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Cultivation of Dactylorhiza

Dactylorhiza plants are suitable for garden or container culture. They are hardy and herbaceous. Roots develop throughout Winter, leaves in March/April and flowers in Summer.

Garden Care

Dactylorhiza are suitable for most garden soils and prefer a shady or semi-shady spot with good drainage. Moisture is important and the plants should never dry out completely at the roots; a naturally damp, but not boggy, position is therefore desirable.

The leaves die back in Winter but the plants are fully hardy and do not require lifting or protection. They will form a large attractive clump.

Container Care

Dactylorhiza require re-potting/dividing every year in July or August; a full size tuber should double every year.. They have a large root system so use deep pots.

They are tolerant of a range of compost mixes; we would recommend a multipurpose compost (one third) and grit/sand/perlite (one third). Plant with the tip just below the surface and cover with an inch of coarse horticultural grit.

Keep the compost moist throughout the year. We do not use fertiliser on our plants. There is no need for frost protection.

Cultivation of Bletilla Striata

Purple Ground Orchid

  • Suitable for garden or pot culture.
  • An easy to grow, fragrant, cool-growing orchid which is hardy in most areas of the UK. Can also be grown on a cool windowsill or in an alpine house.

Garden Care

  • Choose a sheltered spot out of the noon sun. Bletilla striata prefers a slightly moist soil. Containerised plants in growth can be planted out any time, otherwise plant pseudobulbs in the autumn, about 5 cms deep.
  • When in growth, water freely during dry spells.
  • After flowering, the leaves will die back for winter dormancy. Leave in the ground all year.


Indoor Care

Pot/repot annually after the leaves have died down in autumn or in early spring before growth emerges.

The plant will grow best where maximum temperatures do not exceed 18 degrees C with cooler nights, so avoid placing near heat source. Likes good light, an east facing windowsill is fine. When dormant, place in a cool greenhouse or similar frost-free environment.

Water the compost carefully from the top when it is almost dry. When growth appears, water more freely but do not stand overlong in water. Rainwater, if available. Water only very occasionally during dormancy.

Feed after flowering and until the leaves begin to die down using quarter strength general garden fertiliser.

Cultivation of Ophrys, Orchis and Serapias

Ophrys, Orchis and Serapias

These general notes may be helpful for the grower of predominantly Mediterranean species of the above orchids. These are not fully hardy in the UK but are easy to grow in pots in a protected environment such as a greenhouse or plant conservatory.

Container-Growing Basics

The annual cycle commences in July/August when the dormant plants are divided and re-potted. These species do not require large pots for their roots but a larger pot does give a more stable growing environment. They are also very amenable to community planting, i.e. a number of plants in a large container.

The compost should be loam-based which should be opened up by the addition of 50% of Cornish/horticultural grit or coarse sand to ensure free drainage.

The tuber should be placed 1-2 inches below the surface of the compost which should then itself be covered with around 1 inch of grit. Do not water until the shoot appears.

Some species will put up a leaf rosette in the Autumn; keep the compost just moist through the Winter. Other species will not show above the soil until Spring.

These plants are not fully hardy. As a minimum they should be kept frost-free; a low temperature of around 3-4°C may be preferable.

Winter light is desirable but semi-shade from April on. We do not generally use fertiliser on our nursery plants of these species.

After the flower has withered, keep plant completely dry through its Summer dormancy (i.e. until re-potting).


Cultivation of Spiranthes

Spiranthes cernua var odorata (Fragrant Ladies’ Tresses)

A fragrant cool-growing herbaceous orchid which can be grown in the garden in most areas of the UK or on a cool windowsill indoors. The plant produces flower spikes of about 30 cms in height.

Garden Care

Choose a sunny, sheltered spot, but out of the noon sun. Spiranthes cernua prefers a moist, well drained soil and containerised plants in growth can be put out at any time. Otherwise plant the corm-like pseudobulbs in the early Spring about 10 cm deep. Protect the new growing tips from slugs and snails.
In early Autumn the flower stems appear from inside the young shoots, giving small, white, slightly translucent flowers which spiral around the spike. After flowering, the leaves die down for Winter.

Indoor Care

Spiranthes cernua is also suitable for indoor or alpine house cultivation. It will grow best where daytime temperatures do not exceed 18ºC with cooler nights; an east facing windowsill is fine.

Water the pot from above when the compost is almost dry and allow to drain. Water freely when the flower spikes appear.

Occasional feeding will be beneficial during the growth season; use quarter strength general garden fertiliser.

Allow a cold rest period over winter (frost free greenhouse ideal) but water only very occasionally to prevent the bulb from shrivelling.

Cultivation of Epipactis

Epipactis species and hybrids generally make excellent garden plants for UK growers.

Garden Care

  • Our Epipactis grow in most garden soils but require a site that is moist all year round without being a stagnant bog. Choose a shady or semi-shady position.
  • It is not necessary to lift the plants before Winter, nor to provide frost protection.
  • In time these plants will form large, attractive clumps.

Container Care

  • Epipactis also make interesting container specimens for large pots.
  • They should be re-potted/divided in the Autumn.
  • The soil should be kept moist throughout the growing season, i.e. from when the shoot appears until the leaves turn brown.