How wet does Cypripedium Reginae need to be?

hld6(z7 MD)January 24, 2006

Hi all,

I have some yellow lady slippers that I planted last spring that were really lovely. (Here's hoping they come back well this spring!) I am thinking of getting some Showy Lady Slippers (probably next Fall) and I am pondering where in my limited gardens they would be best suited. Most sites I've read say that they are found in wet (but not soggy) conditions such as at the edge of streams and bogs (but not actually a bog-plant). I don't have a stream on my property and, with the mosquitoes we get around here, I am not going to set up a bog garden. Does the Showy Lady Slipper need to be wet all the time or is it just that they are drought intolerant? (I.e., how diligent do I need to be in my watering?) Does anyone here have any experience with growing these in their gardens?


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Cyp. reginae is drought intolerant and water quality is important. The colonies we have in this area grow in alkaline fens that are very boglike.

prepare the bed by digging a large hole 12 inches deep, line the bottom half of the hole with rubber pond liner or heavy plastic sheeting then fill with peat sand and lime. They should do quite well.

Here is a photo of our local population at Gott fen in Streetsboro Ohio:

    Bookmark   January 26, 2006 at 8:44AM
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I'm in a much cooler climate than you, so my plants might require less water than yours would in z7.

I have mine growing in 16" of pure manure (holds water well), have a sprinkler head right beside them to ensure they get water every time I water the garden via my underground sprinklers. Have them situated in partial shade, to keep the soil from drying as quickly as it would in full sun. I also have them growing in a 2 ft by 2 ft depression, 2 inches deep to collect water.

I just use city water for watering.

I can't remember how long I've had my clump of them, about 7 years I guess.

I fertilize twice a year with granular bone meal. They like limey soil.

All of this growing strategy is similar to the one the friend who gave me my clump uses in his city garden up here in Saskatchewan. He has a big patch, 50 stems at least.

I have seen them growing once in the wild in z2. They were growing in highway ditches, not boggy at all, although I understand fens and bogs are a common habitat. The soil in which they were growing was very limey, so limey the ground was white.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2006 at 2:48PM
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Not to take issue with the previous posts, but I would like to make a few comments.

First, I would be cautious about planting these too wet. It is true that in nature they occur in fens and on the margins of bogs. However in cultivation they do best in soils that are not water logged. In fact, in the winter months you stand to lose them outright if they remain wet. Fred's suggestion of using a pond liner is a good one but I would ammend it a bit. Think of the liner as an underground water source, but NOT where most of the Cyps' roots will be. I would grow the plants in a mounded bed over the pond liner, thus ensuring both adequate moisture and excellent drainage.

Now about the medium you grow them in. I would not use manure of any kind, even as an ammendment to the soil. It is too biologically active. Any reasonable "woods" soil free of clay mixed with lots of sand and some organic material (black "peat" from a fen is very good) in a ratio of 1:2:1 should work fine. The pH is not too critical, somewhere between 6.5 and 7.5. Don't use sphagnum peat since it is highly acidic.

Also, be careful of the water you use. City water varies greatly, and the additives it contains can harm the plants (especially chlorine). In general, I would not use it directly on the plants unless you're forced to (as in a drought situation). This species is not drought tolerant at all. These plants need at least 3-4 hours of sun a day to flower well, preferable in the morning or late afternoon. Finally, make the hole big! On a mature plant the roots can extend for up to three feet from the crown.

Good luck! Be sure to get good nursery grown plants, and you will have a good experience with these.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2006 at 7:46PM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)


Just FYI...bogs don't contribute to the mosquito problem, because bogs don't have standing water. So, go ahead and make a bog garden! April

    Bookmark   February 2, 2006 at 10:11PM
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kwoods(Cold z7 Long Is)

PF so glad to see your post! You don't post often enough.

Great pic Fred. I've said it before but you sure are lucky to live near such a cool place.

This is what I do and have been succesful w/, that doesn't mean it's "the right way" or will suit your conditions but hopefully it will give you some ideas. I grow my reginae two different ways. One clump I planted on the periphery of my bog in an area that wicks a little water from the bog, no liner. It gets dappled sun (it's under the edge of a deciduous/cherry tree) most of the early part of the day then shade. They are in a mix of sand and peat. The other clump (albidum) I have a liner DEEP (well over a foot) under the plants. I have a void in the bottom filled with stone chips and drainage slits around six inches from the bottom. The media is sand/perlite and peat and it wicks water from that void. This mix is much more fast draining and I have to make sure the plants get water when it is dry (like during the drought last year). PF is right about the acidity of peat but w/ the amount I am using the acidity is not an issue and the way it holds and wicks water is ideal. When I give my candidum lime sometimes I check the ph and give the reginae lime too.

Both ways work for me but, who knows maybe I've been lucky. One thing I know for sure, they DO NOT like their roots to get hot or even very warm in summer heat. I have rocks and some pieces of flagstone near the second clump to moderate soil temp and keep the soil cool. Morning (cool part of the day) dappled sun, afternoon shade, well drained but moist soil, neutral to slightly basic ph, untreated water.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2006 at 10:32AM
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Manure works incredibly well in my garden for 2 species of Lady's Slippers. My C. reginae are thriving, and I've had clumps of C. parviflorum var. parviflorum of 100 stems.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2006 at 12:21PM
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Hey, Kwoods, I don't come here very often anymore, and now I've got to login every time. Hmmm...

One thing I hadn't noticed is Helen's location. For some reason I was thinking she was in Ohio, not Maryland. In that location you may have a hard time indeed keeping these plants going due to high soil temperatures. It sounds like Kwoods has got the right idea in keeping these guys happy in a hot summer climate. Keep those roots cool! That's one reason why they grow in and around bogs, the soil is never warm (say above the middle 60's). Also, maybe you shouldnÂt give them so much sun in your area. The ideal place would be a treeless north facing wall, giving high light but no sun on the soil.

Glen, I don't doubt your success! (actually I'd love to see pictures; 100 stems of any Cyp in full flower has got to be incredible) Of course your area is ideal for growing most Cyps. I would wager that in zone 7 manure would only promote the demise of these plants, and quickly! I could be wrong.

Helen, if you are still watching this thread, here's my suggestion to you. Get different Cyps for your area. If you really like C. reginae, I would suggest a look alike plant, C. Ulla Silkens, the hybrid between C. reginae and C. flavum. It is carried by a number of different nurseries and is much more vigorous and forgiving in its cultural demands. There are a number of different hybrids out there that are much easier to grow than most species. If you really want to stay with naturally occurring plants, then I think C. kentuckiense, C. parviflorum v. pubescens, and C. xandrewsii (a natural hybrid) are ideal for your location.

Here is a nursery that will give you lots of satisfation because they offer nice, flowering sized plants at a reasonable cost. Also, their selection is wide as well. PF

Here is a link that might be useful: Hillside Nursery

    Bookmark   February 3, 2006 at 9:42PM
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kwoods(Cold z7 Long Is)

After rereading my response I'm not sure I answered your question as well as I could have.

In growing all my Cypripedium I have found that air around the roots as well as an exchange of water are the most important things when putting together a planting media. Cyps like moist soil but hate soggy roots. So, a light, airy, fast draining, moisture retentive soil works. This may seem like a contradiction until you look at the conditions under which they are found in the wild. Planting media and siting are the critical considerations, if these are done right you should have to water only infrequently to keep them moist.

PF, GW is becoming annoying to me as well, is friendly, small but growing.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2006 at 11:45AM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

I think the key to truely growing natives is to select plants for the growing conditions that you already have on your site, rather than trying to create conditions to grow plants that you would like to have...

A key part of a native, natural garden is to minimize inputs and value the habitat of what would have been growing where you live and attempt to recreate that.

You may want to establish a rain garden on your property to grow plants that like wet feet from water provided by the weather.

But to continually unnaturally add water or add other inputs to create alkaline soil is counter intuitive to native landscaping.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2006 at 12:05PM
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My reginae grow on Manitoulin Island. They are in a sand interdune that is wet for about a month after thaw. It gets very dry in there in the summer. They do very well so long as they get that spring soak. The yellow ones seem quite happy in the dry ditches at the side of the road. It looks dry, but as it is limestone with cracks, probably more water is under the small amount of soil (3") than we are seeing.The parviflora and arietum seem to like shade, the first dryish, and the second a bit damper.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2006 at 7:24PM
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hld6(z7 MD)

Thanks everybody!

I'm going to have to read all these posts carefully b/c I know that different conditions work in different climates. For example, 3 hours of afternoon sun probably wouldn't work for me since in Maryland the afternoon sun is pretty "toasty", but 3 hours of morning sun is much cooler. I'm glad to see from some of the posts that they don't have to be wet all the time. They sound a little like fuchsia (moist but not soggy roots).

About planting media, how would leaf humus work, (vs. peat moss)? And while many C. Reginae grow in alkaline conditions how critical is this and how alkaline is necessary. I have a garden along an old brick shed foundation (the shed is long gone) that has leaf humus on top of clay soil. I planted my pubescens on one side of that and I was thinking the other side (with morning sun) might be good for reginae.

While I had sucess with my pubescens last year I'm definately a cyp newbie. I'm willing to take another gamble, but since I would be buying them from reputable sources (I'm thinking Vermont Lady Slipper or Roberts) and do not have an unlimited supply of $$$ I'd rather not kill them straight off. :)


    Bookmark   February 7, 2006 at 1:34PM
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PF, Cypripedium Reginae actually grows natively in Virginia, although admittedly it is at the edge of its range and there are few sites. So, I suspect it is possible to grow it in some areas of Virginia and Maryland.

I've just started to grow it, so I can't say much about how it has done in my own garden but I'm trying to go "by the book" (aka the New England Wildflower Society recommendations - which you might find online). Basically they are the same as Freds and PlantFreak's

    Bookmark   February 14, 2006 at 12:00PM
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Hey Yarthkin,

Yeah, the species was found historically in North Carolina, Tennessee, and was even reported from the Huntsville, Alabama area. It also is a resident of southern Missouri and into Arkansas in scattered pockets. Clearly it can grow in hot summer areas, but I suspect only in unique habitats that have cool soil. The Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia sites all are (or were) in the mountains. To wit, trying to grow them in the open garden in zone 7 is not suggestable. Some people I've talked to maintain that it will not persist in zone 7 regardless of what measures you take (they took many!). Still, if you don't mind spending the money, I'd say give them a try.

Here's a link about this plant showing the states it has been reported from. It is extremely uncommon to extinct in the southern end of its range, and only becomes locally common in the Great Lakes region (and further north in Canada).

Here is a link that might be useful: C. reginae link

    Bookmark   February 14, 2006 at 6:21PM
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Hi. I am living in Pacific Northwest (zone 8) and wondering if I can REALLY grow any of these orchids successfully. I tried several times, planting C. Reginae in the fall and covering it with fur bough. The following May (?)I got a flower, but lost the plant. At the time, I did not even now that zone 8 is iffy, and not recommended by some nurseries at all. Anyone out there in zone eight successful? I would really love to have a patch of these beauties in my woodland garden and I am willing to go the extra miles.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2008 at 1:33PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

PNW Zone 8 does not have the torrid summers of eastern Zone 8. When people back East talk about Zone 8, it is a whole different story from here. Lots of plants we grow here melt there. And there are plants they grow that find our summers too cool.

Look at what this place is growing.

Here is a link that might be useful: Keeping It Green Nursery - Hardy Orchids

    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 12:25AM
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Will Lady Slipper grow in Washington, 30 miles from the coast?

    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 6:54PM
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    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 4:30AM
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