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
Check this section again for more tips.
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!
Slipper (Paphiopedilum and Phragmipedium)
Care and Growing Tips
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
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
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