The peacock orchid (Acidanthera) can be a little bit confusing because it isn’t an orchid at all. Instead belongs to the genus Gladiolus. As such, its botanical name is as Gladiolus acidanthera. Although it is also referred to as Gladiolus callianthus.
You might also hear the plant called by another name, “sword lily”, which is a nickname that comes from the fact that its leaves look like swords and its flowers resemble lilies.
The point is, all these names refer to the same plant, the beautiful peacock orchid.
Peacock orchigs grow to between 2 to 3 feet tall. They are somewhat late bloomers in that they flower later in the summer to early fall. This fools some beginner gardeners into thinking that the plant won’t bloom at all.
However, it is worth the wait. Its lovely colorful flowers feature white showy petals with a dark violet, maroon center. Its leaves are likewise stunning with their blade like shape and green color.
That plant is native to East Africa. As such, it likes warm conditions. However, it is able to tolerate somewhat cooler temperatures than tropical plants allowing you to enjoy them down to zone 7.
Because of its looks, peacock orchids are often seen in cut flower arrangements. Their long lasting blooms also make them popular for this purpose.
Similarly, many gardens use them for landscaping and borders.
Peacock Orchid Plant Care
Peacock Orchid Light
The peacock orchid likes full sun. However, exactly how much sunlight you give it will depend on where you live.
- If you live in a warm climate area where the sun can get intense during hot summers or mid-afternoons, it is best to place the plant in part shade or slightly shaded area.
- If you live in cooler climates, full sun is ideal, especially hot, mid-afternoon sun.
Either way, the plant needs a lot of light on a daily basis. The only difference is the intensity of the sunlight it receives.
In case you can’t seem to find a suitable place where there’s full sun, it will be a good idea to place the plant in a pot so you can easily move it around depending on the time of year.
As such, indoors, the best spot is in either in an east, west or south facing window.
While the latter provides the most sunlight, it may be too much if you live in a warm climate area. If this is the case, do filter the light with light shades or curtains.
Meanwhile, the last place you want to keep it is facing north where there isn’t a lot of light.
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Peacock Orchid Temperature & Humidity
When it comes to climate, one of the first things to know about peacock orchids is that they’re “late bloomers”. This means they flower later in the summer to early fall. As such, you’ll want to be patient.
That said, the plant is used to warm climates as it is native to East Africa. Thus, it does best when the temperature is kept between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Ideally, keeping it in the smaller range of 70 to 75 degrees works best. Once the temperature goes above 85 degrees, it will struggle.
More importantly, it isn’t frost tolerant. And, can only withstand temperatures down to 50 degrees.
This makes USDA zones 7 to 11 the optimal places if you want to grow the plant outdoors. Otherwise, it would be a good idea to keep them in containers. This way, you can easily take them indoors when the weather gets cold.
Alternatively, when winter comes, many gardeners dig up their corms and store them indoors. Then, replant them when spring comes around.
If you’re in zone 6 or 7, where the temperature can be borderline for the plant, you can leave the corms in the ground and protect it with a heavy layer of mulch to help them get through the frost.
Your peacock orchid likewise enjoys humid conditions. For optimum growth, keep humidity at 70%. This is much higher than what most homes have. So, it is a good idea to get a hygrometer.
It is a cheap and quick way of measuring relative humidity. It will also allow you to adjust the humidity in your home as the seasons change.
Peacock Orchid Watering
Your peacock orchid likes moist soil. This will allow it to produce full, vibrant flowers with their best color.
However, be careful not to let soil get wet or soggy. The plant does not do well when waterlogged. And, leaving it at this condition will cause root rot.
As with other orchids, it will need more water during the warmer months when it is actively growing. Come wintertime, you can scaled back on watering as the weather gets cold and its growth slows down.
When it comes to soil, the most important thing to remember is that is must drain moisture well. Although the plant can tolerate different kinds of soil, the best ones for optimum growth are sandy or loamy soil.
If you have clay soil, you will want to amend it with compost to improve drainage and make it light and airy. This will allow water and air to pass through easier. Both of which are key elements in keeping the plant healthy.
If you’re growing your peacock orchid in a container, you can use a combination of peat and perlite. This will make the mix retain enough water to keep the plant happy while still be well draining.
When planting, put it at a depth of 4 to 6 inches. And, leave space of at least 4 to 8 inches between plants to give it enough room to grow.
Ideally, you’ll be using fertile soil for your peacock orchid. A good way to do this is to add compost to improve organic content. That said, supplementing it with fertilizer also helps.
But, you always want to be careful with fertilizer because too much will harm your plant due to the salt residue buildup that it leaves behind.
When feeding your plant, use a balanced liquid fertilizer every 2 to 4 weeks during the growing season. You don’t need to fertilize during the wintertime.
Peacock Orchid Pruning
Your peacock orchid is fairly low maintenance when it comes to pruning. You don’t necessarily need to do a lot of trimming because it doesn’t grow overly big or messy.
As such, most of the pruning will be to remove dead, damaged or discolored leaves. You will likewise want to deadhead flowers when they’re spent.
Do note that as peacock orchids get older, you’ll need to do more pruning as their leaves can get ratty looking.
Peacock Orchid Propagation
At the end of each season, you’ll see bulbs form at the corns of your peacock orchid. The easiest way to propagate the plant is by taking these bulbs to plant them.
Because winter will be coming up, it is best to store the bulbs indoors and wait until spring to plant them in your garden. If your peacock orchid is in a pot, you can leave the bulbs in tact and just bring the entire plant indoors for the winter.
That said, here’s how to store the bulbs for propagation.
- Get a small container and cover it with newspaper.
- The newspaper will help the corms dry faster.
- Brush off excess soil and clean them.
- You can store them by covering them with newspaper or use a paper bag. You can also add peat moss.
- Keep them ins dark, cool area for the winter.
- Take the corms out when spring arrives. You can plant them separately.
Peacock Orchid Transplanting & Repotting
Often, you’ll find peacock orchids grown outdoors. However, many of them have their bulbs started in pots. Since it is a slow grower, it will likely take longer before you’ll be able to transplant it outdoors compared to other plants.
That side, here’s how to transplant peacock orchids to your garden.
- In all likelihood, you’ll have a few peacock orchids in the pot. A small 6 to 8 inch pot will hold between 5 to 8 plants. if you want to move them to a container, using a larger 12 inch pot works well as it can hold a dozen peacock orchids.
- Before you transplant them into the ground, you’ll want to wait for the orchids to product foliage.
- Then, prepare the soil by digging a hole. Peacock orchids like to be planted at a depth of between 4 to 6 inches. Also, keep spacing at least 4 inches, ideally closer to 8 inches between plants.
- Plant the corms into the ground. Smaller corms will prefer shallower depths (4 inches).
- Cover the corms with soil.
- Water the soil and keep it moist.
Some parts of the peacock orchids are toxic. As such, it is a good idea to keep them out of reach of curious kids and pets who might play or chew on them. If ingested they are poisonous to cats and dogs as well as humans.
Also, make sure to wear gloves when handling the plant, be it pruning or propagating. It causes skin irritation for some people.
The peacock orchid is susceptible to both pests and disease. As such, it is important to keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary. To do so, regular inspection is needed.
Pests often hide on the underside of leaves. So, in addition to looking for damage and signs of infestation you want to check the backsides of foliage as well.
The most common pests associated with peacock orchids include aphids, spider mites and thrips. If you do spot any of them, make sure to immediately separate the plant from other plants near it.
Pests are notorious for jumping from one plant to another. So, you’ll want to inspect any nearby plants if they’ve been infected as well. If so, quarantine all the affected plants and treat them.
Treatment will involve neem oil and insecticidal soap depending on which pests occur. Here, you’ll need to stay consistent as it will take weeks before the problem resolves.
Disease is likewise another issue because of its love for moisture. Damp soil and high humidity increase the risk of root rot, bacterial and fungal disease.
As such, you want to be careful when watering your plant. Allowing it to be waterlogged is a recipe for disaster since it can cause the soil to rot.
Similarly, getting the leaves wet in high humidity is a no-no because it takes longer for moisture to dry in this condition. As such, makes the plant vulnerable to foliage disease.