The royal lady slipper, scientifically known as cypripedium reginae, is one of the botanical flowers of the North American continent and the Minnesota state flower. The plant is large and stocky looking. In 1902, the plant was officially designated as the state flower of Minnesota. The lady slipper has three to seven leaves folded and sheathing at the base.
Usually, it produces a single flower (rarely two to four). The herb has a pink to magenta hoof topped by a white perianth. Also, the stem is covered with hairs that can irritate the skin.
The plant is slow-growing, sometimes taking more than 16 years to produce its first flower. A single plant can live for more than 50 years. It grows most often in forests on moist soil but can also be found in meadows and on river banks. Under favorable conditions, a single plant can produce more than 200 flowering stems. Its distribution range covers southeastern Canada and the northeastern United States.
As you read this, discover the following:
* Main Features
* Where to Plant the Lady Slipper Flower?
* When and How to Plant the Lady Slipper Flower?
* Care and Maintenance
* Pruning and Diseases
The lady slippers, close to the hooves of venus, are perennial orchids, among which some species are adapted to outdoor cultivation. Indeed, not all cypripedium are tropical plants, some of them are native to North America, temperate Asia, and even Europe.
Perennials by their underground rhizome, these venus hooves are deciduous in winter, and they do not require any protection against the cold. The spring flowers of lady slipper bloom solitary or in pairs on a 30 cm to 2 m high floral stem. They are characterized by a large, hollow, slipper-shaped labellum of varying color depending on the species and varieties. They flower in May-June, and their leaves dry in August-September. They prepare their new shoots underground during October and December. They enjoy humus-rich, light, and drained soils, but not too dry in summer. Some varieties are suitable for growing in the garden, which is rare among orchids. These perennials are indeed very resistant to cold, most of them tolerating frost down to -30 degrees!
You can recognize the lady slipper flower by its large, hollow, slipper-shaped labellum. The beginning of vegetative growth (foliage) takes place in March-April, while flowering appears in May-June. However, leaf removal occurs in August-September. Vegetal recovery is rapid. The foliage is fully developed in three to five weeks.
In the first years, each plant can form a single new growth. The number of plants stagnates. But with age, as each plant gets more robust, the lady slipper can give two (or more, but this is rare) new growths. The number of plants can grow, and the plantation can become denser. Spring flowering gives one to two flowers on the same floral stem. Some older plants can give three flowers.
Where to Plant the Lady Slipper Flower?
The substrate is the most crucial point to keep in mind while cultivating the lady slipper. First of all, the substrate must be low in organic matter, as little fertile as possible, and well-drained. For example:
An equal mixture of white peat, leaf compost and clay soil from the garden makes good soil. A combination, in equal parts, of sand (or crushed lava stone) with a fertilizer made from leaves (or crushed pine bark) and peat is a good alternative.
In any case, the soil must remain acidic, cold, and moist, even in summer! The substrate must not dry out. In winter, it must not retain water by leaving the rhizome flooded.
Sun exposure is mainly mid-shade. The hot sun of full south, especially in summer, may leave little room for the foliage, which can be irremediably burned! However, the lady slipper flower still needs a good dose of sunshine.
When and How to Plant the Lady Slipper Flower?
These orchids are not easy to find, but some specialist garden centers offer them from spring onwards. Plant in the spring (especially at the beginning), the important thing is that the plant has time to form the next annual shoot before winter. For the first experience with these beauties, start with the species cypripedium reginae, this may be the ‘easy’ one.
Soil preparation work is essential to develop a large cultivation area. As a reminder, terrestrial rhizome orchids grow mainly laterally, through new annual growth. Even for a single plant, soil preparation requires at least 1 meter. But it is recommended to plant several plants, to form groups, spaced about 0.20 to 0.30 m apart from each other. For a group of 10 orchids, plan an area of at least 6 meters.
Dig this area to a depth of 0.40 to 0.50 m and «line the bottom» with pozzolana, crushed lava stone, or small stones (coarse gravel). It can form a first drainage layer separating the lady slipper substrate from the rest of the soil. Fill this hole with a mixture of white peat, leaf compost (compost) (e.g., beech or oak), and clay garden soil (or coarse sand).
Care and Maintenance
If the planting conditions are respected, maintenance is not complicated: water only with rainwater or osmosis water, especially not hard water, in case of drought. This is particularly important in the summer to avoid any heatstroke: a proper ambient humidity reduces the damage caused by too hot sun rays. Do not use fertilizers, never!
Remove the flower stem as soon as it declines and the leaves when they start to wither.
Pruning and Diseases
Remove the floral stem by cutting it off at five cm when the flower wilts. Do not hesitate to do this at the first signs of deflowering. Also, it can leave the plant healthy and strong, no need to lose energy for a faded flower.
Leaves can also be cut when leaf removal begins, but you can also harvest them at the end of their life when they have turned brown.
Orchids generally have no real pests or parasites. However, it would help if you respected the ideal growing conditions for each species.
Sometimes, leaf necrosis manifests itself as elongated brown spots and soft leaves. This is due to low humidity or light errors.
The lady slipper is a demanding plant in terms of the living environment. Still, if the conditions are right, it can be a real attraction in the green areas of your garden. It can make you proud and keep you happy in all seasons. Therefore, you should learn how to grow it in clear undergrowth or on the edge of the brush, at the side of water points, in mid-shade, in a carefully prepared substrate. Also, the lady slipper can do well with ferns and hostas.