high misters.
Love this post and am looking at suggested plants.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 12:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
nancy_in_venice_ca Sunset 24 z10

I think it is easier with orchids such as Bletilla striata, which is dead easy and can give massive displays with age/bigger clumps

In coastal SoCal, they've grown well for me and have spread. Unlike cymbidiums and epidendrum, bletilla is low growing in my garden.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 3:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Peggy I have never seen such floppy long leaves on a cymbidium, and wonder if the shady protected location or perhaps the fertilization program is responsible. The flowers are beautiful but again I am used to the stems being more upright. Al

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 9:44AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
peggiewho(z9 Ca)

The pot shape and shade may determine it's pose. It gets time release fertilizer twice a year. If you notice the pot flairs. The plant is crowed into one corner and pushes out new growth at an angle dictated by the pot shape. It is not stakes. I have no other reference as to what a cymbidium should look like. I only see the poor single plants bound to a stake at the store. It's a nice size plant in a southeast corner behind 2 Japanese maples. I am thrilled it has decided to lean over and look in my window.

PS Your redwood gh is a great project. Did your propagation in gritty mix work out?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 7:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Peggy I would like to get back to you without hijacking from the OP, but your member page does not allow me to email you. My page does, so please email me. Al

    Bookmark   March 29, 2011 at 10:09AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Lattice grid pavers and what to plant
Using these to make a walkway in the alley that connects...
Northern California Roll Call!!!! 2.0
Did I miss it? Part 1 was closed Nanelle...
Ground cover for erosion control?
I am looking to plant a hillside with something that...
Sabine Halfhill
Container Gardening in Zone 9a
Hi everyone, I am pretty new to gardening and would...
Hi all! I planted some dymondia as a groundcover last...
Sabine Halfhill
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™