Heath spotted orchid


Dactylorhiza maculata

An orchid of heathy, acid soils and closely related to the Common spotted but more dainty with a lip like a frilled skirt and a small central lobe. The markings are dots rather than the loops seen on Common spotted. It is found all over the UK but is most common in Scotland, Wales and the west, where the wet acid soils tend to be. It is often pale pink but occasionally a darker purple-pink. It is less shade-tolerant than the Common spotted and flowers mid-May to July.

Not Avaiable


Heath spotted orchids are perennial plants and are fully hardy in the UK, though plants in pots may be vulnerable to low winter temperatures. They are suitable for acidic and damp soil conditions.

The rosette of leaves appears in spring and is followed by flowering and then seed setting. The whole plant dies back in early autumn and is dormant through the winter. Plant out at the beginning or end of the dormancy period i.e. early autumn or early spring. Place a dormant plant with the tip 2cm below the surface, or if the plant has green aerial parts, keep the soil level the same as the compost in the pot . They want full sun if planted in a flower bed or grassy area. In pots beware of them overheating or drying out and avoid full sun in hot weather.  If planted into a grassland it should be under a management regime for a wildflower meadow. For planting in grassland or a garden bed, make a slit with a spade and slide the plant in keeping the main root vertical. Pour in a little well drained growing mix (see below) and close up the slit. If planting in a pot make it quite a large pot to avoid the roots getting frosted over the winter. Pots may be moved into an unheated greenhouse during the winter and watered sparingly to just keep the compost moist. Plants in the ground should survive the winter in situ.

For pots use a well drained growing mix of 2 parts peat-based or ericaceous potting compost, 2 parts perlite, 1 part grit, 1 part sieved local soil. Even though this is a plant of wet habitats, all orchids will tend to rot at the neck if they are in a wet growing mix in a pot over winter.