Pleione Orchid – Pleione formosana ,and ssp.
Origin: China, Northern India, Nepal, Thailand
I am having such a good time with these orchids that I thought I'd let you in on the fun. Pleione (pronounced play owny) are a small group of cool and alpine growing orchids usually found close to the snow line at the edges of forests. Deciduous, these orchids need a rest during the winter. However; in the spring, the flowers appear even before the leaves.
Recently, I started a tray of two dozen round squat bulbs, all but one have produced or are working on producing large, delicately colored flowers. Pleiones like good light during growing season. You can either move them outside if the temperatures are staying consistently above freezing or grow them in a window. I had stored my bulbs (called pseudo bulbs in orchid lingo) in the refrigerator over winter. In March, some were already starting to produce shoots while still in the refrigerator. I removed them and placed each bulb in a 2 ¾" container. I used a planting medium of 50% garden mulch bark, 25% sphagnum moss and 25% lava rock. Naturally semi epiphytic, the Pleione bulbs should not be buried in the compost but be placed on the surface with the base of the bulb pushed in slightly for some stability.
During their growing season (between March and October), Pleiones like moist compost and should be watered once a week. During the winter rest period, the compost should be allowed to dry out completely. When this is accomplished, I carefully remove the bulbs, brush off the growing medium, place them in labeled paper bags and put them in the refrigerator for storage.
Pleiones are moderate feeders and a balanced plant food can be applied from April to August at about ¼ the packaging recommendation. This should be done about every third watering. During late August and September, change the plant food to a higher potash, again at ¼ strength, which will encourage the new bulbs to ripen in readiness for the rest period. Feeding should stop in October and not begin again until the new growing season.
Propagation is simple. Numerous small bulbs are produced around the base of the old bulb or the "scar" formed when the leaves fall. These should be removed, stored, potted up in trays at the start of growing season and by their second year, they will be flowering size.
If you are looking for some "eye-candy" to brighten up your early spring days, I highly recommend these easy orchids.