Svante Malmgren         Henric Nyström

Orchid propagation



Ophrys               Orchis (Anacamptis),Himantoglossum               Dactylorhiza               Gymnadenia

Coeloglossum,Leucorchis,Platanthera,Neottianthe,Nigritella               Cypripedium

Platanthera, Coeloglossum and Nigritella

are some genera quite closely related to Dactylorhiza and Gymnadenia and most of them respond to similar methods of large-scale asymbiotic propagation as Dactylorhiza.
With Leucorchis we still have some problems of unknown reasons; with Neottianthe we succeedes well first time and failed a second time! No more seeds now...

Platanthera is easily propagated on sterile media and is grown like Dactylorhiza.

Medium: Standard + potato + pine-apple, like Dactylorhiza.

Seed treatment:The seed coat is very thick, but by using H2SO4 + NaClO plus a cool treatment after sowing, just like Gymnadenia, a 20-50% germination rate can be achieved. Sowing half-mature seed gives even better results.

Young plants grow healthily on soil but they take 5 years to reach flowering size. Platanthera bifolia, however, probably has the most wonderful scent of all our native plants, so the wait is worthwhile!

As a matter of interest, it is worth mentioning that Svante Malmgren on one occasion obtained seed of Platanthera oligantha for scientific research. This might be Europe’s rarest orchid. Germination and growth on medium were not problematic, but transferral to soil failed. This could be because of difficulty matching the species’ temperature requirements. New attempts would overcome this problem in all likelihood.

(This illustrates that the key to successful hardy orchid propagation is to follow the natural growth cycle of each species over the year and to provide the necessary sequences of temperature change.)

Neottianthe cucullata is another rare little orchid from eastern Europe. Seeds were sown twice. Germination and growth on medium were excellent and transferral to soil posed no problems the first time, but failed another year. A shortage of seed, though, has prevented further propagation.



Coeloglossum viride
is a rather inconspicuous species that has become very rare outside montane areas. It is easy to propagate, though. As the first year seedlings are rather small, however, they require some careful nursing.

Nigritella nigra of Swedish origin (the plant is triploid and apomictic) has been raised for many years for a conservation project in northern Sweden. Propagated like Dactylorhiza, but seem to benefit and grow bigger and safer if kept two years on medium, producing new, bigger tubers second year. Also germinates a little better if kept cool after sowing, but otherwise it is very easy to propagate on medium but is a little sensitive when transferred to soil, mainly because of the problems of maintaining suitable temperature conditions. First year seedlings are small and seem to prefer a cool mountain climate. For this reason, Nigritella is not a good plant for the garden! Don´t buy from the Internet! They are rarely propagated from seed!

On a few occasions, seed of central European Nigritella has been sown and grown on sterile media. It seems to behave similarly to the Swedish plants.

Leucorchis albida (there are two Swedish subspecies) is now greatly threatened with extinction outside mountain areas. It may already be extinct in Denmark. Attempts to propagate it for a conservation project in Sweden have just begun.

Platanthera bifolia in nature

Platanthera bifolia in nature

Plat bifolia germinates well if kept  cool AFTER sowing...

...and one month later, under weak light

Platanthera  oligantha on medium !


Neottianthe cucullata 1st year in soil

Neottianthe cucualla 3 months after sowing

(Swedish) Nigritella nigra on medium, time for fresh medium

Nigritella nigra, time for potting in soil

Nigritella nigra 1st year in soil

Nigritella nigra

Leucorchis albida   - a conservation project has just started