seed germanation of lady slippers

Western, WI(Zone 4a)

I was given some seed of some lady slippers, but know next to nothing about starting them. Can I WS them or do I have to wait and plant them out in a shady area?


somewhere, PA

Now those are seeds for the expert! Can you collect soil from the mother plant?
I haven't started seeds but I did attend a very good lecture by Bill Matthis, a botanist
who started an orchid nursery The Wild Orchid Company. I took notes on the talk
and here's the excerpt on seed germination:

The tiny orchid seeds (250 times smaller than the average monocot and almost completely void of nutrients to feed the seedling while it develops its self sustaining capabilities) are sterilized, germinated in agar-solution filled Petri dishes and moved on into sterile bags after 6-10mos. They are then planted into perlite troughs w/a low level fertilizer in the water, and they remain thus for up to another 2yrs until they are ready to go into a greenhouse situation. Another 2-3 years development is required from there to get them to the size needed to plant outside. This system allows reliable germination & growth of the orchids but requires significant time & equipment. In nature, the orchid seedlings are completely reliant on fungal-relationships for nutrients and are typically found growing near their mother plant. It takes 3-7 years (and for some species, 10 yrs) to go from seed to flowering size plant. Inexpensive terrestrial orchids are likely to be wild collected.

Here's his website:

Good luck!

Mona in Metcalfe, ON(Zone 5a)

In nature, lady-slippers are transition plants that must be able to jump to another environment when conditions are no longer favorable. The tiny seeds float easily in the wind to a new setting, and only one in a million find just the right environment to germinate and grow into a flowering plant. Robinson, on the other hand, has about a five-percent success rate in vitro, which gives him thousands of seedlings to work with. He contends that the second-generation seeds grown artificially will be even better adapted to in vitro conditions, producing a greater success rate.

After refrigeration, the tiny seeds are grown in vitro in a flask containing a special formula embedded in a base of agar, which includes extracts of potato, pineapple juice or coconut milk containing growth hormones that stimulate the seeds to sprout.

Roger is constantly experimenting with his sprouting and growing media; there are no predetermined formulas to consult. Raising Rarities is on the cutting edge of the complex technology required to propagate large numbers of lady-slippers successfully.

The protocorms, or newly sprouted seeds, are vulnerable to contamination at this stage, and must be transported to a richer formula when they can be easily handled, which may be in six to ten weeks. Depending on the species, some may remain in the growing flask for up to 18 months before being planted out in the nursery beds.

The roots of the sprouted seeds are long and fibrous, with the promise of a mature blooming plant in three to nine years. Painstaking care and long-range planning is required to grow lady-slippers. Much of the winter will be spent methodically seeding and transplanting in the confines of the laboratory while the snow blankets the outdoor nursery.

In the nursery, Roger has created different environments for his lady-slippers once they reach the seedling stage. The woodland species are grown under shade cloth or under a canopy of trees in many layers of chopped leaf mold applied every autumn. Artificial bogs are used to grow bog species such as Cypripedium reginae.

Raising Rarities supplies lady-slippers to botanical gardens and the home gardener.

Raising Rarities ships plants in the fall when the plant is fully dormant and are guaranteed to be true to name and to arrive in healthy viable condition. The nursery offers single flowering size plants on a first come first serve basis.

good luck I have been doing seeds for twenty years and would not even attemp to this I would just find a nursery dealing in wild flowers and buy one like I did with my trillium

Western, WI(Zone 4a)

Well, I feel like gambling. Have been gardening and starting seeds for 65 yrs.
I plan on planting them next to a wild yellow lady slipper that a friend gave me yrs. ago and hope for the best. Its in a shady, woody place and will amend the soil with compost.

Trilliums grow wild here in Wisc. on our farm land [all woods] that we have left of original farm.

Thanks for all the information. Very interesting.


Mona in Metcalfe, ON(Zone 5a)

trillium also grows wild in my area but hahahah not on my property and it is not legal to take them from the woods to move them in ontario they are protected big fine

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