San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Orchid Trees Similar to Orchids, Only Easier

IF you are a fanof orchids, then youwill love orchidtrees. Where orchidsonly flower once ayear, the trees flowermost of the year.Orchids requirespecial care, butorchid trees arehardy, disease-andpest-resistant ornamentalsthat needlittle attention in thehome garden. Orchids are often extractedfrom their rain forest habitats, whereasorchid trees are grown from seeds in nurseries.These are just a few reasons whyyou’ll love adding orchid trees to yourhome garden landscaping design.Orchid trees (Bauhinia spp.), alsoknown as Arbol de Orquidias, are originallyfrom India and China – they were broughthere by Europeans as decorative trees.They are members of the familyLeguminosae and are related to plants,such as the Jerusalem-thorn, Redbud andthe bean.THESE trees are easy to identify bytheir orchid-like flowers with pastel tonesof purple, red or white and light greenleaves that resemble the print ofan ox hoof. The seedpods are flatand about 1 foot long. The treesreach a height of about 25 feetwith many branches and have acrooked trunk with gray bark.Orchid trees are available inleading nurseries and grow wellin most regions of the country.There are several species you cancollect. Bauhinia variegate ispopular and produces flowers ofpastel purple tones or pure whitein the Candida variety. Bauhiniapurpurea varies considerably andproduces flowers off-season fromthe rest of the species, while Bauhiniamonandra produces flowers with singlestamens.The prized specie is known as the HongKong Orchid-tree (Bauhinia blakeana) andbears the largest flowers with rich reddishor rose purple pastel colors during our verano(summer).THESE trees can be planted in full sunareas as freestanding specimens or plantedalong walls or borders with shrubbery toadd interest to the skyline. Other landscaperslike to plant one or two trees near thehouse to add a special touch.They grow on a wide range of well drainedsoils, except in salty conditions.Once established they need little care,although additions of organic fertilizersincrease their growth rate and blooming.Young trees may need a weekly wateringduring the dry season, but once they arewell rooted, they require no special irrigation.All in all, you can’t go wrong withplanting orchid trees around your home.Until next time, happy gardening!For more info on tropical gardening, trythe Web site: www.thenewdawncenter.orgOr e-mail your gardening questions to

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