Peacock Orchid Planting Guide

Many plants wear common names that are misleading. There are lots of "lilies" out there that aren't in the lily family. This fragrant "orchid" actually is in the iris family, and pretty closely related to gladiolus. Looking at the upright, slender foliage you can see the family resemblance. Adding to the confusion, these are also called Gladiolus callianthus by some.

Regardless of what you call them, these native to the high country of east Africa deserve to be more widely grown. For fun, we're adding them to large mixed planters this year.

Choosing a Growing Site

Peacock orchids love the sun and bloom best when provided with lots of light. Their nodding white flowers are lovely with the light behind them so consider siting them where they'll be illuminated with sunrise or sunset rays. Stand at your kitchen window and figure out where you'll be able to see them blooming, July through September and beyond, with the summer to autumn rays sparkling through their petals.

Soil Preparation

Peacock orchids grow well in average soil and adapt to most soils except heavy clay.

When to Plant Acidanthera Bulbs

Plant outdoors when frost danger has past and soil has warmed to about 60 degrees. 

How to Plant Peacock Orchid Bulbs

Plant these bulbs (corms, if you want to get technical) 5-6" deep and 3-5" apart. Position with the pointed end facing upwards. After planting, tamp down soil and water well. The bulbs will begin to develop roots and sprouts within a few weeks.

Can you plant peacock orchids in containers? Yes! Choose a container that's large - 14 or more inches across and at least the same depth. Plant as outlined above. Fertilized plants monthly once they are at least 10" tall using a diluted houseplant fertilizer. 

During the Growing Season

Acidanthera plants require little care during the growing season. Keep soil relatively moist and do not allow to dry out completely. Stake if your site is breezy.

At the Season’s End

For gardeners in zones 7-10 peacock orchids are perennials, successfully overwintering outdoors. In zone 6 and colder areas, wait until after the frost kills the foliage and dig the clumps with a garden fork. Shake off the soil, clip the foliage to 4-6" and set the plants in a dry, shady area (in the garage is fine) to dry and cure. Then just twist off the old foliage and store the corms in a box of dry peat moss in a dark place that's 40-60 degrees. A partially heated garage often works well. Replant in spring.

Insider Tips

  1. Plant these for fragrant blooms that appear in mid to late July and continue through frost.
  2. If you are planting these corms in a group, dig a wide hole 5-6" deep and place the bulbs 3-5" apart. This is easier and faster than digging closely spaced individual planting holes.
  3. These are plants that once you try them, you're likely to include them going forward. Easy, graceful, pretty, fragrant and inexpensive.
shop peacock orchids
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Success Snapshot

Light: Full sun

Soil: Average

Depth: Plant 5-6" deep

Water: Average moisture

Uses: Borders and mixed beds

Tip: Plant in groups of 7-8+ bulbs for greatest impact

GUIDE: Peacock Orchid Planting Guide

They Start Out Looking Like This: