Northern marsh orchid


Dactylorhiza purpurella

Only found in the North of the UK above a line across the country from North Wales to North Yorkshire. South of this line try planting Southern marsh orchid instead. It is a densly packed spike in deep purple from 20-30cm tall. It grows well in gardens, wildflower meadows, pond edges,  or in large pots in a damp neutral or acid soil.

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Northern marsh 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 damp locations in the North of the UK and are happy with acid, neutral or alkaline soil.
Please note plants sent from late May onwards will not flower this year as flower stalks are likely to be broken in transit.
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. If your plant has green aerial parts keep the soil level with the compost in the pot. They tolerate full sun if planted in the ground, in pots beware of them overheating or drying out.  If planted into a lawn or 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, stand it in a saucer of water to keep it moist over the summer. 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.

Use a well drained growing mix of 2 parts potting compost, 2 parts perlite, 1 part grit, 1 part sieved local garden soil. For alkaline conditions the potting compost should be peat free. For acid soil conditions the compost should be peat-based or ericaceous.