Which Orchids Grow In UK Gardens?

Can you grow orchids outside in the UK?

Yes, you can. But…

… not all orchids will grow well – or even grow at all – outside in the UK.

Which Orchids Grow In UK Gardens?

I think that it will come as no surprise to you that not all orchids do well outdoors in our country. After all, the UK, at least during the winter months, is a rather cold habitat for many plants, and for many people, too (including myself – I currently reside in the Philippines, though I’m from Scotland originally). 


However, that’s certainly not to say that zero orchids will survive out of doors in the UK. Either outdoors or inside a cool porch or conservatory, or in a cool glasshouse. 


Learn: How to care for indoor orchids.



Which orchids grow in British gardens?
Can I grow orchids in my UK garden?



Some do, and some actually thrive – particularly so the ones you find in the wild: 

  • Lady’s slipper (Cypripedium calceolus)
  • Greater butterfly orchid (Platanthera chlorantha)
  • Ghost orchid (Epipogium aphyllum)
  • White helleborine (Cephalanthera damasonium)
  • Red helleborine (Cephalanthera rubra)
  • Green-winged orchid (Anacamptis morio)
  • Early spider orchid (Ophrys sphegodes)
  • Lady orchid (Orchis purpurea)


The above list comprises just eight from a total of 52 wild orchid species that naturally reside in the UK. For the most part, wild orchid species (in the UK) will flower from May through September. 


Which Orchids Grow In UK Gardens?

Now, this is all well and good. It’s lovely to see orchids growing in the wild – it really is. However, it’s against the law to “uproot” (aka dig up) any plants in the UK without permission of the landowner or land occupier. 

You can, legally so, pick parts of a plant – flowers, seeds, whatever – other than when it is growing on a site designated for its conservation interest.

So, how do you get around this scenario? 

Here are a few orchid species that will successfully grow, and quite possibly thrive given the right conditions, outdoors in the United Kingdom.

Note that all orchids listed here do well in a soil with a pH of between 5.0 and 6.5. In other words, your soil must be acidic.



Which Orchids Grow In UK Gardens?Calanthe striata (syn. C. sieboldii)


Height 45-60cm (18-24in).

Flower colour: Yellow.

Natural distribution: Parts of China and Japan.


The image above is of a different Calanthe species – a species that is also completely suitable to the U.K. garden and is available at Amazon.co.uk.

Calanthe striata is a fairly hardy orchid species and it’s a good one to grow if you’re new to orchids. 

While the flowers are bright yellow and grow in spires, the leaves are pleated and lush. The flowers are frequently sweetly fragrant. 

Towards the end of April, the flowers begin to fade, and the leaves expand fully. The leaves die off when it becomes cooler in September. 

The plants require a well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter and a semi-shaded site to grow well. Over winter, it’s good policy to mulch around the base of the leaves with composted bark. 

Give plants a semi-shaded site in well-drained soil, enriched with organic matter, and mulch with composted bark over winter. 

How about soil pH? Well, most growers suggest that for Calanthe striata to thrive, you need a soil with a pH of between 5.0 and 6.5. I do believe that the species will thrive in soils with a pH as low as 4.5.

Propagation methods: Divide the rhizomes up and replant.
Seed collecting: Nope, not possible. This orchid doesn’t set seed.



Calanthe Takane

Height: 45cm (18in).

Flower Colour: Yellow, soft apricot, and cream.


Calanthe Takane is a vigorous hardy hybrid. It produces spines of flowers – very charming they are, too – in a variety of shades, including yellow, soft apricot, and cream. 

For best results, check out Calanthe striata which is listed above.

How to propagate? Divide up the rhizomes and replant. Be sure that each rhizome has a minimum of one growing point.



Which Orchids Grow In UK Gardens?Cypripedium formosanum 


Height 18-30cm (7-12in).

Flower colour: Pale pink.

Origin: Taiwan


Cypripedium formosanum is a slipper orchid and it has pale pink flowers that are large and distinctive and appear throughout late spring. 

While Cypripedium formosanum is native to Taiwan, providing that the orchid is given some protection from late springtime frosts, it does well in the UK, too. 

Ideally, the plant wants moist soils (pH between 5.0 and 6.5) that are well-drained and sheltered woodland-type conditions that come with light shade.

How to propagate Cypripedium formosanum? Split the rhizomes and replant.



Pleione × barbarae

Height: Up to 10cm (4in).

Flower colour: Purple.

Natural distribution: Yunnan Province, China, and Vietnam.


(Pleione bulbocodioides is available on Amazon.co.uk).

Pleione × barbarae, with its early flowers, is suited to a glasshouse that’s on the cool to cold side, a conservatory, and it can also do well on a cool/ cold windowsill. 

They can do well outdoors in the UK but they need a sheltered spot that is frost-free. 

The purple flowers appear in spring, and the foliage, which makes an appearance in late winter, then dies back in autumn. 

Pleione × barbarae is more than happy in a pot. When repotting, it’s best to use an orchid compost and add some moss. Repot when the orchid is dormant.

How about propagation? Take new pseudobulbs from the root zone and re-plant.



Cypripedium Emil

Height 18-30cm (7-12in).

Flower colour: Yellow and dark red.


Cypripedium Emil, another slipper orchid, is a hardy hybrid that comes with yellow and dark-red flowers which are nicely scented. 

The flowers, which appear atop slender stems that reach up to a foot (30cm) in height, usually open in May 

For garden conditions, Cypripedium Emil is among the easiest to grow. 

It prefers a lightly shaded spot – a spot that does not get waterlogged or become too dry.

How about propagation? Divide the rhizomes up during the plant’s dormant months and repot. You can also get seeds from Cypripedium Emil, however, it’s a tricky process to grow the seeds successfully. Just as well to divide the rhizomes.



Pleione grandiflora

Height: Up to 10cm (4in).

Flower colour: White and yellow.

Natural distribution: China and Vietnam.


Pleione grandiflora possesses white and yellow-coloured flowers. This orchid requires similar conditions to Pleione × barbarae, which is listed above. 

It’s best, in fact, to grow Pleione grandiflora under cover. Reason being: The flowers become blemished rather easily when it rains.

How about the propagation of Pleione grandiflora? Take new pseudobulbs from the root zone and re-plant.


If you’re keen on growing orchids indoors, here’s an article about how to care for indoor orchids.