Cypripedium, commonly known as Lady Slipper Orchid, belongs to the Orchidaceae family. There are approximately 58 species native to temperate and cold regions of North America, Europe, and Asia.
Size: Cypripedium displays a clumping growth habit with upright stems. The size varies greatly among species, with some dwarf varieties standing just 6 inches (15 cm) tall and larger species reaching up to 24 inches (60 cm) in height. The foliage consists of several broad, elliptical leaves that emerge directly from the base of the plant.
Flowers: The flowers of Lady Slipper Orchids are the plant’s highlight, distinguished by their slipper-shaped lip. Colors range from white, yellow, and pink to deep red, often with intricate veining or spotting. They typically bloom in late spring to early summer.
Hardiness: Lady Slipper Orchid species vary in hardiness, with some tolerant to USDA zone 2 and others only to zone 6. This broad range allows them to grow in a variety of climates.
Light: Lady Slipper Orchid thrives in part shade to full shade conditions.
Uses: In landscaping, Cypripedium is often used in woodland gardens, rock gardens, and borders. They are also highly sought after by orchid collectors due to their unique flower shape and the challenge they present to cultivation.
Pollinators: They are attracted to the plant’s bright colors and distinctive shape. Some species trap insects in their pouch-like lip, forcing them to crawl past the pollen, thereby ensuring pollination.
A key fact about Lady Slipper Orchids is their symbiotic relationship with specific soil fungi, which is essential for their seeds to germinate in the wild. This relationship, along with their specific habitat requirements, makes them difficult to cultivate, and several species are endangered due to habitat destruction. Therefore, any commercially purchased plants should be nursery-propagated, not wild-collected.