March 28, 2006

Pleione Orchids

Pleione bulb flower

Pleione orchids are a precious small orchid from western China that grow from bulbs, like a paperwhite. They are challenging to find, but are completely growable, and are as easy as paperwhites to bloom too, the first season after planting. The real skill will be getting them to bloom again, since they are terribly expensive and you won't want to throw them out. With careful cultural care and attention, success is achievable and encouraged since they are so unique and no one has them anymore, and they can get better with age and multiply.
Pots of Pleione in the greenhouse

As for finding bulbs to buy, few if any catalogs in North America sell them, and I only know of one Canadian nursery carrying them at the moment. If you do find some, they are rarely the choice new crosses that one finds in England, such as from Plione expert Ian Butterfield or Pottertons, but more likely they are species forms, and one too must be careful that they were not collected from the wild. In Europe, there are spectacular crosses and grex's available, as well as many species. The British bulb retailers carry some nice crosses, but you must order them while they are dormant, around late November until January, since by Valentines day many have started to show buds, and they will not ship them. Everything has a season, especially uncommon plants, that is why you don't see them at American retailers. Short shelf life, and you can't sell them in bloom. It's a real problem with American Garden Centers, as a reason why every one's garden looks the same, in late May, since that is the only time people go to the garden center to buy plants, and they only carry plants that are in full bloom at that season. But we hortiphiles are informed gardeners, and won't be affected by such things.

Pot of Pleione orchids

In my cold greenhouse, a few grex's as well as some species, these I received from a friend in the UK, and we're well budded when I planted them. Culturally, they require a full growing season from the first sign of blooms, until October. They prefer cooler conditions year round, which is tough in New England, since the summers are hot. Just remember that they grow at higher elevations, in cloud forests usually on mossy branches, or moss covered rocks. Cool, damp and misty as well as buoyant air, it critical.

Pleione orchid blossoms

The Plieone year: Purchase bulbs around Christmas, plant in January, in a fast draining mix of fresh sphagnum moss, some woods chips, old beach leaves and charcoal bits to keep the mix fresh. Keep cool to cold, even near freezing. Buds start to appear in late February, when you can start watering. After blooming, it is safe to place them outside on the north side of the house, or under a tree well after frost. Make sure that they don't dry out, and fertilize with a week solution of fertilizer each time that you water, rainwater is by far the best, they are sensitive to Chlorine and chemicals. Basically, I just keep them outside until the first frost, when the leaves yellow, and die back, and the pots are brought in to the Greenhouse and kept dry until buds show again.


  1. november 29 2006

    i thought you would like to know that i found pleione forestii at parkslandscapes.com and pleione bulbocoides at miniplantkingdom.com. the pleione bulbocoides i bought end of october and when it came i got a 4"pot with 12-13 bulbs for 10$ plus 5$ shipping. i really enjoy your blog thanks so much,

  2. A very informative and interesting article. I have family in England so will definitely take your advice and contact some British bulb retailers. Keep up the good work.


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