It was a real thrill last week to visit a population of Cypripedium kentuckiense (Kentucky Ladyslipper Orchid) in Texas with native plant guru, Adam Black. Adam has made numerous trips to this and other nearby sites, carefully pollinating the orchids to ensure seed set and enhance reproduction. While we’ve offered this species as seed-grown plants (8 years from seed to flower) for years, this was my first chance to actually study them in the wild. Cypripedium kentuckiense is one of the easiest ladyslipper orchids to cultivate, thriving in a wide variety of woodland conditions. Here, they were growing just above a seasonally flooded stream in very sandy soils.
I remember when I discovered we could actually grow ladyslipper orchids in the garden, despite so many stories of them being impossible to cultivate. The reality is that one ladyslipper, Cypripedium acaule is tough to move. Otherwise, they’re easy. I just took this photo of our clump of Cypripedium ‘Hank Small’…32 flowers this year! I hope you will give these a try in your light shade garden. A slightly moist soil is best, although this one is grown much too dry under a giant pine tree.