More than 60 species of Paphiopedilum (pronounced paf-ee-oh-ped-i-lum) are found in nature from the high hills of northern India to the lowlands of the Philippines and New Guinea.
All Paphiopedilum are characterized by both a cup-like lip called the pouch, and a prominent dorsal sepal. They are often called slipper orchids which refers to the shape of this pouch. The plants are mostly terrestrials although some, like Paphiopedilum lowii
may be found growing epiphytically, (on trees) or lithophytically, (on rocks). They are dwarf to moderate sized with leaves that are stiff, waxy or leathery and range from a glossy green to beautifully mottled. The leaves usually form a fan-shaped tuft. An erect scape, bearing one or more flowers, arises from the centre of each new growth.
Paphiopedilum are divided into two cultural groups: the warm-growing, mottled-leaved types like the famous Paphiopedilum Maudiae (ideal for beginners), and the cool-growing, plain-green leaved types.
Temperature and Humidity
Green-leaved types ideally require a minimum night temperature of approx. 55°F while the mottled-leaved types do better with a night temperature of 60-65°F. Day temperatures should range between 70-80°F although short periods of higher temperature will not injure the plants. The humidity should be moderate, between 50-60% during the day.
Light & Air Movement
Paphiopedilum enjoy medium light intensity, about 800-1000 foot candles, throughout the year for optimal growth. Avoid direct sun, except in the early morning. In the house, move plants back from the window at the height of the midday sun or ideally, grow them behind a shade curtain. Moist air and vigorous air movement at a favourable temperature is highly recommended to keep the leaves cool and to dry drops of water on the plant, thereby reducing the chance of spreading disease. Hot or cold draughts cause bud-blast (the buds turn brown and die).
Watering & Fertilizing
Paphiopedilum do not have pseudobulbs and so, like Phalaenopsis, they must have a regular and constant water supply, keeping the compost moist but not wet. Plants typically need to be watered every five to seven days, but weather conditions may modify this ned. Feed plants at half the strength recommended on the pack. Fertilize plants three times in succession and the fourth time, flush through with pure water to leach out any mineral salts that have accumulated.
Because most Paphiopedilum are terrestrial a medium that drains well but retains moisture is needed. Four parts fir bark to one part Perlite is excellent. Finely chopped fir bark (one-eighth to one quarter-inch) is preferable.
Repot Paphiopedilum before the growing medium decomposes and before the plant has outgrown its pot, or when it needs dividing (i.e. about once each year). The repotting procedure entails first clipping off dead roots, then positioning the plant in the new container and finally filling in around the roots with the compost medium until it reaches slightly over the base of the plant. Do not bury the new plant growths, as this will cause rotting. The base of each growth should be in contact with the growing medium to encourage new roots to form. Restrain watering to a minimum until evidence of new growth, but do not neglect humidity or the plant will dehydrate.
Recently repotted Paphiopedilum should be placed in a shady area and moved gradually into the correct light conditions once new growth begins.
Paul Phillips 1996
- The Genus Paphiopedilum, by Guido Braem
- The Slipper Orchids by, Catherine Cash
- Orchids for Everyone, by Williams et al (Beginners)
- The Genus Paphiopedilum, by Phillip Crib
The North Hampshire Orchid Society is affiliated to The Royal Horticultural Society & The Orchid Society of Great Britain
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