The Q&A Archives: Growing Acidanthera

Question: Acidanthera - can they handle the shade? I have ordered a number of peacock orchid (acidanthera) bulbs to plant this spring in a border which receives no more than 2-3 hours of sun per day (shaded by a maple tree and tall buildings). I was under the impression that the peacock orchid could tolerate a lot of shade, but have now got some mixed information on this. What's the real story? Would I be better off planting them in containers which would get more sun? Also, what do you think my chances of overwintering these in a very protected city garden, zone 7?

Answer: Acidanthera really needs as much sun as you can give it, so I doubt your shady spot will do. In all likelihood it would also resent any root competition from a maple tree as well. Acidanthera is generally considered hardy through zone 7, but that assumes it is in the ground where it is far better insulated than it would be in a container. You might consider growing your collection in a container in a sunny spot and then either plunging the container up to the rim in the garden or lifting and storing the corms for winter. They look better in a cluster of ten or so (planted about 2 or 3 inches apart) so are perfect in a container and are easy to lift and store. About 6 weeks after they fade, gently dig them up, remove the soil, and trim the leaves off. Let them dry for about a week and then store them in a mesh bag (or old panty hose) in a dark and very cool but not freezing place (upper 30's is perfect). Another alternative of course is to take your chances and replace them if need be. Good luck with your acidanthera -- they are wonderful!

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