Cypripedium culture

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Well-Known Member
Dec 7, 2006
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Edmonton, AB, Canada
I need help finding information on the culture of Cypripediums. I don't have experience with Cypripediums. I bought a Cypripedium parviflorum var. parviflorum and Cypripedium reginae. They are in vitro grown, blooming sized plants that are currently dormant.

I need help on deciding whether to grow them in pots or in the ground. Here in Edmonton, AB, Canada the weather can drop to -35oC in a colder winter.

If growing in pots is a better way to go, then I need a orchid media recipe. I'm also considering potting them in bonsai pots, but I'm not sure if this is a good idea. Are bonsai pots too shallow?

I'm excited to learn and attempt to grow a genus of orchids that is new to me... I want to hear about your experiences.
Well I only have one Cyp and it's a hybrid and I have yet to bloom the plant so I can't be of much help because I'm experimenting now as well. But, with the little I know of the species in their natural settings, I can tell you that the two you have may require different culture. While both parviflorum and reginae can naturally be found in "boggy" habitats (although not exclusively for both), I believe reginae can tolerate extended periods with wet feet more so than the parviflorum, and it probably prefers to stay more wet than the latter. That means more inorganic drainage media in the parvi mix would be best. The pots might freeze solid if it gets to -35C, obviously bad news for the plants. A gardening bed with a hefty mulch or keeping the pots in some sort of shelter might be necessary.

Here's the media mix my cyp is in now:
1/2 hardwood chips + leaves
1/4 sandy soil
1/4 inorganic slate-type stone chips
Hello, welcome to the forum. Getting the hardy slipper to take can be difficult. Just what zone are you? They are hardy to zone 4 maybe zone 5. They need to have nice loose, rich woodland soil to grow in. A little peatmoss wouldn't hurt either. And then there is the question of mycorrhizal fungus. If you haven't planted them yet, I would keep them in a cool greenhouse or cool room, since they do need a winter dormency. If they are that young, they will not have sufficent rootmass or dorment buds to withstand their first winter. Probably not even here in Southern Ontario. Plant out in the spring when the ground temp. is around 60 degrees(sorry I'm not very metric:D ) Also, young plants no matter if they are bog plants or not, will not enjoy overly wet conditions. Again, it is a question of root development and aclimatization. Good luck. You gonna need it.:poke: By the way I know a few gardeners who have very nice clumps of hardy slipper orchids and they have sandy loam. Nore do they get all the water they would like, and they come back year after year. Go finger.;)
They are supposed to be lab grown so there isn't any mycorrhizal fungus on them, or is there? The root system looks fairly large to me, but what do I know about cyps. They aren't huge though. I have them stored in my fridge right now in a blown up ziploc bag. The roots fill the bag up. The seller claims that the cyp reginae is in its 5th cycle and both are blooming size. The root mass of the cyp parviflorum is smaller and I see a large bud that is greenish(is it still dormant?).

Cyp parviflorum do grow here naturally (of course gentics play a role, hopefully mine have the winter hardy genes). Cyp reginae don't occur here naturally, but in eastern Canada. I'm in zone 2. I heard they can survive with heavy multching, one of the garden centres in a town next to my city do sell both species.'s a little cold here to grow anything.

Should I put them in large pots and keep them in my garage for the winter. My garage does get some heating. Or is it too risky because of fluctating temps.
Hi smartie,

I also live in Edmonton and have been growing cyps here for several years (especially your two species). They both make excellent garden plants; not great in pots. I see your dilemma. I would keep them in the fridge until the beginning of May, then pot them up and put in indirect light. After last frost (around the Victoria Day long weekend), plant them outside in partial shade. If your soil is clay you'll have to ammend it with lots of drainage material. Add some humus or peat as well. For parviflorum look for a pH of 6-7, for reginae 7-8. They like light applications of fertilizer; reginae is a heavier feeder (tip: bone meal is great for reginae). Keep the soil evenly moist and cool. I find that when it gets really hot in the summer a mulch of grass clippings keeps it cool. In the winter, hardiness is no problem whatsoever, but I still mulch in case of midwinter thaws or late spring frosts which could damage the emerging growth buds. As far as a particular mix recipe goes:

3 parts PRO-MIX High Porosity (you can get it in the spring at Rona)
1 part paph mix
1 part perlite
Dolomite lime, if necessary

There are literally endless possible recipes for mixes; the aim is to get a nice fluffy, free-draining mixture. A good substitute for the PRO-MIX is cactus potting mix. I've used many different recipes and at this point just use anything I have on hand that makes the nice mix I just described.

One last recommendation: Phillip Cribb's book The Genus Cypripedium is an awesome resource. John Tullock's Growing Hardy Orchids is also good.

Cyps are great plants, well worth the investment and minimal effort. Good luck with them!

You've already gotten some good advice about your cyp's. For this winter, keep them indoors, as cold as they can be without freezing. When you do plant them outdoors, you may want to give the reginae a bit more light than the parviflorum. Your clay may actually work to your advantage with reginae, as it likes wet, boggy conditions...You may want to create your own "bog" by sinking a laundry tub into the ground, keeping the rim at surface level...cut some drainage holes about 2" below the rim....use a less acidic peat, like sedge peat rather than peat moss...if you must use peat moss, add lime. You are probably in the right remperature range for reginae...I can't grow it for more than 3 years because NYC is too warm for them (Z.7). Take care, Eric
You should also try the search functions on this site. There have been a few good threads on pot vs garden culture of cyps on this site.

Fundlopanchax is a contributor to this site with fantastic advice from Conneticut.
Thank you guys, you really have helped me a lot, way better info than I found elsewhere. I hope a don't mess up because cyps aren't cheap.
I will have to put them in pots this coming spring because I am still preparing flower beds and landscaping. But definitely I will try to keep the pot cool. Maybe a temporary pot in the ground? I should be able to plant them be they dieback in the autumn before winter.
Although the bonus of pot culture is the ability to move the plants around, I have a feeling they will be happier in the ground.
Hello again. Bonemeal is just great, I use it all over the place in my garden, and things really root and flower well. Evergreen boughs work well as a winer mulch too. I would also amend my soil with leaf mold and compost if you can get you hands on it. I have river silt on clay and dampness everywhere, so the ground can get very heavy very fast and I have found that compost and leaf mold are the best stuff for it. I seem to be able to grow those picky woodland types you see growing with slippers fairly easily. Have not be able to get viable slippers yet. Any divisions or baby plants just haven't been strong enough to make it. Most outdoor slippers like a low to neutral ph soil as far as I know. It's awesome that they do grow in your area and that you're going to try it. :clap:

Cyps are happier in the ground. They can be grown in pots succcessfully but they don't grow as vigorously. You'll find that after a few years in the ground they'll form spectacular clumps. I like your idea of plunging the pots in the ground themporarily - it will keep the roots cool. As well, come to think of it, they actually prefer to be planted in the autumn while dormant.

If you want to visit another valuable forum, is the International Cypripedium Forum, where you'll find tons more info about Cyps.

There are times when I envy Northern orchid growers because they can grow Cyps outside in their yards! It is not possible here in sunny central coastal California. Well at least not in the ground! While many many years ago when I first tried them, not knowing anything about growing them and having no access to any info (pre-Internet) I was fortunate enough to have C. reginae and a C. calcelous variety grow and flower for me. I did not cool the plants in winter as I did not know that was needed. They lasted around 5 years before giving up the ghost! I grew them in pots but I cannot tell you what kind of soil mix I used at the time.
Since then I have learned much from the net on their culture and currently haved potted and cooling off in my box a C. reginae and a C. kentuckiense. These are year old seedlings which are enterring their second winter in my refrigerator. The biggest worry for me is to maintain a temp that does not get too cold though currently my thermometer says it is around 33F. I have them potted into 1 gallon pots using a Debris Mix of :
3 parts Aspen fiber, 2 parts Cedar shavings, 3 parts Cypress mulch, 2 parts pumice, 1 part river sand, 1 part any general potting soil, 1/4 part Kellogg's Nitrohumus, and 2 parts Kellogg's Topper Seed Cover & Soil Prep Mix.
I am also growing many other orchids in this mix including Epipactis which has responded quite well to it.
To see Epipactis check this link:
The plants grew well for me this past season. I watered using r/o water and do not recall fertilizing, but the only fertilizer I use is MiracleGro Liquid All Purpose Plant Food as the formula is very mild (12-4-8).
If I had the means to do so I would definitely like to try a cool orchidarium type of arrangement which I saw being done for some other types of orchids? where the growing area was sitting on top of a small freezer that was connected to the growth chamber and controlled to maintain a certain cool temp. Looked very interesting and a great possibility for handling cold loving plants such as the cyps and Calypso (with this being set up with one of Mitcholito's nano viv!).
So I am looking forward to seeing the new growths sometime in late March ?

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