Love Your Lady Slipper Orchids
Love Your Lady Slipper Orchids
Members of the genus paphiopedilum are found in southern Asia, in habitats ranging from hot jungles to cool mountain peaks. They are semi-terrestrial, growing in rich humus and other material on the forest floor as well as on cliffs in pockets of humus and occasionally in trees. Much like the Phalaenopsis, these are considered the easiest Orchids to grow in the average home. Lady Slipper Orchids grow 10-30 cm (4-12″) high and bloom most abundantly in fall through spring. The truly unique flower occurs on a single, upright stem and is characterized by a prominent pouch (the”slipper”) flanked by two horizontal petals and crowned by a broad dorsal sepal that is often attractively striped or speckled. Although the size of the flower varies with the variety, many are 7-10 cm (3-4″) across. Each bloom lasts approximately 4-6 weeks, or even as long as 3 months. Leaves are 15-20 cm (6-8″) long, strap like, leathery, and solid green or mottled.
• Lady Slipper Orchids do not require high light levels.
• Choose an east or west-facing window or near a shaded south window. Direct midday sun will actually overheat the plant and scorch the leaves.
• Paphiopedilums also grow well under fluorescent lights.
• Ideally, place plants 15-30 cm (6-12″) below 2 or 4 tubes that are full spectrum for 12-14 hours a day.
• Mottled-leaved Lady Slippers are the warm growing type and prefer 15-18°C (60-65°F) at night and 24- 29°C (75-85°F) or more during the day.
• The green-leaved varieties are the cool growing type so night temperatures should be around 10-15°C (50-60°F) with day temperatures around 24-27°C (75-80°F). In fact, they must have night time temperatures of 15°C (60°F) or less from mid-March to mid-June to set flowers.
• To protect plants from rot when it’s cold keep humidity low and avoid moisture on the leaves or in the crowns of the plants.
• In extreme heat, protect plants from burning by shading them more, increasing humidity and air movement around the plants.
• Lady Slipper Orchids have no pseudobulbs that store moisture so water must be constantly available to the roots.
• All of these Orchids need a moist growing medium of never soggy, never dry.
• Water once or twice a week and keep in mind that overwatering can be fatal.
• Lady Slipper Orchids need only moderate humidity, between 40 and 50%. This is easily provided by placing plants on trays of gravel, partially filled with water, so that they never sit in water.
• Misting is another option to increase humidity.
• When humidity is high remember that air movement reduces leaf temperature and discourages water-borne pathogens.
• The easiest way to create airflow is with a small fan running near, but not on, the plants. This is, in fact, beneficial to all Orchids because in their natural tropical environment there is always a light breeze.
• Re-potting should be done about every 2 years or as the growing medium decomposes.
• Use a fine or medium grade fir bark with additives like Perlite, coarse sand, and sphagnum moss. Moisture retention with excellent drainage is required.
• Large plants can be divided. Pull or cut the fans of the leaves apart into clumps of 3 to 5 growths.
• Smaller divisions will grow but may not flower for some time, if at all.
• Spread the roots over a small amount of potting medium in the bottom of the pot and fill with more medium so that the junction of roots and stem is buried 12 mm deep in the centre of the pot.
• Orchids prefer being crowded so don’t move up to too large a container. An average Lady Slipper should have a 10-15 cm (4-6″) pot.
Try growing Cattleya Orchids with these tips.
• Dilute Schultz Water Soluble Plant Food for Orchids 19-31-17 to 1/4 to 1/2 the recommended strength and apply it every other watering to avoid burning the fleshy, hairy roots.
• If the water is hard in your area, you may need to dilute the fertilizer.
• Once a month flush your Paphiopedilum with clear water to eliminate excess fertilizer that can burn roots.
• In cool weather, fertilize once a month.
What to Watch for
• Paphiopedilums are relatively pest-free.
• Treat spider mites with Safer’s Insecticidal Soap.
• Mealy bugs can sometimes occur in the leaf junctions particularly if humidity is low. Manually remove them with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.
• With Lady Slippers, it’s all about the roots. Encourage a healthy, vigorous root system and you’ll have a healthy, floriferous Orchid.
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