There are some 240 different ophrys around Europe. Some authorities identify each as a seperate species whilst others believe that many are just variations on a few species.
The UK has only five native species and of these only the Bee Orchid and the Fly Orchid can be grown outside in a wide area of the country. The two Spider orchids only grow along the south coast.
All ophrys grow in alkaline soils, often colonising areas of disturbed soil particularly those left after building works.
This genera has a single small tuber and one growing point. Growth starts in the late summer when night temperatures drop. The leaves emerge in the form of a rosette during the autumn. At the same time a small number of unbranched roots develop from the bottom of the growth. They drop down nearly vertically and take up little space. These are up to 7 cm long. Depending on species and environment a single flower spike is produced for March to July.
If native species are too be planted out it is prefferable this is done when dormant or just beginning to grow. Tubers can then be planted with the growing point 3 cm below the surface. A large hole is not necessary. When planting into turf cut the grass to 3 cm before planting and do not remove vegetation. If growth has started planting needs to be done carefully to avoid damaging roots or burying the leaves. It may be sensible to plunge the pot into the ground for the first season and remove it when the plant goes dormant at the end of the flowering season.
Ophrys can be successfully grown in a greenhouse or coldframe in either terracotta or plastic pots.
Plants to be grown in small terracotta pots should be put into a trough of sand to ensure the tuber keeps cool and to enable watering via the sand rather than onto the rosettes. The sand should be kept damp. As the plant begins to grow increase the watering of the sand until the tuber compost is slightly damp during the autumn growing period and again when the flower spike grows. During the mid winter period watering can be stopped.
The surround air temperature should not be allowed to get too high and provide maximum ventilation throughout the autumn and winter. This is particularly important with the southern European species that grow where the winters are dry and cold. Do not allow the pots to get hot and cold in mid winter. Plants in plastic pots can be sat on capillary matting which should be kept wet. Check the dampness of the pot by assessing the weight of the pot. Water the matting if the pots feel light.
Tubers are sent out potted to UK customers provided there is not too much growth. This depends on how quickly the different species form their rosette in the autumn. Tubers sent to other countries can only be sent if they are not going to deteriorate in transit.
Plants are checked before being sent out and replacements will only be sent if they are damaged during transit or deteriorate within 14 days from receipt.