Alphabetical Plant Listing

Cypripedium (Lady Slipper Orchids)

Lady's Slipper Orchids, Hardy Terrestrial Orchids, Slipper Orchids, Moccasin Flower, Camel's Foot, Squirrel Foot, Steeple Cap, Venus' Shoes, whippoorwill Shoe


Cypripedium is a genus of terrestrial orchids in the Orchidaceae family. It includes about 50 species, most of them quite hardy, which can be found in America, Europe, and Asia. In the northern part of their distribution, temperate slipper orchids are found from sea level into the lower hills, occupying coniferous forests, mixed deciduous woodlands, bogs, fens, grasslands or prairies. Some of them can survive through harsh winter conditions, fearlessly withstanding temperatures below -22°F (30°C). Farther south they usually inhabit montane woodlands and grasslands at higher elevation.

Cypripedium species can vary considerably in their size, color, growing requirements, and blooming duration. Some will only bloom for a week whereas others can bloom for up to 3 weeks.

Lady’s slipper orchids are among the most desired of all hardy orchids. Often colorful and striking, these rhizomatous perennials have a distinctive inflated pouch or modified lip (labellum) that resembles a slipper or shoe. The slipper can be as large as a chicken egg or quite small depending on the species. This slipper is a key element of their pollination strategy: insects trapped in the pouch are obliged to crawl under the anther as they exit and in so doing transfer pollen to the stigma. The labellum has often a contrasting color from the three long, twisted petals. Three or more leaves are usually produced along the stem, although leaves can also be basal.

For decades Cypripedium species have been sought after for their beauty, but also for the medicinal trade (often utilized as a milder alternative to Valerian). Unfortunately, many species both in America and in Europe are close to extinction, due to their shrinking natural habitat and widespread collection. Several species are legally protected in some regions where it has become illegal to dig or pick the orchids. Lady’s slippers rarely survive transplanting from the wild.

Guide Information

Hardiness 2 - 9
Plant Type Orchids, Perennials
Plant Family Cypripedium - Laddy Slippers
Exposure Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Mid,Late)
Summer (Early,Mid)
Soil Type Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Landscaping Ideas Beds and Borders, Patio and Containers, Underplanting Roses and Shrubs
Garden Styles Informal and Cottage

Mike Russell/Shutterstock

While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 2 - 9
Plant Type Orchids, Perennials
Plant Family Cypripedium - Laddy Slippers
Exposure Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Mid,Late)
Summer (Early,Mid)
Soil Type Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Landscaping Ideas Beds and Borders, Patio and Containers, Underplanting Roses and Shrubs
Garden Styles Informal and Cottage
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