15 Hardy Orchids That Can Be Grown in the Ground

Are you looking for some orchids that can be grown in the ground, rather than in a pot or indoors? There are a number of different hardy orchids that aren't epiphyptic. In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss looks at her favorite types of orchids that can be grown in-ground.

Orchid flower growing in the ground

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Orchids have become a favorite houseplant for many gardeners, as well as a staple in the floral industry. Their unique and sturdy blooms are some of the most stunning and intricate in the plant world.  It’s no wonder orchid collectors will search far and wide for exotic and sometimes elusive specimens.

Most of the time, when we talk about orchids, we are referring to epiphytic plants. Epiphytes are plants that grow in trees, with exposed roots that need a lot of air circulation to maintain their health. Because of this characteristic, most orchids need to be kept in containers with potting media that is coarse and doesn’t allow water to collect around the roots.

What many gardeners don’t know is that, in addition to these epiphytes, there are actually hundreds and maybe thousands of species of terrestrial orchids as well.

This is great news for the avid outdoor gardener, as these orchids can be planted directly in the earth, and they tend to tolerate a wider climate range, which is great news for those of us living outside of a tropical climate! Let’s take a look at some of our favorite genera of orchids that you can grow in the ground.

Butterfly Orchid

A close-up of a flowering Platanthera Orchid plant in a sunny garden against a blurry leafy background. The plant has a tall stem that bears small white flowers with long, pale green-white lips.
This orchid is an ideal garden plant as it adapts quite well to different types of soil.
botanical-name botanical name Platanthera
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun to Part Sun
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

Butterfly orchids are a lovely plant. The name comes from the Greek meaning ‘broad anther,’ for their unique column and anther cap. They thrive in a wide variety of habitats, and soil types, making them an ideal garden plant as they are quite adaptable.

The plant is typically bifoliate, bearing two elongated, ovate leaves which grow from a pseudobulb. The raceme can grow up to 3 feet tall and bears between 20-60 blooms.

The flowers vary in form, and most have a flamboyant, large labellum that is often fringed. Some species have fragrant flowers with a spicy aroma.

Christmas Orchid

Close-up of a flowering Christmas Orchid plant in a garden against a green leafy background. The plant produces a tall inflorescence of cute little white flowers in a classic orchid shape. The petals and sepals are the same shape, and the labellums are long and have two lobes.
This orchid produces cute little classic orchid-shaped flowers with two to four-lobed labellums.
botanical-name botanical name Calanthe
sun-requirements sun requirements Filtered Sunlight
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6-11

Christmas orchids can be evergreen or deciduous, depending on the species. They grow in clusters of pseudobulbs 10”-12” tall and wide and produce a few low, corrugated leaves. Mostly native to Asia, the genus gets its name from the Ancient Greek words ‘kalos’, meaning beauty and ‘anthos’, which means flower.

These lovely little plants can grow from zone 6 to zone 11, making them one of the most versatile on the list. Each pseudobulb produces an inflorescence that can carry from a dozen to several dozen blooms. The flowers have a classic orchid form.

The petals and sepals tend to be similar in size, shape, and color, and the labellum is typically larger and showy. The labellum also commonly has two to four lobes, adding to its flair.

Corduroy Orchid

Close-up of a flowering Eulophia plant against a blurred background. The flower is small, has green petals and sepals with a protruding white lip with pink corrugated stripes.
The Corduroy Orchid thrives best in frost-free climates.
botanical-name botanical name Eulophia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-11

Eulophia is a fun and interesting terrestrial orchid that is evergreen or deciduous, depending on the species. It grows from an underground rhizome or pseudobulbs on the surface and typically has flowers before it grows leaves if it ever does.

Yes, some of these plants don’t grow leaves at all. When leaves are present, they tend to be long and pleated.

Corduroy orchids do best in climates that are frost free. They like sandy soil and semi-arid weather. The flowers are typically quirky in appearance, with sepals larger than petals and a protruding labellum in a contrasting color.

Green and purple are common flower colors for this genus. Some species have a very exaggerated labellum, which can be as large as the entire remainder of the bloom.

Grasspinks

Close-up of a Calopogon orchid flower on a blurred green background. Medium sized, bright purplish pink flower with a pale yellow tinge on the anther cap.
Grasspinks love moist soil and are sun tolerant.
botanical-name botanical name Calopogon
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun to Part Sun
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

This adorable spring flowering orchid is native to North America, where it lives across a very wide range of climates. Unlike most orchids, Grasspinks enjoy moist soil and grow well in bogs and swamps, although they can be found in meadows as well. They are quite sun tolerant.

The name Calopogon comes from the Greek for ‘beautiful beard,’ as the Bearded species has a fuzzy yellow mass on its labellum.

The name Grasspinks sums up the appearance of this plant perfectly. The leaves are thin and grass-like, and the flower spikes are also thin and delicate.

The blooms are orchid pink and typically have a touch of white and yellow on either the labellum or anther cap. These delicate little flowers are versatile and low maintenance.

Helleborine Orchid

Close-up of a blooming Epipactis helleborine orchid against a blurred green background. Large inflorescence of small green-purple flowers with cupped lips.
This plant is also called a weed orchid, which produce beautiful inflorescences of small green-purple flowers.
botanical-name botanical name Epipactis helleborine
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial Sun
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6-9

Helleborine orchids are a fascinating, far-flung, and sometimes self-pollinating genus of terrestrial orchids that have proven to be easy to establish in the United States.

In fact, they are sometimes referred to as Weed Orchids for how quickly they establish themselves and reproduce. It is said that where this orchid is found in woodland landscapes, truffles are likely to be found nearby as well.

They have tall reed-like stems with many leaves and are topped with an inflorescence. The flowers are small and delicate. They are typically green, purple, or white in color and have a cupped labellum.

This species spreads quickly, so they can become invasive if not contained. They will fill a partially shaded area nicely if you need to fill that void.

Jewel Orchid

Close-up of a Jewel Orchid Ludisia plant in a sunny garden. The plant has large oval leaves with tapered tips, dark green with a reddish tint below and thin white stripes at the top of the leaves.
Jewel Orchid has attractive dark green foliage with a reddish underside and thin white and reddish stripes.
botanical-name botanical name Ludisia
sun-requirements sun requirements Bright Indirect Light
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 11-12

Ludisia is a terrestrial orchid that is commonly kept as a houseplant because of its attractive foliage rather than its flowers. As a potted plant, it is low-maintenance and easy to care for. It is also easy to propagate and grows quickly.

The prized foliage of the Black Jewel Orchid is deep green with a reddish cast beneath that sometimes creates a blush on the thin, white pinstripes on top of the leaves.

Ludisia discolor is the first recognized species, and its leaves make quite a splash. They are bright green and intricately veined with silver.

Because of how quickly this plant grows, you will have a fair-sized plant in a relatively short time, and that means lots of flowers. They produce thin stems topped with clusters of pretty, delicate, white flowers, which typically show up in winter.

Marsh Orchid

Close-up of a blooming Marsh Orchid inflorescence against a blurred green leafy background. The plant has a large inflorescence of small purple flowers of the classical form of orchids with large three-lobed labellums with dark purple stains.
This orchid type produces beautiful purplish-pink clusters of small flowers with large, three-lobed labellums.
botanical-name botanical name Dactylorhiza
sun-requirements sun requirements Part Shade
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

Marsh Orchids are another genus that doesn’t mind wet feet. In fact, it is commonly found in the marshes and bogs, as well as meadows, prairies, and forests of Eurasia and North America.

Historically, their roots have been used for many purposes, including as a fever reducer and a hallucinogen. I cannot speak to the accuracy of either claim, but I probably wouldn’t let my pets snack on this one. However, I might just plant some to see if they get any attention from my bees.

The flowers grow in beautiful purple and pink clusters. The labellum is the main attraction for these blooms. The labellum is large and tri-lobed, and frequently speckled with a deeper shade. They are typically fragrant and create offsets easily.

Philippine Ground Orchid

Philippine ground orchids feature star-shaped lavender blooms.
Philippine Ground Orchid have large and fragrant flowers that are rather tolerant to sunlight.
botanical-name botanical name Spathoglottis plicata
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun to Part Shade
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-11

These pretty plants grow well outdoors in zones 9-11. They are not frost tolerant, but they do make lovely potted plants. Spathoglottis orchids tend to have large flowers as far as terrestrial orchids are concerned. They are easy to care for and like well-drained soil and as much fertilizer as you want to give them.

Spathoglottis are best known for their flowers. Their leaves tend to be long and pleated, and they grow on pseudobulbs which produce a flower spike that can hold a dozen or more colorful blooms.

The flowers generally have 5 petals and sepals which are uniform in size, shape, and color. They have a small labellum and are sometimes fragrant. They are also rather tolerant to sunlight, with some species able to thrive in full sun.

Pleione Orchid

Close-up of the flowers of a Pleione Orchid plant against a green blurred background. The flowers are large, bright pink with large lobellums, ruffled along the edges.
Pleione Orchids have large, stunning flowers and large, ruffled labellums.
botanical-name botanical name Pleione
sun-requirements sun requirements Part Shade to Shade
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-9

This species is a wonderful genus of terrestrial orchids that produces large flowers, particularly in comparison to the small size of the plant. These plants have been long kept as houseplants, but some of them are hardy even in severe frost, while others, like the fall blooming species, prefer warmer temperatures.

The plants themselves are small and inconspicuous. The blooms, on the other hand, are stunning. They resemble what I imagine the hybrid would look like if you crossed a cattleya orchid with a narcissus.

Pleione flowers come in many different shades, with 5 uniform petals and sepals. The labellum is very large and ruffled and often multi-colored.

Slipper Orchid

Close-up of Slipper Orchid blooming flowers against bright green leaves. The flowers are large, bizarrely shaped with thin, long, dark-burgundy petals and sepals, and with large cup-shaped bright yellow labellums.
This type of common orchid is whimsical, with a large cup-shaped calyx that acts as a trap for insects.
botanical-name botanical name Cypripedium
sun-requirements sun requirements Filtered Sunlight
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-7

Slipper Orchids, also known as Lady’s Slipper, are a family native to a wide area and range of climates. Some species are considered very rare and difficult to find, while others are much more common. They usually grow under trees where they get plenty of filtered sunlight but no direct sun.

Their leaves are commonly pleated and grass-like. Pseudobulbs produce one or two stems, each topped with a single flower.

The nickname Lady’s Slipper comes from the appearance of the labellum, which resembles a shoe. It’s large and cupped, which serves as a trap for pollinating insects. These fun and quirky orchids can tolerate freezing temperatures, but they don’t like extreme heat.

Sobralia Orchid

Close-up of blooming Sobralia orchids in a sunny garden. Tall, thin, dark stems with large, bright green, oval, parallel-veined leaves and medium-sized pale pink flowers with large, lush, ruffled, decorative labellums.
This type of orchid blooms with gorgeous flowers in various shades of pink, purple, yellow, and white.
botanical-name botanical name Sobralia
sun-requirements sun requirements Part Sun
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-11

Sobralia orchids are native to the Americas, where they can be found in both tropical climates as well as high elevations. They vary vastly in size, from quite small to 18’ tall for some species.

This orchid flowers in shades of purple, pink, yellow, and white, and though their flowers are short-lived, they tend to produce flowers for a long period of time.

Sobralia orchid flowers strongly resemble the beloved cattleya. Sadly, they do not last as long, with some blooming for only one day and others for 3-7 days.

They have a magnificent, large, ruffled, and decorative labellum. Their petals and sepals are typically uniform. One species, Sobralia macrantha, has spectacular blooms which are fragrant and up to 10” wide!

Spider Orchid

Close-up of blooming Spider Orchid flowers on a blurred green background. The flowers are small, thin, graceful, has thin long purple petals with white edges and sepals, slightly pubescent below, and unusual white labellums, twisted, covered with bright pink frills.
Spider Orchid produces charming flowers with interesting looking labellums.
botanical-name botanical name Caladenia
sun-requirements sun requirements Part Sun to Full Sun
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-12

Caladenia is a fascinating plant. These terrestrial orchids have a hairy stem and one single hairy leaf per tuber. Each tuber reproduces two offsets yearly, making this a moderate clumper.

The flowers range widely in appearance, with some rather simple and common, while others are exotic and flamboyant.

Each stem produces a raceme of one to eight flowers. The petals and sepals are typically uniform. The labellum of the spider orchid is nearly always the most intricate part of the flower, with some bearded and some animalic in form. These plants are delicate in appearance.

Swamp Orchid

Close-up of a flowering Phaius plant in a sunny garden. The tall stems are covered in flower clusters of beautiful bicolor petals, white underneath and brownish copper above. Large white tubular labellums with purple edges protrude from the centers of the flowers.
Swamp Orchid produces delicate flowers with elongated expressive labellums.
botanical-name botanical name Phaius
sun-requirements sun requirements Part Sun
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-12

This winter bloomer has become more popular at garden centers in recent years, as it is an easy plant to care for and grows quite large with beautiful flowers. It prefers tropical climates and will not fare well below 40° temperatures. Phaius is often called Swamp Orchid, but it prefers well-drained soil.

Phaius likes lots of light, and it likes to dry between waterings. It has elongated, pointed leaves that surround a clump of stems, each bearing a number of the beautiful blooms produced by this genus.

The flowers are similar in appearance to a laelia, more delicate than a cattleya, but similar in form. The petals and sepals are uniform, and the labellum is elongated and dramatic.

Urn Orchid

Close-up of a blooming Bletilla plant in a sunny garden. The leaves are large, bright green, oval. Thin long stems are covered with small purple flowers. The flowers have large lips with slightly ruffled edges and striped coloration.
Urn Orchid is an easy-care ground orchid that is quite resistant to both cold and summer heat.
botanical-name botanical name Bletilla
sun-requirements sun requirements Part Sun
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

Bletilla, commonly known as Urn Orchid, is an easy-care ground orchid that is native to Asia. It grows in clumps of broad grass-like leaves with multiple flower spikes.

Urn orchids grow slowly, so although it can become quite large, it is not considered invasive. It is very cold-hardy, and also tolerant of heat in summer.

Urn Orchids flower in white, pink and yellow. The stems are thin and delicate as are the flowers. The petals and sepals are uniform, and the labellum is pronounced; although not particularly large in comparison, it can be ruffled or striated.

Wide Lip Orchid

Close-up of a flowering plant Liparis Wide lip Orchid against a blurred background in a sunny garden. Tall stems are covered with small white-yellow-green flowers. The flowers have the same sepals and petals, the labellums are larger and slightly ruffled.
Wide lip Orchid is an attractive plant with many small yellow-green or purple flowers.
botanical-name botanical name Liparis
sun-requirements sun requirements Part Sun
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-7

Liparis orchids have spectacular flower displays, but they are not known for their fragrance, at least not in a positive manner. They commonly have an unpleasant odor, making them less desirable as houseplants. They are incredibly widespread, with species endemic to every continent except for Antarctica.

The flowers vary in size and quantity and usually are great in number. Yellow, green, and purple are the most common colors for these blooms. The sepals and petals are uniform, and the labellum is larger and sometimes toothed or ruffled.

Final Thoughts

With so many species of terrestrial orchids, it is a wonder that we don’t hear more about growing orchids in the garden. Orchids are an enormous family of plants. These wonderful plants grow in climates that range from zone 3 through zone 12, and flower in every color of the rainbow.

If you’ve ever thought about growing orchids but are nervous about taking them on as houseplants, give terrestrial orchids a try. They are hardy, tolerant, and make wonderful additions to the garden.

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