People often ask me where they can buy good, healthy Cypripedium stock. This is an important issue for several reasons. First and foremost, you need healthy plants from the outset to ensure success. Cypripediums are by and large quite difficult to maintain in cultivation, so there is no point in getting unhealthy plants only to fail with them time after time. Second, there are many plants being sold online that are not nursery propagated, but rather taken from the wild. These often are in very bad shape by the time the buyer receives them, almost guaranteeing failure. Also, such practices are taking their toll on populations the world over and could lead to the extinction of the rarer species in nature within a couple decades. For more about what healthy stock should look like please see this article: Lady slipper orchids, genus Cypripedium – what to look for when buying them.
So, with these considerations in mind, here is a list of quality North American nurseries where you can buy lady slipper orchids online with confidence. Realize that Cyp propagation is an expensive and time consuming process, thus prices tend to be rather high – in the order of $30-50 per plant for the more common varieties, and much higher for rare species in particular, often starting in the $100 range and higher for the really rare stuff. Fortunately, hybrid plants are being mass produced now, and for the most part are reasonably priced and also easy to grow compared to pure species.
These nurseries are not ranked in an any particular order, nor is this list exhaustive, however all offer healthy, lab produced plants. These are links, so feel free to click them for direct access to their sites. Realize that most nurseries have two shipping seasons – fall and early spring, when the plants are dormant. Most cannot ship internationally. Also, stocks sell out fast, so you need to be ready to order as soon as possible – if you wait, you will have far less selection to choose from.
1. Gardens at Post Hill, Morris Connecticut – this business is relatively new and owned and operated by Ron Burch, a good friend. Ron, with his formidable skills in tissue culture turned his talents to Cypripediums in the early 2000s, and so began his nursery. The quality of plant you will receive from him is guaranteed to be great, and his prices are very reasonable. He also has one of the best selections in within the USA, but realize that many are very limited offers, so they sell out fast. Ron is generous with his knowledge and shares it without proprietary interest, but do realize he is a busy man. He often sells plants of his own creation, as well as a line of collaborative hybrids made with our fellow friend and Cyp grower, Paul Perakos. To my knowledge he does not ship internationally.
2. Great Lakes Orchids, Belleville, Michigan – a good friend of Ron’s is Ray Price, another “artist” at propagating temperate orchids. While his is a for profit business, he also is greatly interested in orchid conservation, and has donated time and effort (and plants!) for conservation projects. He carries a number of native Cyps as well as very unusual species including (as of this writing, February 2012) Platanthera blepariglottis, ciliaris, and psychodes, as well as the almost never offered Arethusa bulbosa. It is great to have folks like Ray around!
3. Hillside Nursery, Shelburne Fall, Massachusetts – here’s another great nursery offering a wide range of woodland perennials, all nursery propagated. Again, you will only get quality plants from this nursery and at good prices. They carry a number of Cypripedium species (one of the best places in the US to buy C. kentuckiense) as well as hybrids. Be warned however, they sell out fast, so be sure to submit an update reminder form at their site so you can stay on top of the action. They also offer a number of rare woodland plants from around the world – great stuff. Sorry, no international orders or shipping to Hawaii and Florida, and they don’t take telephone orders.
4. Spangle Creek Labs, Bovey, Minnesota – one of the pioneers of seed propagating Cypripedium species in the USA is Dr. William Steele, but most folks just call him Bill. Back in the 80s he became involved in conservation efforts in Washington State focusing on mass propagating the locally rare C. parviflorum with the hopes of reestablishing wild populations. He also experimented with C. reginae, and before he knew it had thousands of seedlings, and so began Spangle Creek Labs, an actual mom and pop business with Bill doing the propagating and his wife Carol dealing with keeping the business at an even keel (I know which job I’d rather have!). Bill’s conservation ethic runs deep, and as a rule he propagates species only. One thing, they only offer seedling plants, all recently deflasked. They are very healthy, ready to plant, reasonably priced, and with a range of species offered, including rarities like C. candidum, C. californicum, C. guttatum, and C. yatabeanum. Unfortunately, they don’t ship internationally any more.
5. Itasca Ladyslipper Farm, Bovey, Minnesota – owned and operated by Carol Steele’s son Brandon. He grows Spangle Creek’s seedlings onto maturity for sale as flowering size and near flowering size plants. No international shipping.
6. Raising Rarities, Toledo, Ohio – another nursery with its roots in the 90s, founded by Roger Zielinski. They have a generous offering of Cypripedium species and hybrids, rivaling that of Ron Burch, as well as a great range of unusual Bletilla varieties, including ones not seen at other nurseries. The really unusual stuff sells out early, so be sure to check in often. No international shipping at this time.
7. Vermont Ladyslipper Company, New Haven, Vermont – one of the great Cypripedium nurseries established back in the 90s by Scott and Elizabeth Durkee. Scott became famous for growing literally fields of C. reginae, and the difficult C. acaule from seed to amazing flowering plants using the now well known vinegar water method. Their huge greenhouse operation is well known – truly Cypripedium cultivation on a mass scale. International shipping is available for C. reginae only. They usually sell out their stock early, so watch for the opening of sales. Two plant minimum order. (Note: Their site is still up, but hasn’t been updated since 2014, so…)
8. Wild Orchid Company, Carversville, Pennsylvania – owned and operated by Dr. Bill Mathis, this nursery offers a great range of hardy orchids, including Cyps, Calanthe, Bletilla (featuring B. striata ‘Big Bob’ – a huge form of this species), and some rarely offered bog orchids: Pogonia ophioglossoides and Calopgon tuberosus (the normal pink variety and very rare alba flower). No international shipping.
9. Arirang Orchids, Mountain View, California – I just found out about these guys. They have C. californicum, a relatively rare plant in cultivation, plus a handful of other terrestrial orchids. Pay by check or money order. Continental USA only.
10. Plant Delights Nursery, Raleigh, North Carolina – founded back in 1988 by Tony and Michelle Avent with the intention of providing US gardeners access to rare and unusual plants from around the world. Tony is a colorful character who has traveled extensively in search of new plants, and has established breeding programs focused on creating novel lines. He also loves to write about plants in his often zany online catalog – he truly is a real plant nut. This nursery offers a bewildering array of unusual plants, including Cypripediums – both species and hybrids. This is one of the few places you can obtain C. japonicum reliably in the US. Some of the Bletilla forms offered are not available anywhere else with country, in fact with the closing of Asiatica Nursery in Pennsylvania, this nursery is the only place you can still get many rare Japanese selections. The world needs more nurseries like this one!
11. Keeping It Green Nursery, Stanwood, Washington – started back in 2004 by Arlen Hill, this nursery offers a nice range of rare plants including hardy orchids. As of this writing (fall 2013) he has a good selection of Cypripedium hybrids and species, some of which are still uncommon in North American collections. He also offers a variety of Bletilla, Calanthe, and Dactylorhiza, plus a few other terrestrial orchids. Visa and Mastercard orders only. No international orders.
1. Fraser’s Thimble Farms, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia – owned and operated by Richard and Nancy Fraser, this is probably the best know supplier of hardy orchids in Canada. Their selection is stunning – 12 different Bletilla, 10 Calanthe, 8 Dactylorhiza, 4 Epipactis, 19 Pleione, a smattering of others, and over 70 Cypripedium including species, forms, and hybrids. All one can say is, “wow”. This is a specialty nursery, offering many rare plants including Japanese hepatica, hardy ferns (tree ferns too!), tons of perennials, conifers, bulbs. shrubs, hellebores, you name it. They are the only North American nursery I know of that sells Cypripedium micranthum, a dwarf Chinese species. They accept overseas orders including the US (minimum order of $75). No phone orders.
2. Pacific Rim Native Plant Nursery, Chilliwack, British Columbia – run by the Woodward family, offering an excellent range of rare woodland perennials and bulbs – nice stuff. They also carry a few terrestrial orchids, including C.tibeticum, a difficult species to source, and Habenaria radiata (thanks for the link ladies!). They also have display gardens open by appointment, and nearby is Hillkeep Nature Reserve, donated by the Woodwards to the City of Chilliwack. True conservationists and avid plant growers – a great combination! No international shipping.
3. Planteck, L’Assomption, Quebec – in times past this company had a good selection of terrestrial orchids including rare species of Cypripedium and even Calypso bulbosa. Currently they only offer C. reginae. An excellent source for micropropagated peonies, however they no longer take retail orders.
4. Lost Horizons, Acton, Ontario – this nursery started out as a garden design company, but soon found itself in plant production. You can download their impressive online catalog (pdf format) and drool over the contents – a huge assortment of perennials, ferns, ornamental grasses, and woody plants. They also carry a number of Cypripedium, including C. tibeticum and C. calceolus, plants rarely offered in North America. The only catch is you have to visit them in person since they no longer ship. Hours are 10 AM to 5 PM, Wednesday thru Sunday starting in May and ending in October. They are closed in the winter months.
One other person you may try contacting is Tom Nelson. He legally rescues Cyps from construction sites via permits issued by the state of Minnesota. He has sold C. reginae, C. parviflorum varieties, and C. candidum in the past. In general, buyers have reported being happy with the plants they received, especially since many are very large, with multiple eyes and offered at very reasonable prices. Currently, his contact information is as follows:
Blue Heron Ladyslipper Co.
Castle Rock, MN 55010
These are perhaps the best sources for Cyps online today, but things change. I’ll try to keep this list updated. In the not so distant future I will also assemble a list of sources in Europe and Asia, so please be patient.