The “peacock orchid” (Acidanthera) is a lovely mid to late summer and early fall plant with a strong fragrant-flowers and a unique appearance.
The plant belongs to the Gladiolus genus in the Iris family (Iridaceae), which means that it is not an orchid.
It’s native to parts of East Africa, but it has become a staple in gardens throughout the world.
The acidanthera is recognizable due to its sword-like foliage and white flowers that start to bloom in the mid-summer.
The name even references the foliage, as it is taken from the Greek “akis,” which means “sharp point.”
“Peacock Orchid” is the common name for Acidanthera, which is pronounced [ass-ih-DAN-ther-uh]. It’s also sometimes called “Sword Lily.”
NOTE: Some refer to Acidanthera with the botanical name of Gladiolus callianthus or as Gladiolus acidanthera.
Acidanthera Care: How To Plant Peacock Orchid Bulbs
Size & Growth
Acidanthera is easy to grow and care for. The bulbs should be planted in early spring in full sun after the threat of frost has passed.
They are best suited for the USDA hardiness zone 7 to 11.
The plant grows slowly throughout the first half of the season. In fact, you may not see any leaves until late June.
These plants are late bloomers, but the leaves can reach 10″ to 36″ inches in length.
Orchid Glad Flowering and Fragrance
Peacock orchids bloom time runs from late summer or early fall.
Many gardeners eagerly anticipate the arrival of the flowers and may mistakenly assume that they aren’t coming.
When the flowers arrive, they open from the bottom, revealing funnel-shaped white flowers. Most people find that they have a pleasant, aromatic fragrance.
Light & Temperature
These plants grow best in full sun. If you don’t have an area in your garden with full sunlight, you may want to plant the bulbs in outdoor pots.
You can then move them to a suitable location later in the season after the flowers bloom.
Watering, Feeding, and Fertilizing
When you first plant the bulbs, they only need light watering. This a drought-tolerant plant that can survive without frequent watering.
Keep in mind that if you want full, bright flowers from the late summer flowering bulb, make sure the plant gets enough water throughout the season.
Fertilizer may be added when you first start to notice growth, which typically occurs in the late spring.
Use a 10-10-10 liquid fertilizer every two to three weeks until the end of the growing season.
Soil & Transplanting
The plant requires well-drained soil. If your soil is very compacted, take the time to break up the dirt or consider adding fresh topsoil.
You may also want to think about starting the bulbs in pots. The Acidanthera corms are slow-growers and may get taken over by faster growing plants.
You can plant about a dozen Acidanthera corms in a 12-inch garden pot. Wait until the foliage starts to grow before transplanting.
- When planting the corms, loosen the soil at least six inches.
- Place the larger corms to a planting depth of about five to six inches deep.
- The smaller corms may only need to be about four inches deep.
- Cover the corms with soil and water until the soil is moist.
- Avoid over-watering.
No grooming is necessary for the Acidanthera. However, feel free to remove some of the foliage if you notice dead leaves.
Question: Will Acidantheras grow outdoors, like gladioli?
Yes, Acidanthera will grow outdoors where the growing season is long.
However, in most parts of the country, it is better to plant several bulbs together in large pots or containers with good well-draining soil.
Grow the plants outside during summer and bring into a cool situation indoors before frost.
After blooming, dry off and rest.
How To Propagate Peacock Orchids
The best way to propagate acidanthera is to wait until the end of the season when you remove the bulbs.
You may notice smaller bulbs clinging to the corms. You can remove these bulbs and save them for propagation or separate them at planting time.
You can remove the bulbs or corms of peacock orchids from the garden or pots when the foliage begins to die. Here are a few tips for ensuring that the bulbs are stored correctly:
- Place the corms indoors on newspaper to dry
- After they dry, brush off the soil
- Store the dry, clean corms in a paper bag filled with peat moss
- Keep the bag in a cool, dark spot through the winter
When next spring arrives, you’ll have corms ready for planting.
NOTE: You may also leave the plants in the pots and bring them indoors. In the spring, dump the soil and replant.
Pest, Disease or Problems Peacock Lily Orchid Encounters
Peacock orchids are prone to many of the usual pest and disease suspects:
- Spider mites
- Corm rot
In some warmer climates, the plant may start to grow in large clumps. You may need to occasionally thin the plant.
If you do notice pests, you can use your preferred pest spray (Neem oil) to keep them away from the foliage.
What Is The Most Popular Acidanthera Variety?
There are many cultivars in the Peacock Gladiolus genus which the Acidanthera belongs to.
While the Acidanthera flowers is one of the most popular plants in this group, there are a few popular options. Look for Acidanthera bicolor var. murielaes in a variety of flower colors
- Scarlet (dark red)
- White/Near White
These variations offer more of a rainbow of colors, compared to the solid white flowers on the peacock orchid. If you want more color in your garden, consider pairing a few of these options.
Best Uses For Peacock Orchids Indoors or Outdoors
When planted outdoors in a garden, the plant works best in rows or along the border of your garden.
Acidanthera peacock orchid is also great in a pot, where the tall stalks and bright white flowers can stand out.