Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Pleione 'Tongario'

Why has it taken so long for Pleione to catch on with the gardening public? They are relatively inexpensive as orchids go, they are easy to grow, and at least some have been in commerce in this country for decades. And even the plainest ones are lovely.

I went through my Pleione stage decades ago: before CITES I imported about a dozen hybrids from an English grower. It was a real eye-opener when they bloomed: until then I knew only the familiar Pleione bulbocodioides, but these then newer hybrids had flowers with really brilliant combinations of color. Some were white with bright red spots, some had a strong flush of yellow.

The main problem with these plants is that they are not garden plants in our climate. That means that you have to bring them in in the autumn and get them back out in late winter or early spring. They bloom early, before the frosts are over, so there is also that to deal with. Also, the flowers are better if they can develop under cool conditions - and typical house temperatures are not cool. You'll do well with them as long as they are the apple of your eye; but don't expect them to gracefully accept a place in line for your affection and attention with everything else.

The corms can be wintered in the refrigerator in a plastic bag; I'm using a cold frame with good results.

The one shown above, 'Tongario', is an old hybrid which appeared on several American lists this year. It is probably too late to order them for bloom this year, but you never know.

The word Pleione is a four syllable word; since the o is short (it's the Greek omicron) the stress falls back on the i for those who use the text-book Latin pronunciations.

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