Paphiopedilum Orchid Care

The inhabitants of the Paphiopedilum world are a varied lot growing under many different conditions. This Paphiopedilum orchid care sheet tries to strike a happy medium of what works for all the members of the Paphiopedilum Alliance.

How Much Light

Paphiopedilums live on the floor of the jungle or in rock outcroppings where the light is filtered through the trees. While most Paphs prefer low light levels they will do just fine in the same amount of light that makes your Phalaenopsis happy. The strap-leafed (multiflora type) varieties can stand more light, up to about twice as much.

Mottled Leaf Paphiopedilum

Mottled-Leaf Paphiopedilum Orchid Zone Hybrid Z4974

For those of you that want numbers most Paphs will grow well with about 10 to 15 percent of full sun, or about 1000 to 1500 foot candles. Strap-leaf varieties will grow and flower better at about 30 percent of full sun or about 3000 foot candles.

Temperatures for Paphiopedilums

Paphiopedilum orchids can be divided into two temperature groups, the warm growers and the cool growers. You can grow the two groups separately or together. Either growing method will give satisfactory results.

One temperature for all is the simplest and will provide good results. Keep your day temps between 70 to 85 degrees and your night temps in the 55 to 60 degree range.

Paphiopedilum Gloria Naugle 'Black Beauty'

Paphiopedilum Gloria Naugle 'Black Beauty'

The second way is to divide the plants into two groups, warm growers and cool growers. The warm growers are the mottled-leaf type and the strap-leaf types (multiflora). The cool growers are the green-leaf types.

Give the warm growers 75 to 85 degree days, 60 to 65 degree nights. Give the cool growers 75 to 80 degree days and 50 to 60 degree nights.

Actually Paphiopedilums are a very tough group of plants capable of growing in much broader temperature ranges than given here. If your growing in a greenhouse and something goes wrong with your heating or cooling system, I would give odds that your last serving plants are the complex Paphiopedilums. They are as tough as nails, capable of going from just above freezing to over 100 degrees (not recommended).

Watering your Paphiopedilum Orchid

Paphiopedilum Mystic Knight 'Outrageous'

Orchid Zone hybrid Z3374 (Elfstone 'Green Gem' x Oriental Mystique 'The Best')

Never, never never let your Paphiopedilum dry out. A dry Paph is a dead Paph use a good draining potting media like fir bark and water the heck out of it.

You want a rule of thumb? Ok, I’ll stick my thumb out but remember that a rule of thumb is just a rough guide and you have to do the fine-tuning. Water twice a week in the summer and once a week in the winter. Water somewhere in-between during the spring and fall.

Here is an even easier rule of thumb. If you are successful with Phalaenopsis water your Paphiopedilums twice as often.

Use fertilizer at every other watering at one quarter to one-half strength. Do not apply the fertilizer to a dry plant, be sure and water it first. This is especially important for members of the Paphiopedilum genus.

Potting A Paphiopedilum Orchid

Paphiopedilum sanderianum

Paphiopedilum sanderianum - The petals of it's flowers can grow up to 36 inches long.

Attention all you potting nuts out there this is the plant for you! Paphiopedilums are strange in more ways than one. The more often you repot a Paph the happier it is. Paphs are sensitive to salts in their growing media and putting them in fresh potting mix usually causes a good spurt of growth. Why? Repotting with fresh mix removes the salts that have accumulated in the old potting mix.

There are growers that repot their Paphs two, three or even four times a year. But a word of warning avoid potting during the late fall or winter, you could get a nasty surprise come spring, a very dead orchid.

That’s all there is to taking care of a Paphiopedilum orchid. This group of plants really is easy if you just remember to water well, kept the salts down in the potting mix and you should have great success.

Paphiopedilums: The Book

Tropical Slipper Orchids by Harold Koopowitz

Tropical Slipper Orchids by Harold Koopowitz

Tropical Slipper Orchids by Harold Koopowitz is a book for those who love Paphiopedilums. And for those of us with a love of Paphs it has everything…except enough pages. Oh, did I mention it also covers the New World Lady Slipper Orchids, Phragmipediums.

While the real focus of this book is on Lady Slipper hybrids and breeding there is something for everyone, like all the gorgeous pictures that just litter the book from front to back.

The cultivation chapter is what most of us are interested in, while only 24 pages long is packed with information. Good information from a true expert.

Included is a chapter is titled Selecting Plants for a Collection. This chapter alone makes the book worth acquiring. Most of us could sure use help in selecting a healthy plant of good quality. Harold takes the time to explain what makes a good quality plant and what to look for when plant lust sends you on a buying spree..

Then there is the section aimed at those who are just beginning to grow Paphiopedilums, here you will find recommendations for beginners and a short list of mistakes to avoid when acquiring your first plants.

Most of the rest of the book is about species, hybrids and breeding by one of the top Paphiopedilum breeders in the world. Don’t forget the pictures!

If you are fascinated by Paphiopedilums or Phragmipediums this book should be in your library, dog eared and worn but in your library. Can you tell that I like the book?

If you want to know more (i.e. better reviews). Use this link to check out the reviews at Amazon. (Opens in a new window.)

Paphiopedilums: The Video

Paphiopedilums in the wild. This short video shows Paphiopedilum stonei growing in its native habitat. While the video is mediocre at best it does give you a glimpse at a Paphiopedilum growing in the limestone forest of western Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo.

Only 44 seconds long! Surely you can afford 44 seconds?

Visit the Habitat of a Lady's Slipper Orchid

Click on the image above to open the video in a lightbox on this page

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