Pleione, a plant with the magic name ORCHID, can be grown outdoors in mild-winter areas. Pleione orchids are hardy to about +5°F and, with snow or mulch, will probably withstand lower temperatures. Pleiones can also be grown in the average home with the right conditions and are often called “Window Sill Orchids.”
Pleiones are native to China, Nepal, Tibet, and Taiwan. They grow in moss on the ground or on trees and rocks. The flowers emerge in early spring, and a large bulb may produce 2 or more growths each with 2 or 3 flowers. The flowers are 3 to 4 inches across, about the size of cymbidium flowers. After the flowers fade, the single leaf emerges and lasts all summer. A new bulb having formed at each leaf base, the foliage dies down in the fall, and the old bulb withers over the winter.
Pleiones require good drainage and a sheltered spot in the garden. For winter protection, a mulch of pine needles or a few fir boughs works well. Pleiones may also be grown in pans or half pots. Any well-drained potting mix is suitable. When the growth begins in the spring, water just enough to moisten the soil. Don’t over water; warm wet soil will rot the shoots right off the bulbs! When the plants have developed their roots, feed regularly with balanced soluble fertilizer and keep the soil moist but not wet. Peter’s or fish fertilizer is suitable. Granular fertilizer may lodge in the base of the leaves and burn. When the foliage dies down, the pots may be allowed to dry out and should be stored where the temperature will drop to or slightly below freezing at least part of the winter.