How to Grow Cypripedium Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Lady’s Slipper Orchid, Moccasin flower, Squirrel Foot, and Pelican Orchid

Cypripedium are hardy perennial wild orchids. They range from 30 to 80 cm !2 to 30 inches) in height.

They flower in the late spring, with their slipper being one colour and their petals another. This creates a beautiful two coloured flower.

There is a large range of colour in Cypripedium orchids, including brown, pink, purple, white, and yellow.

Some of the more common names of Cypripedium plants include Lady's-slipper orchids, and the moccasin flower.

Cypripedium calceolus
Cypripedium calceolus by urjsa.

Description of Lady's-slipper orchids - Moccasin flower (Cypripedium)

Plants of the Cypripedium are very difficult to grow and look after.

If you do want to try to grow them from seed, then it is best to sterilise the seeds first (use a very very weak bleach solution, or vinegar), then lay the seed on blotting paper that has been soaked in boiling water (it is important that the whole operation remains as sterile as possible).

The seeds should then be placed in a sterile box in the light at about 20 degrees Centigrade (68°F).

Alternatively if you have access to laboratory equipment, you may want to dissect the embryo from the seed and grow on a GM plate; or even give the seed a treatment with gibberellc acid to promote seed germination.

If seeds do not germinate quickly, then be aware that it can take anything from one month to one year to do so, so bear with them and keep checking back.

If you do manage to get lady's-slipper orchids / Moccasin flower seedlings, then you should plant them in the garden in the autumn at a spacing of about 40 cm (16 inches) apart. Locate into a woody acidic soil. Ideally this should be cool so grow in the shade.

Cypripedium candidum
Cypripedium candidum - White Lady's Slipper by gmayfield.

Caring for Moccasin Flower

Once Moccasin flowers (Cypripedium) are growing well, they will required to be kept moist outside the growing season.

If you require further plants, then you may want to divide the plant at the beginning of spring.

Cypripedium Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Lady’s Slipper Orchid, Squirrel Foot, Pelican Orchid, Venus’ Foot. Moccasin Flower, Steeple Flower.
Life Cycle: Hardy perennial.
Height: 12 to 30 inches (30 to 75 cm).
Native: Northern America.
Family: Orchidaceae.
Growing Region: Zones 4 to 9.
Flowers: Species dependent: Late spring through to early summer. Early spring summer autumn until first frost. Winter
Flower Details: White, pink, brown, yellow, purple. Bi-colored. Lipped. Racemose. The stem may carry from one to twenty one flowers.
Foliage: Hairy. Ovate. Elliptic. Lanceolate.

Plant Outside: Purchase Cypripedium plants or use divisions from established plants. Transfer into the garden following the last frost or in autumn. Plant divided plants just beneath the soil surface. Spacing 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm).
Requirements and care: Full or partial shade. Acidic woodland type soil – rich in humus, moist, cool. Ensure that soil remains moist all year long. Supply leaf mold mulch at the beginning of spring. Propagate: by dividing in early spring in cold areas or autumn in milder climates. Ensure that the new plant has at least one new bud.
Miscellaneous: The North American and European species have quite different DNA and may need to be reclassified into separate genera in the future.

Common Questions

How many members does the Cypripedium genus have?

The Cypripedium genus consists of about 58 species.

Do members of Cypripedium make a good garden or landscaping plant?

Yes, Cypripedium species, known as Lady's Slipper Orchids, are prized for their unique and beautiful flowers.

Which Cypripedium species are most frequently grown by gardeners?

Cypripedium calceolus, commonly known as the Yellow Lady's Slipper, is a favorite among orchid enthusiasts.

Are members of the Cypripedium plant genus fragrant?

While some species of Cypripedium are fragrant, they are primarily grown for their uniquely shaped, colorful flowers.

What is the perfect location to grow Cypripedium?

Cypripedium prefer shaded or semi-shaded areas with well-drained, rich, and slightly acidic soil.

Is Cypripedium invasive in the USA?

Currently, Cypripedium is not considered invasive in the USA. Many species are native and some are even protected due to their rarity.

How do I remove Cypripedium plants from my garden?

It's generally not recommended to remove Cypripedium due to their value and some species' protected status. If needed, carefully dig up without damaging the roots.


The Cypripedium genus, part of the Orchidaceae family, is native to temperate and colder regions of North America, Asia, and Europe. Also known as lady's slipper orchids, these perennial plants are recognized for their broad, pleated leaves and distinctive pouch-like flowers in various colors that bloom in spring or early summer.

To grow Cypripedium, plant them in a shaded or partially shaded location with well-drained, humus-rich soil. They can be grown from rhizome divisions. Regular watering is necessary, and they prefer a cold winter period for dormancy. They are often used in woodland gardens, rock gardens, or as specimen plants for their unique, attractive blooms.

I hope that you found this guide on how to grow Cypripedium plants in your garden. You may also enjoy my gardening guides on how to grow Poor Man's Orchid, Bletilla plant, and Orchis plants.