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Growing Cypripedium orchids

Cypripedium Orchid flowers
The Cypripedium Orchid aka Lady Slipper

In 1737 Carl Linnaeus used the word Cypripedium to describe the European orchid species. The word Cyprus (the island Cyprus) originated from the name Cypripedium. Carl Linnaeus also used the word pedilum, which meant shoe or slipper, to describe other species.

Cypripedium orchids occur naturally in the Far East, but these days it is cultivated almost anywhere in the world. There were also some European orchid species that could be categorized under the genus Cypripedium orchid. It is not uncommon to see a Cypripedium orchid on somebody's front porch, home patio, etc. Many orchid growers cultivate Cypripedium orchids together with other plants such as Camelias, Rhododendron and even Oriental Cymbidium orchids. One is not allowed to trade in these orchids as ordered by CITES, but none the less, some German orchid cultivators have managed to hybridize some Cypripedium orchids and these hybrids are up for sale. Interesting enough some people tend to call the Cypripedium orchid the Yellow Lady Slipper orchid.

Cultivation

Most Cypripedium orchids have a stout and seldom branching rhizome. The rhizome on the orchid plant survives the dormant period. The bud of the orchid flower will be positioned at the terminal position. It is a common occurrence to see a Cypripedium orchid that has three to many leaves growing along the stem. The blades of the leaves are ovate and elliptic in shape. Some Cypripedium orchid species also have leaves that are hairy, especially on the veins and margins.

The number of orchid flowers per stalk per orchid plant varies from one to twelve depending on the species. On the orchid flower there is a triocular ovary which is either stalk less or born on a short stalk. The ovary can be hairy, glandular, or glabrous. The sepal is the outermost floral envelope, at times the sepal can be fused half their length. The second flora whorl consists of the organs, two petals and a deeply pouched lip. Depending on the species, the petals vary in shape from linear to elliptic and some are hairy on the inner side, and ciliate along the margins. Very prominent on the Cypripedium orchids are the orchid flower lip. There are five types of orchids in the Cypripedium orchid group: these are the arietinum, calceolus, guttatum, japonicum, and the margaritaceum.

In the middle of the orchid flower there are short-stalked columns that arise to the structures of the orchid flower which is monocotyledonous. The Cypripedium orchid species contain seeds that are developed by the fertilization of the ovuale after pollination. When mature the orchid seeds have a brown color.

Temperature

The Cypripedium orchid and its hybrids can survive in a temperature that ranges from 4 to 30° Celsius (39 to 85° Fahrenheit).

Light

If you are so lucky to locate an orchid grower that is willing to sell their Cypripedium orchids then you should now that the Cypripedium is best cultivated in conditions that will provide it with semi shade. It is thus recommended that you make use of 50% shade cloth if you intend cultivating Cypripedium orchids. If you cultivate your Cypripedium in your garden then be sure to place it in a shady spot. This orchid will only tolerate some morning sun.

Water and humidity

The Cypripedium orchid is not a very demanding orchid and will stay happy when supplied with a damp pot (not wet) throughout the year.

Feeding

As a terrestrial orchid the Cypripedium orchid is not a heavy feeder. These orchid plants will thrive if you feed them throughout spring, summer and early autumn once a week with half strength fertilizer solution. They will even thrive on organic fertilizer. For Cypripedium orchids it would not be wise to feed during late autumn or through winter when the orchid plant is dormant.

Pests and Diseases

The Cypripedium orchid species is relatively pest and disease free as fewer pests will attack them. On rare occasions you will find Cypripedium orchids that have aphid on the orchid plant. This is usually those orchids that are placed in open shade houses, or even in the garden under the protective shade of a tree. In such a case, as an orchid grower, one should always be on the lookout for the usual garden pests.

Potting mix and Repotting

The Cypripedium orchid prefers rich soil that has a pH of 5.5 to 6.5 as the potting medium in which it will grow. It is really one of the easiest orchids to cultivate and will fit in perfectly with a woodland garden. Provided that the area where you place your Cypripedium orchid is ideal, then in about 2 or 3 years you will notice new shoots coming off the main root of the original orchid plant.

If by the 3rd of 4th year you notice that your Cypripedium is struggling and is not really making progress, it is best to shift the orchid plant to a better location.

If you prefer to cultivate your Cypripedium orchid in pots then you will find that a potting mixture made of a coarse, well-drained medium such as charcoal, or even osmunda will work. Washed river sand or grit, leaf mold and loam soil will however make up the best potting soil for the cultivation of Cypripedium orchids. The Cypripedium orchid detests wet feet and the quick draining of the potting medium is thus important.

General tips when growing Cypripedium orchids

  • This is one of the prettiest and well-known native orchids. This is also one of the easiest orchids to grow in your garden, as opposed to the Pink Lady's Slipper orchid, which is very difficult to grow.
  • The Cypripedium orchid prefers hardwood shade where it gets the early spring sun before the leaves come out on the trees then dappled shade throughout the summer.
  • The orchid will flower at about the same time our leaves are getting full size, which is usually mid spring and last for about 4 weeks.
  • The Cypripedium orchids are very long lived plants reaching ages of 40 or more years.
  • For each year that you Cypripedium orchid is thriving, you will notice how your stock of Cypripedium will be growing. It is not uncommon to see a well-cared for Cypripedium in clumps of 25 to 30 orchid plants, each with their own orchid flowers on them.
  • The orchids need a good amount of moisture during their growing season, but too much moisture can rot the stalk.