Can you grow Lady Slipper orchids?

sugar_peas(z6 CT)May 10, 2005

I just searched and found a post that referred a lot to a fungus needed in the soil, does this make it unlikely to succeed if you purchase orchids and plant them? I think I have the right habitat - woods with a light stream (the source is runoff out of the brook running through my basement but that's something I don't like to think about ha ha)

I would love to try them, though I can't afford it now (the ones I saw online were $37 a plant) but maybe someday if it sounds like people have had good luck with them. I'm particularly interested in Cypripedium reginae. I remember finding these in the woods as a kid, and the babysitter I was with knew they were endangered in CT and we werent' allowed to pick them.

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ahughes798(z5 IL)

Check out Spangle Creek Labs..prices reasonable...but very young plants.

Here is a link that might be useful: Spangle Creek Labs

    Bookmark   May 10, 2005 at 9:43AM
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magus(8a BC)

My info research online says that you need the fungi to germinate the seeds, but not to grow on. Once the seedlings have taken off, they no longer need the fungi. It's illegal (both in the US and in Canada) to dig them out of the ground in the wold, but not to grow them from other sources. I also read that young plants can take six to twelve years to mature and flower. I guess that is why they are particularly paranoid about people taking them from the ground.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2005 at 11:42AM
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Magus - I'm all for making it illegal to dig them out of the ground in my part of Canada (Sask), but right now only 1 native orchid is protected here in Sask - Cypripedium candidum, and it's acknowledged to be extirpated from the province (last sighted in the late 1800s)!

We have a very short list of protected plants in SK, almost all are plants native to fragile sand dune type habitat. The protection covering this short list of plants is quite rigorous, a land owner cannot disturb their habitat.

All other plant species if you're the landowner you can, dig, bulldoze, trample with excessive grazing, spray with weed killer, etc.

Perhaps you mean it's illegal to ship native orchids across an international border without permission?

    Bookmark   May 10, 2005 at 6:44PM
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jillmcm(z6 PA)

Garden in the Woods has 5 or 6 species of ladys slipper that they have propagated, ranging from $19 to $50+. I was tempted, but not very - I can't afford to kill anything that expensive :) My Mom used to have a large patch of pinks that slowly dwindled over the years - I think that as the trees grew, they were shaded out. I keep trying to convince her to take out some trees and see if they'll come back - apparently they can stay dormant for decades.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2005 at 7:22PM
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I have all 4 species of Cypripedium native to Ohio. C. candidum, acuale, reginae, and pubescens. candidum and pubescens are positively easy and have formed nice clumps. The acuale and reginaes have been a bit more tricky but are doing ok.

You do not need fungus to grow orchids from seed in the laboratory and once they've grown leaves they no longer require this association, though it may be beneficial.

Finally, I ask, why is it that people continue to state that ALL orchids are endangered and are protected?? There are only a couple of species that are listed as endangered (at least here in the States). Please know the facts before telling partial truths. It is not Illegal to dig, or grow those species that are not listed as endangered (and I can get the list if anyone would like it). It may not be moral, nor condoned, but as long as one has permission of the property owner it is not illegal.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2005 at 9:53PM
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nankeen(z8b Portland OR)

I think that the important part of the legality issue is that is is illegal to remove any part of the plant from a National park (or most public land as far as I know). It's stealing from everyone that way. However, if someone want's to dig from their own land or a friends land with permission, it's legal, just not necessarily great. Most of the time, plants that have been dug will suffer and frequently die if not given proper care.

There are many seed prop places around aside from those mentioned already. In fact, if you have/will have/can have seed of this genus (or other native orchids) I accept seed in trade for a % of the future seedlings I produce.

Here's a starter list. I recommend buying a large plant to start out with. Seedlings are great but tough to start.


    Bookmark   May 10, 2005 at 11:06PM
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stonybrook(Z7 Piedmont)

Thanks fredsbog for setting the record straight. There are ZERO species of US native lady slippers on the Federal Endangered Species list. 17 states list one or more species as Endangered. Even in those states, there can be no prohibition against a property owner from collecting or permitting the collection of lady slippers. There are laws and regulations in many states that require permits to sell or transport intrastate. A Federal law, administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service, would be required to regulate interstate transportation. A CITES permit is required for International transport. I have a few Pink and Yellow ones that were obtained several years ago from a property owner that had a permit to sell and ship them within the state. More recently, I obtain them from Spangle Creek Labs. A shipment of C. pubescens & C. kentuckiense is due any day.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2005 at 11:28PM
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While it is true that no species of Cypripedium in the US is on the federal list (endangered or threatened status), one should keep in mind that several species are quite rare. Those would include C. californicum, C. fasciculatum, C. candidum, and C. arietinum.

Both C. fasciculatum and C. arietinum are far from showy, and therefore not generally desirable for cultivation except by true enthusiasts. C. californicum and C. candidum are very desirable plants and sought after. Luckily both are readily propogated artificially and at least C. candidum is fairly easy to grow.

All other species are fairly widespread in distribution and in no immediate danger of extinction. Most species have seen a restriction in parts of their ranges, but perhaps some are more common today than in the past. In particular C. acaule is very capable of colonizing disturbed land that is allowed to reforest. I know of a couple granite mines in NY state that were literally covering in C. acaule within 25 years of being shut down. So don't worry too much about their "endangered" status!

Having said that, none of them are truly easy plants. They need more attention than most garden plants do, but with a little research, and most importantly, access to quality specimens you can grow them successfully. PF

    Bookmark   May 11, 2005 at 3:55AM
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kwoods(Cold z7 Long Is)

The prices of lab prop cyps have come down as the availability has increased because responsible gardners only buy lab prop cyps. Why not encourage the growers to continue to increase supply by giving, and encouraging others to give them the money instead of those that wild collect? Habitat degradation and wild collection put tremendous pressure on wild populations of Cyps. Looking to federal legislation for a moral compass is a pretty monumental mistake under any circumstance.

To answer the original poster's question, yes you can grow ladyslippers. There is a lot of info on-line and a few good books on how to do it. The time and money to do the research and preperation for growing is a small investment and well worth it. Yellow ladyslippers are what most start with because they are considered easiest (not easy).

PF as far as I know Roberts is the only one offering reasonably sized lab prop candidum, not sure characterizing them or any cyp as "readily propogated" is entirely accurate. Maybe Ross and I will find out later this year.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2005 at 12:58PM
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By readily propogated I mean that literally thousands of new plants are being artifically grown each year. In fact, every year the number of plants being grown is increasing many fold. These plants are not necessarily grown by commercial operations only. I know a few private collectors doing their own work. Given the demanding nature of Cyp cultivation, I'd say the only ones that may one day become widely available through large distributors (Home Depot, etc.) are some of the hybrids. Most species are just too touchy in the garden.

Companies such as Spangle Creek Labs and the Vermont Ladyslipper Co. have already produced and sold thousands of plants (including C. candidum). The company Phytesia in Belgium likewise is currently producing and selling thousands more. Within a decade from now the number and variety of Cyps available on the world market will skyrocket in comparison with the plants available today. However, they will never be easy plants to grow.

Here are a few links to the named companies above, if anyone's interested. There are other sources, both within the US and abroad.


Spangle Creek

Vermont Ladyslipper


    Bookmark   May 11, 2005 at 4:55PM
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kwoods(Cold z7 Long Is)


None of your three links offer candidum. The only one that ever did was Bill Steele at Spangle Creek and that was 4 yrs ago (I bought some and they were small 1yr out of flask seedlings). I mention this not to be obnoxious but to reiterate, propagating cyps is difficult and rearing them to saleable size is expensive. When Parks offers cyps I'll agree with you. I do agree that as people learn to grow/produce cyps more efficiently more will come to market but these growers need to be encouraged (with gardener's money) and wild collection should be discouraged.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2005 at 12:59PM
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Parks offers C. reginae through their Wayside Catalogue. They are on p.13, "nursery-grown from seed and CITES-certified. 4 year old, bareroot @ $99.95
I agree that it is wonderful that labs are now producing seedlings. My experience is that these small seedlings just out of flask are VERY perishable and need to be coddled, everything seems to zero in on them from snails to chipmunks.
I also agree that there are many dedicated propagators growing terrestrial orchids as a hobby. They are not hampered by economic constraints.
I lived near Madison CT in the '80's. I remember an area where large-flowered, yellow lady slippers grew like weeds. The road crew replaced the guard rail one day and trampled scores of them. The soil was limey. Never seen this in my state.
Epiphytic orchids can be tissue-cultured, grown in warm climate in quantity and offered in big box stores.
This is not the case with temperate, terrestrial orchids, we have a ways to go before that happens.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wayside Gardens Catalogue

    Bookmark   May 12, 2005 at 4:45PM
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fatso(z5 OH)

To answer your actual question (ahem), I am attempting to grow a C. reginae right now. So far, so good. I planted it in the fall, buying it from some nursery out west, and it looks lovely now (not quite ready to bloom). I have chicken wire around it to keep the rabbits away. The instrucitons for how to grow were too complicated and annoying and I (being me) didn't want to mess with them, so I just put it on on the north side of the house in a raised bed that I amended with some clay soil conditioner. I use pine mulch and plant tone fertilizer.

You know, it's interesting what will grow if you just experiment... although as you note c. reginae can be rather expensive experiment.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2005 at 3:40PM
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knottyceltic(S/W Ontario 5b)

Just wanted to add that Canada's "at risk" species are governed by SARA (the Species at Risk Act and federal government). I think SARA lists over 230 wildlife species currently on the list but don't quote me on that. By contrast, and TYPICAL of one branch not knowing what the other is doing, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada lists easily 100 more species than SARA does on "endangered" alone. Of course in both cases the majority of them are fish, mammals, amphibians etc... but there is a Lady's slipper on the list just can't remember which one. I live in southern Ontario and in my whole life I have only ever seen ONE wild Lady's sliper in all of my 39 years. That was a yellow one about 20 yards away from the water up on the French River at Champlain Provincial Park. For those who aren't familiar with the geography, that is about 8 hours due north of where I live (10-12 hours due north of OH).

Ontario, CANADA

    Bookmark   May 26, 2005 at 1:50PM
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Barb - it's Cypripedium candidum. SARA list below. Yellow Lady Slippers are disappearing here but still relatively common in many areas.

Growing C. reginae - I've had a clump now for 6 or 7 years. My clump is slowly but surely multiplying. Much slower to multiply than my Yellow Lady Slippers.

I was taught by the fellow who gave C. reginae to me to provide them - moisture retentive soil, adequate moisture, calcium. I try to provide calcium by applying heaps of bone meal twice a year. Soil is 15" of manure, a sprinkler head nearby and shady location all of which keep them from getting bone dry.

I've seen C. reginae growing in the wild in a number of spots along a highway. The soil appeared to be quite calcareous.

Here is a link that might be useful: SARA list of species

    Bookmark   May 26, 2005 at 6:56PM
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fatso(z5 OH)

Glen, about the sprinkler... I know some indoor orchids are kind of picky and don't like tap water. However, it sounds like you've had no problem with the water from the sprinkler adversely affecting your reginae? I haven't had a need to water mine yet as rainfall amounts have been about perfect so far.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2005 at 2:46AM
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Fatso, as you know municiple water sources vary widely depending on the region your in. The biggest issue with using this water long term is the accumulation of salts in the soil. The short term problem is chlorine. Most Cyps hate it, and it will positively kill C. acaule outright. So perhaps during drought supplimenting with sprinkler water is OK provided that you discontinue once rains begin again. Better not to use it at all, but a dry Cyp is a dead Cyp anyway! PF

    Bookmark   May 28, 2005 at 5:33PM
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(I called someone Fatso :)) - My Small Yellow Ladyslippers thrive on my sprinkler water - I have clumps of 100 blooms. Quite dry here - only 400 mm (16") annual precipitation rain and snow, summers are dry.

C. reginae appears to be doing fine, my city's water seems C. reginae friendly. With our dry summers without regular sprinkler water I'd have trouble growing them.

Soil here is not acidic, I'm not going to try C. acaule. Would like to try C. guttatum one of these years.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2005 at 11:04PM
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Hello fellow experts!

Can someone guide me through the process to prepare a bed for planting showy orchids, and yellow lady slippers? I have dappled shade, and well water. I need to know how much bone meal etc. to add as well, and how often to water.

Thanks! I have a new email address:

    Bookmark   July 11, 2006 at 6:06PM
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The question I'd like to know is why everyone focuses only on the ladyslippers? There are other orchid species that are very showy, easy to grow, and don't require tissue culture to propagate. For example, Pogonia's are practically a weed. I started with 2 or three and now I have 50+. Ladies tresses are like that too. I also have a white fringeless orchid, a rare plant in the wild, and when I got it it only had one small leaf. Now I've got lots of them.

Actually, this spring I went over to Botanique to get some of Rob's plants for a presentation and he let me dig through his compost. He has so many calpogons that have volunteered that he actually "weeds" some of them out! I think it made him sad that he had to throw them out, but with him shutting down and all, it would have costed more to pot them then he could have ever made selling them. As KWoods points out, we really need to financially support these people doing the propagation, or they'll eventually disappear along with availability of the plants.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2006 at 3:18PM
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Can anyone give me a hand in identifying specific species. An in-law is a farmer upstate and has what he calls lady slippers all over the place. He brought me two yesterday. they are just the plant without blooms. Plenty of their home soil so I am optomistic about their chances. I am just curious about what they are.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2007 at 10:23AM
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kwoods(Cold z7 Long Is)

Two ovoid basal leaves? acaule

Fuzzy leaves? reginae

Otherwise, unless quite small, probably parviflorum

    Bookmark   June 15, 2007 at 11:39AM
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Various species of orchids are among the most common native plants in some of our local ecosystems. Calypsos by the billions (not millions) and various cypripediums as far as the eye can see.

I applaud a posting above that dismisses the hyseria about 'orchids' as endangered, etc. there are 'specific' plants protected in some regions but not 'orchids' everywhere.

Some lady slippers are among the easiest of native plants to grow. Some are more difficult. This however is often dependent on the ecology of where one different than trying to grow any plant. I can transplant a yellow slipper from one area of the garden to another and it doesn't even hiccup. If I try the same with a non native (to our area) slipper such as Cypripedium regina it will take a year to recover....if ever.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2007 at 12:48PM
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malanga(z5 IL)

Perhaps someone could help me ID this lady slipper? I transferred some lady slippers from my mother-in-law's property in Michigan to my home in Indiana. It was later than I found out lady slippers do not transfer well. It seems I did not break any laws so the lady slipper police won't be looking for me...I hope!

Anyway, I planted them about a month ago and now all 4 are blooming quite nicely. Here is a picture of them:


    Bookmark   May 22, 2008 at 9:19AM
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kwoods(Cold z7 Long Is)

Cypripedium acaule.... needs acidic soil or it may not come back next year.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2008 at 3:40PM
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malanga(z5 IL)

Thank you for the help! If I may impose upon you a bit do I make the soil more "acidic?"

    Bookmark   May 23, 2008 at 2:07PM
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How much of the native soil did you dig up with the orchids?
Also what kind of water are you using on the orhids?

Got any pine trees around with years of needle build up?
What you want is the partly decomposed pine needle "duff" that you can find in old pine forests just underneath the top layer of fresh fallen needles.

In lieu of the decomposed pine needles you may want to try to make an artifial "duff" using hardwood leaves, such as oak leaves mixed with sand, peat moss, fine orhid bark. The oak leaves should be crushed or broken up. If you have pine trees around you can add fresh needles but it would help if these were cut up-this is a real drag to do by hand!

Here is a link that might be useful: Transplanting

    Bookmark   May 23, 2008 at 3:33PM
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malanga(z5 IL)

Well, when I transplanted them I used a 6" pot and dug a plug of soil around it to just fill the pot. So far, mostly just rain water has been enough, but I have used regular tap water once or two so far. I do not have any pine trees near me, but I can get some more soil/pine needle mold from the area I transplanted them from next month when I go back to my in-law's house. Should I just spread this around them? Thanks!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2008 at 4:32PM
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Please read the thread linked below. If what you did in replanting matches what you learn from the thread then I would not disturb the plant. However, if not then I would replant and enlarge and deepen the planting spot and add in the extra pine duff.
The main thing is that the original planting is wide enough for the roots of the orchid to grow into more of the pine duff rather than into your garden soil.
But I think the most important thing is the water you are using BE SURE TO READ HOW THE WATERING IS TREATED.

Here is a link that might be useful: thread on transplanting cyps

    Bookmark   May 24, 2008 at 1:20PM
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I have yellow's that do great, but thereginae that I hav had for ten years do not multiply. How come??. thank's. Ray

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 7:27PM
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Ray, if you are getting new growth from the reginae each year then it is multiplying! It is probably that the "yellow" ones (pubescens?)is spreading out while the reginae is not. you probably need to check out the soil the plant is in. Also need to check out the amount and rate of fertilizing them.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 8:43PM
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I have just regular dirt and would like to transplant some yellow ladyslippers and perhaps some dwarf ones. How should I prepare the soil. Our soil generally is a mix of dirt and sand....but this particular area is not sandy. Recommend a fertilizer? Many thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 3:05PM
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