orchid cultivation

British orchids

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There are 56 species of wild British orchid, some of them fairly widespread such as the Common spotted orchid, most of them scarce and some extremely rare and in small isolated populations. Many species are severely threatened by habitat loss due to industrial agriculture, insensitive forestry management, urbanisation and pollution.

If you are planning to plant orchids in your garden, meadow or woodland you will need to choose carefully to match the right species to the habitat. You need to consider the level of sunlight, moisture content of the soil and soil pH. There are guidance notes for each of our listed species if you click on the picture.

You will also be wondering whether your orchids will self-seed and spread themselves naturally. Orchids are unusual in that their seed is extremely light and small, maybe as fine as powder, this is because they have no carbohydrate store in their seed. Most seeds use a small energy store to germinate and to put out their first root and shoot. Orchid seeds rely upon meeting a fungal symbiotic partner in the soil. The fungus is essential to germinate the orchid and help it to grow, certainly in early life and possibly throughout its life. There may be more than one fungus involved in an orchid life cycle. 

So you can introduce a mature plant into a new environment and it will flower and drop seed, but that seed will grow only if the required fungus is also present in the soil. Some of these fungi do seem to be quite common and widespread. But for the rarer species we know nothing at all about the fungal partner. We cannot test for the presence of fungus, we suggest you put in some mature plants and wait and see. 

Autumn is a great time for planting out, especially for the species which lose their leaves in the winter e.g. Dactylorhiza. Surround the tuber with well drained compost mix and leave the top of the tuber just sticking up out of the soil, surrounded with a little grit. This helps to prevent fungal neck rot. Water them in and leave them to it.

All our plants are grown by us, from seed collected with the permission of the landowner. It is illegal to collect any plants from the wild.

Green winged orchid

Green winged orchid