Lady’s slipper orchids (Cypripedioideae) remain a top choice among orchid enthusiasts and collectors alike. This orchid is hard to find and quite challenging to grow, but its exquisite flowers make every effort worthwhile. Our guide covers everything you need to know about this one-of-a-kind orchid type. Read on to learn about lady’s slipper orchid meaning and symbolism, uses, origins, and popular related species. We’ve also included helpful growing and caring tips as well as a flower gifting guide.
- The Essentials: Meaning and Symbolism of Lady’s Slipper Orchids
- About Lady’s Slipper Orchids Plants
- Popular Lady’s Slipper Orchids Types, Species, and Cultivars
- Uses and Benefits of Lady’s Slipper Orchids
- Lady’s Slipper Orchids Meaning & Symbolism
- Suitable Gifting Occasions for Lady’s Slipper Orchids
- How to Grow and Care for Lady’s Slipper Orchids at Home
- Lady’s Slipper Orchids FAQs:
- Wrap Up
- Petal Republic’s Expert Guides to Orchids:
The Essentials: Meaning and Symbolism of Lady’s Slipper Orchids
Lady’s Slipper Orchids symbolize capricious beauty and hold symbolic meanings in different countries. They also appear in postage stamps, renaissance arts, illustrations, and literature. They are named after the “shoes of Venus” because of their labellum or lip’s exciting shape.
About Lady’s Slipper Orchids Plants
Lady’s Slipper Orchids – Family, Genus, and Taxonomy
Cypripedium calceolus, commonly known as the Lady’s Slipper orchid or Yellow Lady Slipper orchid, is a perennial flowering plant from the botanical family Orchidaceae and genus Cypripedium.
The Cypripedium genus consists of 58 species of hardy orchids that usually thrive in temperate and subtropical climates. However, some species grow in a tropical environment. Aside from the common name lady’s slipper orchids, plants in the genus are also known as yellow lady slipper (C. calceolus), moccasin flower (C. acaule), steeple cap, camel’s foot, Venus’ shoes, squirrel foot, and whippoorwill shoe.
Botanical Characteristics, Colors, Fragrances, Toxicity
What made a lady slipper orchid popular is its uniquely stunning blooms. While orchids, in general, are one-of-a-kind and exotic, this particular species managed to stand out among the others through its showy inflorescence and impressive size.
Lady’s slipper orchids are long-lived herbaceous perennials that reproduce each season through their rhizomes. Each plant grows up to approximately 60 cm in height. In fact, it is the largest growing orchid species in Europe.
Stems and Leaves
An individual stem of this orchid holds three to four ovate leaves. Each leaf could get up to 9 cm wide and 18 cm long with parallel venation.
Lady’s Slipper Flowers
The flower stalk of the lady’s slipper orchids has one to two showy flowers with leaf bracts. Easy to distinguish, the flower bears maroon or red-brown to black sepals and long petals with yellow, slipper-like labellum or lip. The unique lip often features red spots.
Some varieties have green or yellow sepals and petals and a white, rather than yellow, labellum.
Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus coined the name Cypripedium calceolus in 1753 through the Species Plantarum. The genus name comes from the Greek words “Kupris pedion.” It means Venus’ foot, referring to the Roman goddess of love, beauty, and desire. The species name calceolus, on the other hand, translates to “small shoe” in Latin.
What Regions Are Lady’s Slipper Orchids Native To?
The lady’s slipper orchids are distributed throughout Western Europe, China, Siberia, and Japan. In Europe, in particular, you could find them in Spain, the British Isles, and Scandinavia. These plants prefer light to deep shade and neutral to slightly acidic growing conditions.
When Do Lady’s Slipper Orchids Bloom?
This orchid species showcases its attractive blooms every spring and summer.
Popular Lady’s Slipper Orchids Types, Species, and Cultivars
Unlike other well-recognized orchid types, the lady’s slipper orchids (C. calceolus) offer limited cultivars. However, there are more recognized lady’s slipper orchid species, varieties, and hybrids to choose from, such as:
Moccasin flower (C. acaule)
Also called the pink lady’s slipper orchid, this orchid features a mauve-pink to magenta pouch with maroon petals. It grows in central and eastern Canada and the southeastern United States.
Ram’s head lady slipper orchid (C. arietinum)
It is a rare kind of small lady’s slipper orchid that features three to five leaves per stem. The flowers have purple-red petals with light venation and a white lip. It grows well in lightly shaded areas.
White lady’s slippers (C. candidum)
Also known as the small white lady slipper orchids, this species is another rare orchid that grows in northeastern Canada and the United States. It flaunts a large, swollen, and white lip surrounded by yellowish-green petals and sepals.
Clustered lady’s slipper (C. fasciculatum)
This type of small lady’s slipper orchid features a drooping flower cluster. Each stem typically holds eight to nine flowers in a group when in full bloom. The petals and sepals are purple green, while the lip is yellow-green with hints of purple.
Spotted lady’s slipper (C. guttatum)
This orchid species grows in three continents, including Russia, Asia, and North America. It features purple-brown flowers with a distinctive pitcher-shaped, spotted lip.
Other recognized species of lady’s slipper orchids:
- California lady’s slipper (C. californicum)
- Kentucky lady’s slipper (C. kentuckiense)
- Mountain lady’s slipper (C. montanum)
- Yellow lady’s slipper (C. parviflorum)
- Sparrow’s egg lady’s slipper (C. passerinum)
- Showy lady’s slipper (C. reginae)
Uses and Benefits of Lady’s Slipper Orchids
The lady’s slipper orchids are excellent ornamental plants that could easily add beauty to any bare space. But aside from that, there are more uses and benefits of these showy blooms.
Many recognize other Cypripedium species for their medicinal value. The C. parviflorum or also called the lady’s slipper orchids, in particular, are used against anxiety, hysteria, insomnia, depression, and tension headaches.
For more, see our in-depth guide to orchid plant uses and benefits.
Are Lady’s Slipper Orchids Toxic to Humans and Animals?
Although not considered harmful plants, the yellow lady’s slipper orchids have mild toxic effects on humans. The leaves, in particular, may cause skin irritations after direct contact.
Lady’s Slipper Orchids Meaning & Symbolism
While orchids, in general, are often associated with love, luxury, and elegance, the lady’s slipper orchids mean capricious beauty in the language of flowers.
One of the most common types is the yellow lady slipper’s orchids, which symbolize friendship and new beginnings. White orchids are likewise quite common, and they symbolize purity and innocence just like other white flowers.
Some Cypripedium orchids present pink, purple, and dark red flowers. The dark red and pink orchids represent love, grace, and joy, while purple orchids are often a symbol of admiration and royalty.
The Meaning, Symbolism and Cultural Significance of Lady’s Slipper Orchids
The significance of C. calceolus in different cultures is reflected in many ways, including postage stamps. The symbolic flower has appeared on postage stamps of countries worldwide, including Ukraine, Sweden, Uganda, the United Kingdom, France, Hungary, Denmark, Italy, Madagascar, Austria, the Czech Republic, Grenadines, and Latvia, Slovenia, and more.
Lady’s Slipper Orchid in Art and Literature
One proof that the lady’s slipper orchids are among the best-known types of orchids is their prevalence in floral illustrations. An example is Renaissance illustrator Conrad Gessner’s work that featured the beautiful orchid bloom. He made the artwork in 1541 but, unfortunately, was not published until the 18th century.
Famed Russian novelist Pavel Ivanovich Melnikov also featured the flower in his work “In the Forests.” It was referred to as Cuckoo’s slippers, Adam’s head, and Adam’s grass and was believed as good for driving away evil spirits.
Suitable Gifting Occasions for Lady’s Slipper Orchids
Lady’s slippers orchids are a great gifting option for numerous occasions. Beholding a unique prowess and alluring beauty, they make a perfect floral gift for an anniversary, birthday, or any form of romantic gesture.
You could buy a flower bouquet or floral arrangements that incorporate a lady’s slipper orchid. Potted orchids are also an excellent gifting option, no matter the occasion.
How to Grow and Care for Lady’s Slipper Orchids at Home
Soil and Potting Considerations for Lady’s Slipper Orchids
The lady’s slipper orchid plants prefer moist and fertile soil conditions. When growing, make sure to use well-draining orchid mix potting soil to achieve optimum plant growth and a suitable orchid plant pot.
Lady’s Slipper Orchid Light Preferences
Like most orchids, the lady’s slipper orchids grow best under filtered, indirect light. They prefer low-light growing conditions, and they do not like full sun. If you’re placing them near a window with direct sunlight, make sure to add some shade, like curtains or blinds.
One way to determine if your orchid is getting enough light is through its leaves. They should be bright green and not dull or browning. For more, see our essential guide to the best locations to position orchid plants.
When and How to Water Lady’s Slipper Orchids
Water your lady’s slipper orchids at least once a week to keep them growing and healthy during the spring and summer months (around every 10 to 14 days in late fall through winter). These plants prefer moist soil conditions. Therefore, do not wait for the potting media to dry out completely before the subsequent watering schedule.
Feeding and Fertilizing Lady Slipper Orchids
The Cypripedium lady slipper orchids really benefit from nutrient-rich feed during the late spring and early summer months. Apply a diluted balanced or complete fertilizer once or twice in late spring.
For more, see our in-depth guide to fertilizing orchid plants.
Common Lady’s Slipper Orchids Problems, Pests, and Diseases
The yellow lady slipper orchids are not typically bothered by pests and diseases. The main considerations to be aware of are ensuring the orchid is not over-exposed to bright sunlight and avoiding overwatering, which can lead to root rot and decay.
For more, see our in-depth guide to common orchid plant bugs, pests, and diseases.
Lady’s Slipper Orchids FAQs:
What do Lady’s Slipper Orchids Symbolize?
In the language of flowers, Lady’s Slipper Orchids symbolize capricious beauty and hold symbolic meanings in different countries.
What Regions are Lady’s Slipper Orchids Native to?
Lady’s Slipper Orchids are native to Western Europe, China, Siberia, and Japan. In Europe, in particular, you’ll find them in Spain, the British Isles, and Scandinavia.
Are Lady’s Slipper Orchids Considered Toxic?
The leaves of yellow lady’s slipper orchids have mild toxic effects on humans that may cause skin irritations after direct contact.
How Often do Lady Slipper Orchid Bloom?
Typically most Lady Slipper Orchids will bloom once each year during the late autumn through to early spring season. Dependent on your own unique growing conditions these orchids may also bloom during the spring and summer months.
How long do lady slippers stay in bloom?
Lady’s Slipper Orchids are heralded for their long-lasting blooms, which can remain for 8 to 12 weeks typically.
One of the most interesting and beautiful types of orchids is the Lady’s Slipper Orchids or Cypripedium calceolus. Named after the “shoes of Venus,” these perennial wildflowers are known best for the distinct footwear shape of their blooms.
Because of their alluring beauty, these flowers were once considered extinct and rare to find. The plants require extra attention as they are quite challenging to grow than other popular orchid types. Still, they remain a popular pick among many orchid enthusiasts and plant hobbyists. What’s more, with a little care, orchids can live for many years to come.
Petal Republic’s Expert Guides to Orchids:
For more on the famed Orchid Plant – see our essential guides to:
- The 43 Most Popular Types of Orchid Plants
- Orchid Meaning & Symbolism
- The Best Soil Mix for Orchid Plants
- Essential Orchid Plant Light Considerations
- How to Water Orchids at Home
- 10 Common Reasons for Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow
- Orchid Plant Temperature and Humidity Tolerances
- How to care for orchid plants dropping leaves
Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.
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