Growing Paphiopedilum Orchid or Lady Slipper Orchid

Paphiopedilum orchids are one of the best orchid species to cultivate under artificial lighting. They are superb as house plants with their long lasting orchid flowers on their elegant stems. There are many spectacular hybrids available, and are about 60 species from tropical Asia extending through to India, the Solomon Islands, and New Guinea. Paphiopedilum orchids come in a myriad of colors. Paphiopedilum orchids prefer filtered light. They require humidity in the range of 40 to 60 percent. Paphiopedilum orchids are curious plants which are often thought to be carnivorous because of the intriguing pouch that forms part of the flower. They have very interesting and colorful "lady slipper" shaped orchid flowers. Their cultural requirements are not that hard to obtain making these orchids quite easy to grow in your home orchid garden.

The Paphiopedilum orchid flowers can be white, maroon, yellow, red, pink, green and the new "vinicolor" which is deep red, burgundy almost black. Many have hairs, warts, stripes and other markings which make the orchid flowers very interesting in appearance. The top sepal (petal) stands high and full above the pouch, and the two side petals sometimes hang down past the bottom of the pouch. The blooms have a waxy texture and will last six weeks or longer on the plant. Paphiopedilum orchids can be subdivided further from a subgenus category into many different groups:

  • The Lady Slipper orchid Maudiae group which is also known as the mottled leaf group: These are very attractive orchid plants even in those times when they are not flowering. The Lady Slipper orchid Maudiae group grows up quickly and you will find that you can expect to see orchid flowers after only a few years. The orchid flowers in this group come in various colors such as pink-rose with striped dorsal to the album form (striking green and white) as well as the vinicolor that are almost black and very deep reds.
  • The Lady Slipper orchid Cochlopetalum group contains the successive flowering varieties (on a grown-up plant for over 12 months) in this group the orchid flower will last up to four weeks before falling, and is followed by another orchid flower further up the stem. This flowering pattern goes on until the end of the stem is reached.
  • The Lady Slipper orchid Multiflorals group is indeed a very regal group of orchids. They are also referred to as the strap-leaved orchids. These Lady Slipper orchids have dark, lime-green colored leaved that are very rigid and firm. They do take quite long to grow up compared to the other orchid groups amongst the Lady Slipper orchids. It can take anywhere between eight and ten years for maturation to set in with this orchid plant. (Just imagine the price tag on these orchids because of the long maturation time.)
  • The Lady Slipper orchid Brachypetalum group is the most difficult orchid to grow. These orchids prefer somewhat drier conditions are easily compromised if over-watered. Though preferring somewhat drier conditions they like to be in high humidity areas and thrive in fresh air movement. Every now and then a shower will do them good. The Lady Slipper orchid Brachypetalum flowers are very beautiful and appear much fuller, rounder than the other Lady Slipper orchid groups. Even the leaves of these orchid plants; albeit succulent, glistens and sparkles due to a crystalline finish.
  • The Lady Slipper orchid Green-leaf species group can be found in India and further east. These orchid plants are robust growers and lend itself easily to cultivation. They grow readily and steadily and will establish themselves mature with long lasting orchid flowers very quickly. They will even tolerate the cooler winter temperatures which encourage flowering. Often these orchids are wrongly referred to as Cabbage orchids because of their large-firm-textured flowers.
  • The Lady Slipper orchid Parvisepalum group can be found in China and Vietnam. This particular orchid group has produced several beautiful hybrids that all have one characteristic in common: a large, bubblegum ball-like pouch. Most of the Lady Slipper orchid Parvisepalum group is fragrant.

Cultivation

Paphiopedilum orchids are evergreen, terrestrial orchids. There are also a few epiphytic Paphiopedilum orchids. In their natural habitat these lady slipper orchids thrive in humus, well-drained crevices and on limestone cliffs, deep gorges and the like. For most of the day these orchids are in shade though. Paphiopedilum: the lady slipper orchid has broad, dark green or sometimes mottled leaves. The strange flowers can be spotted or striped, and are sometimes hairy, and appear at the top of long upright shoots. From tropical and sub-tropical Asia and many beautiful specimens can be found and they are beautifully patterned. They do not have any pseudobulbs and their nutrients are thus stored in their leaves.

Temperature

The Lady Slipper orchid will be comfortable at any temperature that is comfortable for humans like 14 to 28 °Celsius (57 to 82° Fahrenheit)

Light

The Lady Slipper Orchid loves dappled light and can be cultivated in either a greenhouse, indoors, or in its natural environment. Place the plants in or near a sunny window. When grown as houseplants, these orchid plants need good light to do their best. Lady Slipper orchids and Phalaenopsis orchids do not need as much light as Cattleya orchids, Cymbidium orchids or Vanda orchids, but they do need at least the light required to bloom Saintpaulia or the African Violet as it is also known. Avoid cold or warm drafts - such as near an open window or heat vent. Too much light can scorch the leaves. (Tip: Make use of a 50% shade cloth if growing orchids in your home orchid garden).

Water and humidity

In their natural habitat the Lady Slipper orchid is used to regular watering due to the summer monsoon climates where they get drenched on a regular basis in the afternoons. These orchids plants love lots of fresh water, however, they do not take kindly to having their feet wet. Paphiopedilum orchids prefer free-draining places like rock crevices or even on the face of limestone cliffs when in their natural habitat. This way they expose themselves to copious amounts of fresh water that they get from the monsoon rains as well as good air movement do dry themselves off quickly. They will rot if they stand in water.

When cultivating these lady slipper orchids in your home orchid garden, misting the orchid plants may be beneficial in the morning on warm days, but not a necessity. Do not get water in the pouches, as that will cause the flowers to deteriorate and the orchid plant to rot. Flowers should last in good condition on the plants for two to three months. (Tip: Water your Paphiopedilum orchids using a draining board to facilitate the excess water to run off.)

Feeding

Lady Slipper orchids are not heavy feeders; however, they also do not have any pseudobulbs in which to hold reserves. It is up to you as the cultivator to feed it regularly with a weak fertilizer. Occasionally flush fertilizer from the pot by drenching with water. Too much fertilizer will damage the plants, so the best practice is to fertilize lightly.

Pests and Diseases

The lady Slipper orchid is prone to suffer from Erwinia. Erwinia is a bacterial disease that manifests itself as a brown rot in the region of the growing apex of the orchid plant. In such an affliction is would be best to move the infected orchid plant to a drier space and avoid overhead watering so as to allow the orchid plant to be cured from the rot.

Other pests that will also attack the lady slipper orchid plant is mealy bug (the wooly aphid). Cinnamon, finely ground, will save your orchid plant.

Potting mix and Repotting

Paphiopedilum orchids, the lady slipper orchids, are easy to grow and very rewarding if a few simple principles of culture are followed. First, and most important, the potting medium that is open and vary from bark, sphagnum moss, tree fern fiber or osmunda, gravel, expanded clay balls and even nut shells. Take care never to allow the potting mix to become stale. Paphiopedilum orchids like to be put in fresh potting medium at least once a year, and every six months would be optimal. In cooler climates it is best to make use of a bark and perlite potting mix that is friable. The key to growing orchids of this type is to keep a good root system, as the plants have no bulbs or stems in which to store moisture or nutrients. Potting in a proper medium is necessary to maintain healthy roots.

When repotting, do not divide the plants into small pieces. The larger clumps will produce more new growths and more flowers. Place plants in the smallest pot that will accommodate the root system.

Normally a lady slipper orchid will flower from autumn to spring, and in some cases even through summer. Repotting should be done as soon as possible after the orchid plant has flowered. Furthermore a lady slipper orchid that is in poor condition should be repotted regardless. Repotting will act as a stimulant for new growth.

General tips for Paphiopedilum Orchid care

  • Water your Paphiopedilum orchids early in the morning to give the orchid plant time to dry out during the higher daytime temperatures.
  • After the plants are watered, they should be placed so that the pots do not stand in water. Some people like to place the pots in a tray or saucer of gravel. This helps to insure that the base of the pot is not immersed in water and provides some air circulation under the pot.
  • Lady slipper orchid can only be propagated from seed or by division if the orchid plant is large. Tissue culture and cloning proved to be ineffective to propagate the lady slipper orchid. This fact rendered these orchid plants very precious indeed. However, these orchid plants are not difficult to raise from seed, but it does take long to germinate.
  • Paphiopedilum orchids are shade-loving plants which will not tolerate excessively high light levels.
  • They require a potting mix that will keep their roots moist.
  • They can be grown in a variety of media, ranging from bark mixtures, coconut chunks and fibres to peat concoctions, chopped sphagnum moss, osmunda fibre and tree-fern fibre.
  • They will grow successfully in almost any compost which is free-draining and retain enough moisture.
  • Sandy loam soil and garden soil are not recommended for growing Paphiopedilum orchids because they are semi-terrestrials (some are epiphytic).
  • The Lady Slipper orchids do not possess pseudobulbs like many other orchids. To compensate they use their fleshy leaves for storing nutrients. Therefore, the media around the roots should be kept moist and should not be allowed to get completely dry.
  • High concentrations of fertilizers are likely to be detrimental to Paphiopedilum orchids in cultivation, as they will tolerate only very weak solutions of feed at frequent intervals.
  • Attention to these details will produce healthy plants with attractive foliage and long lasting flowers.