The farmer’s orchid is a wonderful flower for natural gardeners, with the beauty of an orchid and yet wild charm. And so a lot of gardening fans actually see the farmer’s orchid, it is just about to soar to a new trend plant. Here you will learn the important facts about this beautiful flower.
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The origin of the mysterious farmer orchids
The farmer orchids are not in the least bit related to orchids, they do not even share the same biological order, orchids belong to the asparagus order, the farmer orchids belong to the nightshade order.
But they are also unique: within the nightshade family, the peasant orchids form their own genus of slit flowers, with the scientific name schizanthus. These slit flowers or butterfly flowers differ fundamentally from all other nightshade plants with their particularly shaped and particularly colorful flowers, which because of their filigree beauty also gave the genus the name reminiscent of the “queens of flowers”.
In contrast to the flowers of other nightshade plants, these flowers are distinctly zygomorphic, i.e. they consist of two exactly identically shaped halves that are mirrored around a single plane of symmetry running vertically through the center of the flower. This not only systematically lifts the gap flowers out of the other nightshade plants, but is also the reason why we humans find these flowers particularly beautiful, people love symmetry. These flowers also have an ecological advantage – even insects like symmetry, and the zygomorphic flowers are particularly popular with bees who are obviously well-tasted, with bees in the home of farmer orchids, but also with bees in this country,
The genus of slit flowers or peasant orchids developed in the southwest of South America, especially and almost exclusively on the endlessly long coast of Chile, only two species have made it across the Andes to Argentina. It was then easier to use trade routes around the world, even if not all farmer orchids can be cultivated successfully in other parts of the world.
The types of peasant orchids
The genus comprises a total of twelve different species of farmer orchids, of which only two species and a hybrid of these two species are cultivated as ornamental plants:
The blunt split flower or Schizanthus grahamii grows in Chile as an annual plant with heights between 70 and 90 centimeters. It is a delicate, but really magnificent plant:
The numerous blossoms are almost the size of a hand and are of exquisite beauty, with a row of star-shaped spreading petals in strong pink or red at the base, a golden yellow corolla rises above them, accented with red veins and a little tip in pink at the tip – that is really extraordinary! The whole farmer orchid forms richly branched stems and thus entire clouds of flowers, from July to September.
The pinnate split flower or Schizanthus pinnatus is also annual and develops stature heights of up to 90 centimeters in its Chilean homeland, and it is also an exceptionally beautiful plant.
Its beauty unfolds somewhat differently than that of S. grahamii, its flowers are also impressive in a combination of red and yellow, but the red component of this farmer’s orchid can take on many different colors, from rose red to ruby red to purple and dark purple. The flowers appear in abundant quantities throughout late summer.
These two graces are more like peasant orchids for specialists, they grow wild in Chile by the wayside, have been bred in several varieties since the 19th century and are often used in summer flower beds or as potted plants, seeds or young plants are only available from us in qualified specialist nurseries .
The hybrid slit flower or Schizanthus x wisetonensis is the farmer’s orchid that you will usually come across in our shops. This hybrid was created around 1900 in a European nursery, as a cross between Schizanthus grahamii and Schizanthus pinnatus, which is why it is sometimes sold under the synonym “S. grahamii x S. pinnatus ”. It is also annual and is around 80 cm tall, and the first hybrids must have looked similar to their Chilean parents. That has changed completely, meanwhile the S. x wisetonensis is a very diverse and above all colorful clan, which was and is bred in numerous varieties.
Red-white and cream-yellow, violet-yellow and various pink tones-bearing flowers unfold over the finely pinnate foliage, the monochrome cultivated forms develop the most beautiful pink tones, an unusually bright and intense red or are adorned with a noble white or cream. There is also a Compacta variety group of these farmer orchids, which only grows 30 to 40 centimeters high, both varieties are available in numerous garden centers and online mail order companies.
Farmer orchids in the garden and their care
The wild ancestors are used to a lot from Chile, in the Chilean plateaus an abundant supply is almost never the order of the day, and it is alternately very cold and very hot, so farmer orchids were trained to be insensitive in their homeland.
They can therefore be planted very early in the garden; young plants that have been brought forward can be outdoors as early as March because, unlike most other young plants, late frosts will only harm them if it is once again below minus 7 degrees Celsius.
The farmer orchids can be planted in any garden bed in which they find humus-rich and well-drained soil. Too much moisture should really be able to seep away; if in doubt, simply mix a little sand under the soil in the bed. Partial shade is pleasant in terms of light, peasant orchids also like to grow under trees or in the shade of bushes, i.e. in locations where most of the other flowering plants do not feel so comfortable. With a good water supply, however, they can also be located in a location that is fully exposed to the sun. You should never plant orchids too closely in the bed because they are prone to fungal diseases if the leaves cannot dry out quickly after rain.
Farmer orchids bloom in abundant splendor, and they need good nutrition for this, preferably complete fertilizer every two weeks, in the garden, preferably in the form of ripe compost or deposited manure. They bloom for a long time, all summer long, sometimes you can barely see the fine foliage above the numerous flowers.
Farmer orchids – a magnificent variety of flowers for the balcony or terrace
Farmer orchids are also ideal plants to decorate your tubs on the terrace or balcony boxes. In addition to the terrace area, the best locations for the buckets are also slightly sheltered entrance areas or stairways. The same applies here: Farmer orchids can withstand a lot of sun, but then have to be watered xxxxxx, but are also satisfied with partial shade. If they are planted in window boxes that are not very voluminous, the regular water requirement increases, the soil should never dry out here, but waterlogging should also be avoided. The irrigation of the farmer’s orchid is best done using a saucer under the bucket or the balcony box, so the flowers do not get wet when watering and fungi hardly stand a chance.
Compared to the farmer’s orchids in the bed, the plants on the balcony or terrace are more sensitive to frost, because the smaller volume of soil freezes through faster, so it is best to wrap them up a bit during night frosts.
The cut of the farmer’s orchids
Farm orchids have their first flowering already in mid-June, if you want the plants to develop new flowers, you have to make room and new shoots now by cutting the plant to a third of its height. If you also trim the sides a little at the same time, new shoots will also form here.
So that the farmer orchids really get going again, you can give them a little fresh soil (replace the top layer) and water them well with fertilizer in the water. Then the farmer orchids will very likely sprout again very quickly and have developed the next flower in about a month. You can even repeat this little game again, if you manage to get the second pruning behind you by mid-August, you will usually be able to admire the last blossoms in autumn.
Except for this pruning to promote flowering, the annual plants naturally do not need any pruning, you should only remove broken inflorescences or torn leaves, otherwise there is a risk of fungal infestation again.
Propagation of the peasant orchid
You can prefer farmer orchids for the next season from seeds, which are simply placed on the ground in the cultivation containers and covered. The seedlings must be kept evenly moist and placed in a light location with temperatures between 20 and 25 degrees. The first delicate tips should show up after a few days; you can check this during daily ventilation to prevent mold. When the young plants are a few centimeters tall, they are pricked out (sporadically), two months after being fertilized, the small farmer orchids should be fertilized eight weeks after pricking at the earliest, and a little later the time has come for them to put them in their final location.
If you have planted the plant outdoors, you can just shorten the shoot tips after they have grown; the farmer orchid will then grow bushier.
Wintering the farmer orchid is not worthwhile according to all experience reports, the farmer orchid is grown for a one-year culture and cannot be persuaded to a longer lifespan.
As a type of overwintering, one could at most see the idea of sowing farmer orchids, which should already bloom in spring, in autumn. If you wanted to try that, you would then have to put the developing young plants in a very bright and cool place over the winter where they can mature until spring. In early spring they are then planted out well developed and will delight you with flowers very early.
Diseases and pests
Good news: apart from the fungi already mentioned, farmer orchids are rarely attacked by other diseases or by any pests. This is probably due to the fact that the nightshade family Schizanthus also differs from most other nightshade plants in that the plants of this genus contain impressive amounts or combinations of alkaloids. In the case of alkaloids (such as opium), the toxicity is basically a question of the quantity, but if a plant contains up to 15 different alkaloids, even the bravest of harmful insects will obviously lose their appetite …
It is therefore difficult to understand when you can occasionally read on the internet that the only reason the farmer orchids are so little widespread here is because they are so sensitive and difficult to care for. If you meet your most basic (and few) needs, the slit flowers are, on the contrary, unusually easy to care for and impressively resilient, and that with exceptionally long flowering.
Farmer orchids bring in exemplary form into the garden what belongs in a garden, namely lush flowers. They stand for romantic wild growth, just like phlox or mallow, but with their extraordinary flowers bring a certain touch of the extravagant to the garden – really beautiful flowers for design lovers.