Information on Paphiopedilum
Paphiopedilum (paf-ee-oh-PED-i-lum)s are popularly known as ‘slipper orchids’ because of the resemblance of the labellum to a lady’s slipper. Their natural distribution is from the Philippine Islands to New Guinea and westward to India, China, Vietnam and Thailand. They are terrestrial in growth habit. Their natural habitat is the shady forest floor or leaf mould filled limestone rock crevices where rainfall and relative humidity are high. Species are both single flowered and multi flowered. The single flowered are usually much smaller in vegetative growth and reach maturity much earlier than the multi flowered species. Paphiopedilums do not have the flamboyant colours of some of the other orchids but they display a great diversity of shape, size and interesting colour patterns in their foliage and flowers are usually long lasting. Paphiopedilums are relatively easy to grow in suitable conditions, as they are not as susceptible to a number of diseases, which affect other orchids.
Temperature: Paphiopedilums require cool to intermediate temperatures and tolerate short periods outside this range. A minimum temperature of 15ºC is usually recommended for species with tessellated foliage. Most other species will tolerate lower minimum temperatures.
Light: They require more shade than most other orchids. A hand held 30 cm above the plant should throw a slight to no discernable shadow. Medium shade (70%) is ideal in winter but additional shade may be necessary in summer.
Air Movement: Fresh air movement is important to prevent problems associated with accumulation of moisture in the leaf axils.
Watering: These plants do not have pseudobulbs so they are incapable of storing moisture and nutrients. The root system should be kept moist but not wet. Paphiopedilums should be watered early in the morning to ensure that foliage is dry by evening.
Fertilizing: Paphiopedilums are not heavy feeders. A complete fertilizer, at half recommended rate, should be applied every two weeks. Some growers make supplementary applications of a weak solution of magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts) once a month and a very weak solution of calcium nitrate every fortnight.
Propagation: Paphiopedilums do not like to be over potted and seem to grow better in standard rather than in squat pots. The potting medium must be free draining and well aerated. Adult plants should be repotted every 12 to 18 months, smaller plants as frequently as 6 months. A proven potting medium is a 3:1 mix of 10-15mm composted pine bark and polystyrene or charcoal of the same size. Some growers use a 3: 2 sphagnum moss and perlite mix.
Pests & Diseases: Watch for pests such as mealy bugs and scale, which can be controlled with appropriate chemicals.
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