Houzz Logo Print

Lady slippers are so beautiful, can I grow them?

10 years ago

Posted by Joan Zimmerman: I just saw a picture of Lady
Slippers in "Country" magazine, and I just have to have
them. Is there any place I can get them? Can they be grown
under a large Maple tree in the shade?

Char Bezanson: In Minnesota, where the pink Showy
Ladyslipper is the state flower, they are becoming rare. A
quote from Welby Smith, Minnesota State Botanist and author
of the recently published book Orchids of Minnesota: "Our
native orchids, and indeed all our native plants, are in a
steep decline. Loss of habitat is the main cause, but even
where habitat can be protected, orchids still face the
threat of species-specific exploitation. Stories abound of
unscrupulous nursery workers removing truckloads of yellow
ladyslippers from forests... These orchids often end up
in reputable nurseries under the misleading label of
'nursery propagated', which means only that they have been
held in the nursery for a minimum of one growing season.
There has been some recent success with tissue culturing,
but survival is poor. Some can be propagated through
division, but the process is so slow it is commercially
unviable. As a result, essentially all of the native orchids
that are sold commercially are taken from the wild."

Linda Darnton: In Michigan, Ladyslippers are an endangered
species. The few in my area grow in extremely moist organic
soil in the shade. If one comes across a patch, it is kept a
secret. Further, they do not always appear each year.

Ron m: I have been working with yellow lady slippers,they
take 3 years from seed to flower. The only current technique
is to flask the seeds in a technique called sterile
propagation.I have checked from coast to coast and there are
no commercial growers anywhere in the USA . All flowers are
currently being harvested from the wild !!

Skip MNZ4: There are several insects that pollinate
Cypripedium spp, as well as some of the other
native orchids. The job falls to bees, moths, butterflies,
gnats, mosquitos (tell that to your local mosquito control
advocates) although I have been told that pollination by
insects for a large number of native orchids has not been
observed. It is true that the insect, say the bee, gets
scant little in return for all the trouble. It has to be
tricked twice in order for pollination to occur. Once on the
way in to pick up the pollen and a second time on the visit
to a different flower. So you see, it doesn't take a
retarded bee, just one that hasn't been instructed in the
ways of the native orchids.

Alex T. - 5: What is this mycorhizal fungus that affects
members of the Cypripedium genera?

Skip MNZ4: With respect to the fungus that is reportedly
attacking members of the Genus Cypripedium, permit me to
quote from Orchids of Minnesota by Welby R. Smith. Smith is
a botanist with the Minnesota Department of Natural
Resources and coordinator of the endangered plant species
program. This presumably symbiotic union is termed
"mycorrhiza." In this association, the threadlike fungal
hyphae enter the orchid through specialized cells on the
root or rhizome. Once inside, the contents of the hyphae are
expelled by the fungus and digested by the orchid.

jennifer Patton - 4: I buy this fungus in pellet form and
use it to promote root growth when planting in my garden.

Bruce - NH 5: There has been some evidence to indicate that
each orchid is dependent not only on the a certain species
of fungus, but on the particular strain of that species in
its soil. The fungus takes up residence in the roots of the
plant, and theoretically at least, you should be able to
transplant native orchids with no problem. The major
drawback is that the roots are long and extremely brittle,
and if any of the roots are broken in the process, the plant
dies. It is virtually impossible to move the plant without
breaking the roots. Hence successful transplanting is almost