All the excess water needs to drain out of the pot after watering your orchid, this will prevent rotting roots; many orchids grow on trees in the wild where their roots are exposed to the air.

Check this section again for more tips.


Most cultivated orchids don't grow in soil because they would suffocate; in tropical regions they're generally found growing in trees, on rocks, cliffs - anywhere but in the dirt!


Lady Slipper (Paphiopedilum and Phragmipedium)
Care and Growing Tips

These are two superficially similar groups of orchids, collectively (along with the rarely cultivated Cypripedium that some of us know from northern forests) known as Lady's Slippers. As with all orchids, the plants generate new shoots each year, sometimes reblooming more than once per year, and are, in theory, immortal. A few of the early hybrids from the 1850s and 1860s yet live in nurseries in England.

The Paphiopedilums are those Lady's Slipper orchids that are found in Asia, from outlying populations in southwestern India, north across the Himalayas into south China, east through the Philippines and Indonesia as far as the islands of Bougainville and Guadalcanal. Because many are isolated on the myriad islands that separate the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the Paphiopedilums have diversified into more than 60 different species; yet all bear a characteristic "slipper", the third petal or lip, modified to force unwary insects to pollenate the flowers without a reward of nectar. Their shapes range from the pleasant to the bizarre; their colors from cooly soothing to frankly lurid. The individual blooms typically last 2 to 3 months in perfection. While it's not possible here to elaborate exact culture for each variety, most of the thousands upon thousands of hybrids of this popular variety can be grown in the following general ways.

As regards temperature, there are two types of Paphiopedilum: warm, and cool. Warm Paphiopedilums (when your tongue gets twisted it is permissible to shorten the name to "Paph") prefer nights in the upper 50s to mid 60s F, rather as do we humans, year round. Mainly, warm Paphs are recognized by their attractive, mottled light and dark green (some have 3 colors of green!) leaves. The mottling is a strategy employed by these forest floor plants to catch a bit of sunshine: inhabiting such shady locations, they spread their chlorophyll out over as large a surface as possible in hopes that one of the few wandering dapples of sun will briefly course over it.

Cool Paphs generally have plain green leaves, sometimes with a purplish flush or speckles underneath. These mostly derive from six species found in northern India, which were much used by the British hybridizers in the 19th century - no great surprise, as India was part of the British Empire at the time. Those species are all native to cloud forest environments, and so cool Paph hybrids can be kept the same as the warm varieties but must, must, must be kept cooler in the late summer through fall, and only allowed back into the pleasant warmth when their robust, waxy blooms are fully opened. Without this cooling period you will have a robust but never-blooming plant.

These temperature requirements are general rules of thumb. This is a varied group of orchids, and exceptions do exist: many Chinese varieties (species and hybrids) can go through winters in near freezing temperatures, yet have mottled leaves; some varieties that can bear several flowers per stem simultaneously have plain green leaves but must be kept warm. We would surely advise if such were the case with a plant you or your lucky gift recipient were to recieve.

A spot out of direct sun generally suits the Paphs well - again, there are exceptions but we would surely advise if such were the case.

All the Paphs like to be kept quite moist. Generally, water two or three times per week, never allowing them to become dry. Water in the mornings as with other orchids.

You can fertilize Paphs with an extremely dilute solution of fertilizer, about two or three times per year is enough. Dissolve about 1/2 teaspoon of commercial fertilizer in a gallon of water and water through the pot thoroughly. Paphs really don't need much, some seem to need no, fertilizer.

There are a few different requirements for the Phragmipediums, the Central and South American Lady's Slipper orchids. Let's call them Phrags. The Phrags range from southern Mexico south to Peru, eastward into Brazil. With little discontinuity in environment aside from differences in elevation, there is considerably less differentiation than is found in the Paphiopedilums - only about 16 or 20 species are known (though a new one was introduced to botany in 1982, and another about 1994). Most bear multiple flowers per stem, opening only one at a time, and have plain green leaves.

Virtually all have the same cultural requirements: Being plants found either on rocks, sometimes in trees, or in mossy banks alongside streams, they must have copious quantities of water. Watering these orchids every day is the safest thing to do. These orchids like to be kept really soaking wet.

Almost all the varieties, both species and hybrids, enjoy comfortable indoor temperatures as do we humans, nights can be anywhere from about 55 degrees F to 68; days can be in the low 70s up to about 85. They prefer brighter light; these are orchids of brightly shady forests, and so their needs for light can be met easily. One to two hours of full sun in the early morning, OR sun diminished by sheer curtains for a longer period, OR very bright shade, such as a spot in a sunroom that happens never to be in full sun, are some variations any of which would provide enough light to allow the plants to grow and bloom.

Phrags can be fertilized a bit more than the Paphs, the same thin solution of fertilizer can be applied every month.

The last item of concern is you! Take a little time to admire the vivid colors; go closer and explore the intricacies of the floral structure. We think you'll find a bit of peace of mind, a brief mental vacation in your piece of tropical mountain paradise.


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