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Outdoor orchid gives dry garden lush look

This is one part in a weekly series featuring the UC Davis Arboretum’s “Garden Gems” series – 45 can’t-fail, easy-care, low-water plants well adapted to our region and that add sparkle to drought-tolerant landscapes.

Chinese butterfly orchid

Bletilla ochracea

Size: 24 to 30 inches tall and wide

Bloom season: Creamy yellow flowers from spring through late summer.

Exposure: Part sun to bright shade.

Pruning needs: Remove brown leaves and old flower stems in winter.

Water needs: Medium-low; once established, water once a week or every other week.

Snapshot: Who knew that orchids could be drought-tolerant – or grow outside in Sacramento? But the pretty Chinese butterfly orchid is a hardy exception. Considered a deciduous perennial, this orchid forms a clump, 2 feet wide and tall, with pleated bright green leaves and creamy yellow jewel-toned flowers that give the low-water garden a lush, tropical look. It keeps blooming from April through September. Foliage dies down in winter, but in spring, this little workhorse bounces back quickly.

For more on “Garden Gems,” click on arboretum.ucdavis.edu.

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