Showy Lady's Slipper Orchids: Care and Growing Guide

Showy Lady's Slipper Orchids

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How to Grow Showy Lady's Slipper Orchids

While many orchids grow in hot and humid climates, the showy lady's slipper (Cypripedium reginae) is cold hardy in USDA Zones 2 through 5 and in the colder parts of Zone 6.

Native to the Northeast and Midwest of North America, became the flower of the state. from Minnesota in 1902. Residents loved to harvest these orchids to adorn church altars until it became illegal to harvest or dig these plants in 1925. Now this orchid is listed as Endangered, Threatened, or Historic in several states.

Thriving in moist or open forests and moist woodlands, Cypripedium reginae forms large groups in limestone locations at low to moderate elevations. Inspired by the queen, which means "queen" in Latin, this orchid is also known as the queen's slipper.

True to its garden queen ideal and indeed the most conspicuous of the slipper orchids, the leaves are remarkably large and ribbed. At the top of each sturdy, hairy and leafy stem, grow one, two, or three flowers of generous size and impressive appearance.

The sepals and petals are white, flat, and oblong, combined with a one- to two-inch sac (or "lip") in pink, magenta, or hot pink. The flower is shaped like a slipper, rounded and framed by large oval petals.

The tallest native orchid in the north generally grows afoot to two inches tall, while some stems can reach 85 inches long, with three to five leaves per stem. These perennials bloom between May and August, depending on the location. Individual flowers last between seven and 14 days.

It is attractive to pollinators, but small European butterflies may get trapped in flower bags, which can prevent bees from carrying out their usual pollination activities.

Botanical NameCypripedium reginae
Common Name Showy Lady Slipper, Queen's Lady's Slipper
Plant TypeOrchid
Mature Size 1 to 2 ft. tall
Sun Exposure Dappled Sun/Part Shade
Soil Type Moist, fertile, leafy, humus-rich soil
Soil pH Acid to neutral
Bloom Time Between May and August depending on location
Flower Color White flower with pink-magenta pouch
Hardiness Zones 2-5 and cooler parts of 6, USDA
Native Area Eastern North America
Toxicity Moderately toxic

Showy Lady's Slipper Orchids

Showy Lady's Slipper Orchid Care

Although Showy Lady's Slipper is rare in nature and difficult to grow, it is possible to grow this cool-weather orchid in the garden with the right care and conditions.

When planting in a shady garden or rock garden, dig a hole twice (or larger) the size of the striking women's slipper orchid root. Work the mixture into the soil that has been removed from the hole.

Hold the plant over the hole. Let the base of the orchid be at or just below ground level. Fill with potting soil. Pack your bags. Just work with enough soil to support the base of the orchid.


Install Showy Lady's Slipper Orchid in spotty sunlight or partial shade. Reproduces native habitat conditions, such as surrounding swamps or sunny openings in moss-covered forests from Newfoundland to North Dakota and Manitoba, south of the Appalachians to Georgia.


Cypripedium reginae thrives in these moist deciduous forests and on rocky outcrops in soils rich in organic, possibly alkaline or calcareous. Plants can also do well at acidic or neutral pH.

As with all Cypripedium species, be sure to give this orchid well-draining soil. Provide an evenly moist, humus-rich environment and watch it become a gem in any forest garden.


Soak the soil thoroughly with each watering. Then let the first two inches dry before watering again.


Feed it with orchid fertilizer or organic ingredients, like a fish emulsion. Apply every two weeks during the growing season.

Another way to feed Showy Lady's slipper orchid is to apply a controlled-release fertilizer to the soil at the beginning of the growing season. Be careful not to over-fertilize, as this could damage the plant.

Is Showy Lady's Slipper Toxic?

Leaf hair can cause a rash similar to poison ivy, but this minor skin irritation will likely last only a few minutes.

Showy Lady's Slipper Orchids

Propagating Showy Lady's Slipper Orchids

Don't be tempted to take off a wild and flashy ladies' sneaker. As a result of harvesting this orchid in its natural habitat, wild populations rapidly declined. Since plants take 15 years to flower, they tend to reappear very slowly after colonies are uprooted.

Additionally, plants buried in the wild are known to not survive as often as store-bought specimens and were difficult to grow until the late 1990s, when progress was made in understanding the tiny seeds generated by the fruits of the plant.

C. reginae seeds germinate best at least two inches deep. If dividing by rhizome, do so carefully from early to mid-spring and then transplant immediately with some root soil. Well-cared-for plants can live up to 50 years.

Planting in Containers

If you are planting in a container, select a pot that is large enough to hold the growing roots for two years. Make sure the pan has drainage holes on the bottom and sides. During watering, drain excess water.

You can use a mixture of 1 part perlite, 1 part charcoal, 3 parts coarse sand, and 3 parts peat. Add a little water to moisten the soil, but not wet it.

Common Pests/Diseases

Look at the snails and snails. Remove any excess mulch or leaves to avoid infestation. Fill a shallow pot with beer and place it on the ground nearby to attract slugs and slugs away from the orchid.

The showy slipper can also host rust, gray mold (Botrytis), and Cercospora leaf spot. Remove infected leaves when the orchid is dry, remove all other debris around the base and, if necessary, use a commercial leaf spot remedy.

Enjoy This Video Tutorial About Showy Lady's Slipper Orchids

Source: Dan Wenkel

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