Exotic And Unusual Paphiopedilum Orchids

Paphiopedilum is a Greek derivative from the words Paphius and Pedilon, which means shoes. They are also known as Lady’s Slipper Orchids, and have some traits not generally found in them. They are well sought after by enthusiasts, even as they become rarer to find.

Where to Find These Special Plants

These types were in abundance in Great Britain and Europe, but because they were over harvested, they can only now be found in specialty shops which makes them another rare orchid for collectors. There are roughly 60 species in this genus and are natives of southeast Asia, India, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

They are easy to grow but do take a lot of tenacity and patience to succeed in gaining long lasting blooms, which have a waxy texture. Some blooms can last up to 6 weeks on the plant.

Interesting Characteristics of These Flowers

The flowers are beautiful with variegated blossoms which gives them an exotic look. They have a fascinating range of colors which draws many fanciers of these flowers to admire their beauty. The flowers can be white, maroon, yellow, red, pink, green and deep burgundy (almost black). The blooms on some slipper ones can be quite extravagant with long, twisting petals and vivid blooms. An example of this flower is the Paphiopedilum Philippinense var. Roebelenii.

Although this flower has a rather large petal, almost pitcher shaped, this plant is not carnivorous. The use of the large petal is to retain the pollinators so that they visit the correct parts of the flower. In fishing terms it’s called the “catch and release” program.

Some species also have hairs, warts, stripes and other markings which make them so interesting in appearance.

How It Retained The Name Lady Slipper?

They are easily recognized by a cup-like lip called the pouch and a prominent dorsal sepal, which looks like a dainty little slipper. Hence they were given the name Lady’s Slipper. Another description that has been given to the flower is helmet and mustache, which when you look at it, is a very apt description!

The plants are mostly found growing on the ground or rocks but there are certain species like Paphiopedilum Lowii which grow in trees. They are a small to moderate sized plant, with leaves that are stiff, waxy or leathery. They range in color from glossy green to beautifully mottled. The leaves are generally a fan-shaped tuft.

The plant has an erect stem and bears one or more flowers, which arise from the center of each new growth. Some species such as Paphio Stonei and Rothschildianurn, can produce up to six flowers on each stem.

Seasons In Which are Perfect for Observing These Specimens

The main blooming season is from mid-autumn onwards, although some variations occur among the species.

These particular organisms are divided into two groups:

  • Warm-Growing: this group consists of mottled-leave types like Paphopedilum Maudiae, which is an ideal orchid to grow for beginners
  • Cool-growing: the leaves on this plant are plain, green leaves

Filtered Light Is Always Best

As with most flowers, Paphiopedilum orchids prefer bright filtered sunlight, good air circulation and good drainage so that the roots don’t get too wet. Don’t water the leaves as they are prone to rot. They will grow near a window or under lights as long as the daytime temperature is no higher than 85 degrees F. All types, both warm and cool growing types, require reasonably cool nights, especially in the spring when they will be setting their buds for Autumn and the flowering season.

This group of orchids do not contain pseudobulbs, so their nutrients are stored in the leaves.

Caring For Paphiopedilums Using These Five Tactics

Paphiopedilums are great for beginners, as they are one of the easiest orchids to grow, and they only require bright light and normal home temperatures. They’re also great for growing in confined or small spaces. They are a relative of the North American temperate-zone Lady’s Slipper orchid, the Cypripediums. Taking care of them does not require any high maintenance providing you follow the guidelines.

They do not like stale potting medium, so it’s a good idea to change it once a year, but preferably every six months. The secret to producing beautiful blooms is to look after the root system as they don’t have bulbs or stems to store moisture or nutrients.

Watering Your Plant

If your plant is new, wait between 10-12 days before watering it, and then once a week from then on, depending on the climate. Before you move it into a decorative container, make sure that all the residual water has been drained off first. You need to keep the roots moist and damp but not soggy. During hot and humid weather, it’s advisable to give them a light mist first thing in the morning. Too much water will cause the flowers to deteriorate. By following these simple rules, your blooms should flower for up to 3 months.

Using Plant Food To Watch Your Flowers Blossom

To fertilize Paphiopedilums, be sure to use one with a high nitrogen content. It’s recommended that you fertilize approximately once a month, taking care not to over-fertilize as you will burn your plant. To avoid this happening you can dilute the fertilizer and use it maybe twice a month. Occasionally it’s a good idea to drench the plant with water to flush the fertilizer from the pot.

Temperature Ranges That Will Produce Colorful Blooms

This particular species grows in either a warm or cool temperature. To thrive in a warm climate, the daytime temperatures need to be around 75-85 degrees F and not below 60 degrees F during the night. These plants from the warmer climates produce beautiful mottled leaves. The solid-green leafed plants growing in higher altitudes, grow best in daytime temperatures around 70-80 degrees F, and nighttime no lower than 50-60 degrees F.

They require humidity, so if you have them growing in a greenhouse and the conditions are dry, it’s a great idea to use a humidifier.

Lighting Up Your House for Your Orchids

Paphiopedilums do not like to be moved from spot to spot, so once you have found a great place for it, leave it alone so that it can acclimatize to its’ new position. Leaving it in the one spot will give you a much healthier plant. Place them in a bright sunny position but not direct sunlight eg. a window, but also making sure that they avoid the midday sun, as this could burn the leaves. Not nearly as much light is required so make certain that you provide only adequate amounts unlike Cattleyas, Cymbidiums or Vandas, which require much more lighting for spectacular blossoms.

The leaves should be a solid green color, so if the leaves start to look pale or yellowish, it could be getting too much light. If you’re growing them in a greenhouse under lights, then using four 40 watt fluorescent tubes and two 40 watt incandescent bulbs directly overhead, can produce enough light for them. If you notice the leaves are a dark green and hanging limply, then you don’t have enough light.

Re-Potting Tips You Can Use

To increase the life of your plant, it’s advisable to re-pot at a minimum, every two to three years with fresh potting medium. Using a fine-grade bark or simple mix, which is well draining, is the recommendation. Do not divide your plant at this stage, as the larger clumps will produce more new growth and more flowers. Placing your plant in a smaller pot to accommodate the root system, will also encourage new growth.

Lady’s Slipper orchids are the only terrestrial ones commonly grown indoors. They can grow up to 2 feet in height, and they will reward you with many blooms which will last for weeks if they are cared for properly.