Paphiopedilum Orchids At A Glance

  • Scientific name: Paphiopedilum Orchid
  • Common name:  Lady slipper orchid, orchid Venus sandal or Venus slipper orchid.
  • Origin:  tropical Asia, southeast Asia
  • Type of orchid : Terrestrial
  • Flowering: Spring. Lasts 4 to 8 weeks
  • Location: A lot of lighting, without direct sunlight exposure
  • Watering:  Regular. Minimum once to twice times per week
  • Humidity:  Average 40% -50%
  • Level of difficulty:  Medium

The Paphiopedilum orchid is also known as a lady’s slipper, a Venus sandal or a Venus slipper. 

They are easily recognizable by their particular bag-shaped lip and by the large dorsal sepal.

The lip has a short column located in its center.

The flowers last a long time, even two months, either on the plant or as a cut flower.

All these curious names have their origin in the flowers of the Paphiopedilum, with a labellum (lower part of the orchid flower) that resembles a pouch in its form. 
As a curiosity and although it has no botanical value, its name “Paphiopedilum”, has its origin in the Greek word paphie, goddess of Paphos (Venus) and the Latin word pedilon, which means sandal.

Paphiopedilum Orchid Structural Characteristics

Within the genus Paphiopedilum we have about 70 different species of orchids, most are terrestrial and very few of them are epiphytes. We can find them in their natural state in the most tropical regions of Southeast Asia, Malaysia, Sumatra and islands of the Pacific Ocean. 

They grow in a sympodal form, that is, with horizontal growth stems. From the creeping stems appear some leaves about 30 centimeters long, with a few relatively short floral sticks, at the end of which the orchid flowers appear.

  • The Paphiopedilum orchids can be divided into two large groups:Paphiopedilum orchids with bright green foliage that produce a single flower per floral rod.
  • Paphiopedilum orchids with speckled or mottled leaves, in which we can find varieties that only have one flower per floral rod, and others that can instead generate several flowers for each floral stem

In the cultivation of Paphiopedilum it is necessary to take into account that there are basically three types of orchids:

  • Those that grow in the mountains, with a rather cold and humid climate.
  • Others that grow in wooded areas, with warm climates and semi-shade.
  • And the third group, which also prefers warm temperatures, but at the same time good lighting.

Paphiopedilum Orchid Care

Light Requirements For The Paphiopedilum Orchid

Begin with a dim lighting and that does not receive direct solar illumination, to avoid that the leaves burn. If our orchid is going to be near a window, it is better to be oriented towards the west, where sunlight should not be a big problem.

Temperature

There are several tyes of Paphiopedilum orchid flowers Since we are facing different group of orchids with very different needs, we will determine what temperature is most appropriate for each species and the way to distinguish them is through their flowering.

  • The Paphiopedilum orchids with bright green foliage that produce a single flower per floral stick, are native to mountainous areas and cold climates. These orchids require daytime temperatures between 50°F (10ºC) and 60°F (15ºC) in winter while the orchids at night can be exposed to temperatures around 44°F (7ºC) and 50°F (10ºC). In summer the temperatures during the day should oscillate between 60°F (15ºC) and 65°F (18ºC), while during the night they will be fine between 46°F (8ºC) and 60°F (15ºC).
  • Then we have the second group of Paphiopedilum orchid flowers, with speckled or mottled leaves, which only produce one flower per floral stick. These need higher temperatures. In winter the daytime temperatures have to be between 65° F (18ºC) to 68°F (20ºC), while at night they will be between 53° F (12ºC) and 59° F (15ºC). During the summer, instead, the daytime temperatures must move between 65°F (18ºC) and 77°F (25ºC), to go to ranges of 60°F (15ºC) to (65°F) 18ºC during the night.
  • And finally the Paphiopedilum orchids with speckled or mottled leaves, which can generate several flowers for each floral stem, are those that need higher temperatures. For these orchids the temperatures must move in stable ranges throughout the year, being between 68°F (20ºC) to 77°F (25ºC) during the day, and from 65°F (18ºC) to 68°F (20ºC) during the night.
paphiopedilum

Paphiopedilum Orchid Watering

As you may have noticed, already in this article, with the Paphiopedilum orchid, we are facing a genus of orchids quite different from the rest, since they are not epiphytes and do not have pseudobulbs. 

These differences also force us to envisage an irrigation pattern of their own. Paphiopedilum orchid specimen should be watered regularly, taking care not to overdo it and leave the pots soaked. 

A good idea is to water in the morning, using lukewarm water. 

The frequency of irrigation will depend on the pot, the environmental temperature and the time of year, although as a rule a good idea is to water at least once or twice a week, during the winter months, increasing the frequency of waterings during the summer .

It is not advisable for the substrate to dry completely, so that even if it is not watered, we can spray the substrate, always in the early hours of the morning, to allow time for the leaves (if wet) to dry during the day.

Humidity Requirements For Paphiopedilums

The relative humidity needed by Paphiopedilum ranges between 40% and 50%. 

If we observe that the orchid needs a greater proportion of humidity, we can use humidifiers or place trays with expanded clay under the orchid, taking care that the water is not in contact with the roots, to avoid rots and diseases. 

As a rule of thumb, the higher the humidity, the greater the need for ventilation.

Substrate for the Paphiopedilum Orchid

For Paphiopedilum orchids to grow healthy and strong, they need to take from the substrate the nutrients they need. 

Although they are not epiphytes, the substrate for orchids has to have a good proportion of pine bark. A good substrate for Paphiopedilum orchid plants would be formed by:

  • Pine bark by 40%
  • Blonde peat, which does not retain too much moisture in 40% too.
  • Perlite by 10%
  • Coarse sand in another 10%

Note that these components do not retain too much water, they allow drainage anda good aeration of the roots.

Repotting, Transplant and Substrate Change in the Paphiopedilum Orchid

The transplant and repotting of the Paphiopedilum orchid does not differ much from most orchids. Therefore, what we explained in other article about Vandas or Cambrias is also applicable here.

It is necessary to proceed to change the pot when the root ball occupies all the available space, and therefore, does not allow good drainage, aeration of the roots and jeopardizes that the Paphiopedilum orchid can grow and thrive.

It is mandatory to utilize a pot larger than the previous one, leaving about one to one and a half inch (two to three centimeters) of separation between the root ball and the interior wall of the plant container or pot.

As a rule of thumb we can establish that they need a change of pot every two years. 

Fertilization Requirements For These Orchids

The ideal time to fertilize the Paphiopedilum orchid, is when it is in full growth (spring), avoiding fertilization when the roots are dry, as they can suffer irreparable damage. 

The fertilizers must be suitable for orchids, with a ratio of 30-10-10. For a good state of the Paphiopedilum orchid, it can also be fertilized during autumn, with a 20-20-20 product, and suspend all fertilization activities during the winter.

paphiopedilum orchid

In the nursery, I have tried with a different formula than at home, with good results. This balanced formula was 30:10:10 (30 parts of nitrogen, 10 parts of phosphorus and 10 parts of potassium) and plant growth was stimulated quite well.

In fall, I have tried also the balanced formula 20:20:20 or also 18: 18: 18 and seemed good too.

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