Hardy Orchids

There are over fifty species of hardy orchid growing in the UK and there are also reports of some occasional Continental invaders in the southern counties. These species range from the Broad- leaved Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine) which at 40" high is the largest British species, to the minute and rare Ghost Orchid (Epipogium aphyllum). Some of these species are very rare and others quite common, colonizing slag heaps and roadside verges. All, however, are protected species and may not be picked or dug up under any conditions.

Modern techniques of growing these orchids under laboratory conditions and with their natural fungus, are improving all the time, which means that over the next few years, more and more species will become available for growers to experiment with


Most garden orchids like a growing site in dappled shade. When planting, knock the plant gently out from the pot because otherwise the root network will separate from the soil. Prepare a hole and place the plant in it, filling in the space around the fleshy roots with any soil from the pot. A previously prepared loam will do for filling in the spaces, but add a little rotted vegetable matter. All orchids have a symbiotic relationship with a fungus which is essential for the seed's germination. Many of the orchids that are now available have been grown in compost that has been inoculated with the appropriate fungus. This helps the orchid to get off to a good start. To help the fungus-orchid combination, we recommend light applications of fertilizer at a quarter strength during the growing season. A seaweed or fishmeal fertilizer is ideal and should be applied at fortnightly intervals. Wherever possible, rainwater should be used to dissolve the fertilizer and for watering. Avoid spraying or watering while the plant is under stress, particularly during bright sunny weather. Remember that, during this year, these 'tuberous' orchids are in the process of building up their tubers out of which the following yews plant will grow.


The only troubles are from the 'sucking insects, and aphids in particular. Use the soapy wash or chemical that you would apply to other aphid infestations.

Below is some information about two commonly available hardy species although many more will become available during the coming months and years.

Heath Spotted Orchid

(Dactylorrhiza maculata) This tuberous hardy orchid flowers in late spring and early summer on tall stems up to 21 " high. It is easy to grow and the flowers are shades of pink, while the leaves may be either plain green or attractively mottled. Plant in a moist place or if there are no moist places, keep the soil well watered for the first month or so after planting out in the garden. These orchids will multiply quite quickly if left undisturbed and as long as the soil is neither too acid or too alkali, they should grow rapidly without any problems.

Marsh Helleborine

(Epipactis palustris) This elegant and attractive plant is easy to grow and flower, which it does in late spring and early summer. It reaches 18" in height and the leaves are mid-green and folded. It grows in fens and dune slacks and is occasionally found on chalk grassland. They are hardy, and when transplanted need moist soil in dappled shade with at least 2" of soil above the growing tip. Keep well watered and leave undisturbed so the underground rhizomes can branch and multiply


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The North Hampshire Orchid Society is affiliated to The Royal Horticultural Society & The Orchid Society of Great Britain
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