The Lady's Slipper Orchid
General: The "Old World" Lady's Slipper orchid species (Genus Paphiopedilum) are found as far north as China, and as far south along the Malaysian archipelago, as Papua, New Guinea. The natural habitat experiences heavy rainfall - sometimes as much as ten feet per year - high humidity, vigorous air movement and shady growing conditions.
The "New World" Lady's Slipper orchid species, (Genus Phragmipedium) are found in Central and South America, usually growing close to streams or other water sources. While the rainfall of most Phrag. habitats is less than that of Paph. habitats, Phrag. roots always grow in saturated zones - sometimes in the water itself. For most Slipper orchid species and all of the hybrids, satisfactory growing conditions can easily be provided in the home with minimal effort. A greenhouse is not necessary to grow these rare and beautiful orchids.
Light: On average, about 1,500 foot candles for Paphs., and 1,800 foot-candles for most Phrags. These light levels can be found in an east window, or 4 to 6 inches below the fluorescent lights of a typical light cart ("Flara-Cart"). A west or south window can be used as long as a shear curtain reduces the intensity of the light. Phrags. besseae, d'alessandroi and kovachii require lower light levels around 1,000 fc
Temperature: Both types of Lady's Slippers will thrive in Day temperatures ranging from 70F to 90F, and night temperatures from 55F to 65 F. As temperatures rise, plant transpiration increases and additional water is needed. As temperatures fall, less water is required.
Humidity: 50% to 80% relative humidity can be provided by placing the pots in the tray filled with 1" to 2" of gravel, and 3/4 inch of water. The evaporation will increase the humidity around the plants. Misting is appropriate as long as the plants dry off by night-fall.
Air Movement: A small fan operating 24 hours a day in the growing area will provide all the air movement necessary. As air movement increases across the surface of the leaf, transpiration increases and the plant will require more water.
Watering: Water with un-softened water only - about every third day, summer or Winter. Some growers have been successful growing their Phrags. (Phaphs!) in a shallow pan of water. Make sure to discard the water in the tray every week, and refill with fresh water to avoid salt buildup.
Fertilizer: Fertilizer with Peter's 30-10-10 every two weeks in Summer, and every three weeks in Winter. Use a quarter teaspoon of dry fertilizer per gallon of water. It is best to apply a solution of fertilizer after you have watered.
Potting Mix: Lady's Slipper orchids can not grow in regular house plant soil - the roots will die. Instead, use a mixture of 6 parts seedling bark, 1 part #3 charcoal and 1 part coarse perlite.
Repotting: All Lady's orchids require annual repotting for optimal health. Simply remove the plant from the old pot, shake off the roots to remove the old mix, place the plant in an appropriately sized new pot (or black in the old pot if it fits) and fill around the roots with fresh mix. Water thoroughly. Use only plastic pots, as clay pots dry out too fast and keep the roots too cool.
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Fox Valley Orchids, Ltd.
65 Drendel Lane
Naperville, IL 60565