When most North Carolinians think of a lady slipper orchid they picture the native pink Cypripedium growing throughout our Smokey Mountains. However, did you know that the lady slipper is also a type of orchid that grows naturally on six continents?
Orchids come in all shapes and sizes. The lady slipper (Paphiopedilum-also called paph) is native to southeastern Asia and a special addition to any household or orchid collection. Lady slipper orchids come in a wide range of colors and color combinations. Combined with a distinctive pouched lip, these are guaranteed to add drama to any kind of arrangement. Like the Phalaenopsis orchid, it has become one of the most popular ways to bring natural beauty into the home.

So what makes a lady slipper so unique? Lady slippers are a sympodial terrestrial orchid, meaning they grow on the ground and have multiple growing points. Lady slippers grow horizontally as opposed to the Phalaenopsis orchid, which is monopodial and grows from a single stem increasing in height with age.

Lady slippers’ terrestrial roots are short, thick, and spongy and their leaves are thin and often mottled, making them very attractive even when not flowering. In general, green-leaved paphs prefer cooler temperatures while mottled-leaved paphs prefer warmer temperatures, but both are very adaptable. They can withstand temperatures down to 40 degrees and temperatures as high as 90 degrees.

With their short root systems, lady slippers are perfect for a person who tends to over water plants as these lack pseudobulbs and need to be watered twice per week. As with most orchids, be sure not to water at the center of the plant as this can cause crown rot. This being said, they do like to dry out a little in between waterings.

Lady slippers should be repotted every year after blooming in a fine-grain bark mixture that allows good drainage. Since paphs are terrestrial orchids they are happiest growing in shade or medium light. Morning sun is the best.

Fertilize on a regular schedule with a 20-20-20 fertilizer during the winter, and a high nitrogen fertilizer during the warmer growing months. Many Paphiopedilums can produce several flowers over the course of a few months so wait until the blooming spike turns brown before cutting it off. Make sure to stake the bloom while growing to prevent the weight of the bulb from bending the stem. Once the bloom is opened, a cooler temperature around 65 degrees can help prolong the bloom, which should last for two months.

While some may argue that lady slippers tend to be a bit temperamental, with the right light, water, and fertilizer they are an easy tropical orchid for anyone to grow. Their colors are striking and the foliage is a decoration all in itself. Be forewarned, after bringing one home, you may find yourself addicted to this orchid.

Photos courtesy of Atlantic Avenue Orchid and Garden.

Christian Sloan enjoys caring for orchids both at home and while working in the greenhouse at Atlantic Avenue Orchid and Garden in Raleigh.

Lady Slipper Orchids

Home › Orchid Care › Lady Slipper Orchids

Care Tips And Maintenance For Paphiodeliums

Lady Slipper Orchids are one of the most beautiful and unusual orchids. Here are some essential orchid care tips for this unusual but surprisingly easy to grow plant.

These pretty orchids should not be missing in your orchid collection!

Lady Slippers are my favorite orchids! If you have a look at their beautiful flowers it is not too surprising why!

Also the Paphiodelium Hybrids are easily cultivated as house plants. They can be grown on any window sill with decent light conditions. Their needs would be similar to African Violets or Anthuriums.

Paphiodelium orchids originate from parts of Europe, Asia and North America. The Showy Lady Slipper for example is a native plant to North America and the state flower of Minnesota. A lot of these species are protected and it is illegal to take them from the wild.

Most Pahiodelium Plants available today are hybrids. You can get varieties with one flower or several flowers on one stem. The lady slipper flower can last for several weeks if not months! Some varieties have speckled leaves that are very attractive.

Orchid Growing Tips For Paphiodelium

Where to grow your Paphiodelium orchids?

Most Paphiodelium plants like normal room temperature and humidity levels. A bright living room window is ideal.

You should avoid very hot south facing windows or use some shading in those conditions.

Potting Mix and Repotting:

Lady Slippers like a bit a finer potting mix than other orchid varieties. Buy an orchid potting mix with coconut chips.

Repot your lady slipper flower at least every two years. Sometimes even every year might be better. It depends on the plant growth and health.

Also if you feel that the potting mix breaks down and compacts to much it is time for repotting irrespective of the time of the year.

Don’t pull the plants apart or damage them in any way in the process. Bigger plants will give you more and better quality flowers. (repotting orchids – more info)

Water your plants only when the compost has dried out. Too frequent watering intervals and constantly damp soil will damage the roots and the orchid will suffer. Never leave orchid plants sit in water!

Use orchid fertilizer regularly. They will only produce flowers regularly if you feed the plants.

You can find more orchid care instructions here.

All Photos courtesy of dwittkower

If you are interested in more detailed orchid care check out these great books

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Home › Orchid Care › Lady Slipper Orchids

The strange beauty of lady’s slipper orchids have fascinated folks for centuries. These oddly delicate flowers grow in the wild on five continents, including North America. Native lady’s slippers are found in nearly every state, but it’s the exotic blooms of the Paphiopedilum genus that are usually cultivated as houseplants. Growing orchids in this group is a little harder than easier types like Phalaenopsis or Cattleya, but the striking flowers make it worth the effort. Here’s what you need to know.

About Paphiopedilum

Paphiopedilum (say “paf-ee-oh-PED-ih-lum”) is part of the larger Lady’s Slipper Orchid family, which consists of 5 genera. One of these, Cypripedium, includes the native American wildflowers like Showy Lady’s Slipper (C. reginae), Minnesota’s state flower. Paphiopedilums are native to the tropical forests of Southeast Asia. The pouch-shaped flower found in this family is used as an insect trap; as insects fall in and climb back out, they become covered in pollen which they then transfer to others nearby.

In general, slipper orchids prefer about the same temperatures as the average house – think 70s and low 80s during the day, and 60s during the night. Some are hardy down to 40 degrees (this varies), and they’ll tolerate higher temperatures as long as the humidity, water, and air circulation are adequate.

When it comes to light conditions, growing orchids is a lot like growing African Violets. Slipper orchids need bright light, but not direct sun. An east window is ideal, or a west or south window filtered by a sheer curtain. If your orchid is getting too much light, a reddish tinge will start to form on the edges of the leaves. If it’s not getting enough light, it may not bloom. Once you’ve found a place in your home where the orchid seems happy, try to avoid moving it.


Paphioledilums like their potting medium to stay moist, but never soggy. Do not let the plant sit directly in water. You can add humidity by filling a shallow dish with water and pebbles and setting the pot on top. Water once or twice a week by flushing water through the pot and allowing it to drain out.

Potting and Fertilizing

Orchids need quick-draining potting material. Specially-designed orchid mixes made of bark, sphagnum moss, and other loose fillers are ideal. Do not use traditional potting soil or soil from your garden. Ensure the pot has holes for good drainage. Feed with a weak fertilizer once or twice a month. It’s better to underfeed than overfeed.


Slipper orchids usually flower autumn through spring, and the large blooms last for weeks. When the flower finally withers, cut the stalk back to the level of the leaves. Continue to take good care of your Paphiopedilum, and it should bloom again the following year.

Interested in more on growing orchids? Check out Orchids 101: Guide to Orchid Care.

Paphiopedilum orchids are one of the easiest orchids to grow. Give them basic orchid care and soon they’ll be blooming. They usually grow on forest floors and sometimes on branches and birch trees. They produce flowers in every single color you can imagine – that is why growing them is so satisfying.

Some of these types of orchids can bloom for a year, having one flower blossom each time. This is why they are called sequential bloomers. They are tough and a perfect choice for beginners.

In order to guarantee the beauty of your paphiopedilum blooms you need to make sure that all the growing requirements are met. Moreover, going above and beyond just doing the basics is a sure way to achieve vibrant and robust blooms. You want to make sure that the plant is extremely healthy. To help you with this, here are few tips you should follow:

Classify its type. This is a very important step in successfully growing healthy paphiopedilums. This is very the first step to take. Classifying them incorrectly could mean death to the plant. Basically they are classified into two classes: the warm section and the cool section. These two classes of paphiopedilums have varying orchid care requirements.

Warm paphiopedilums can be determined through their spotted leaves. They are often grown in small greenhouses and other similar structures. They can also be grown beside closed windows and require a growing temperature of no less than 50°F. They are typically harder to grow compared to their cool counterparts.

Luckily, most paphiopedilums grown today are usually cool ones. The cool paphiopedilums grow best outdoors and beside indoor windows. They are considerably one of the easiest orchids to grow, especially for beginners.

Provide the best light possible. In order for paphiopedilums to bloom they will need adequate sunlight, but this doesn’t mean hours of direct sunlight. This will cause them to burn and even lose their blooms. Typically you can follow the orchid care rule for most of these plants; give them all the light they can stand without burning them.

You know your paphiopedilums are getting the correct amount of light through their leaves. Dark green leaves means that they are getting too much and yellowish ones mean they are not receiving enough. The perfect color would be yellow-green. This means they’re receiving just enough.

If you don’t have access to regular sunlight, these plants can also be grown under artificial lighting. A fluorescent bulb 6 to 12 inches above the leaves will ensure them growing healthily.

Grow them in the correct temperature. Paphiopedilums prefers intermediate temperatures of 70-80°F during daytime and 50-60°F during nighttime. Longer exposure to cooler temperatures for weeks at a time will successfully produce blooms. This is especially true for some of its variants with clusters of flowers.

Keep their roots moist. An orchid care tip that applies to most terrestrial orchids is to always keep their roots moist. Paphiopedilums grow best in composts that support moisture; one favorite among orchid growers is leafmold.

A trick that many growers use is placing an inverted tray filled with pebbles with an inch of water at the bottom of the pot to provide extra moisture and humidity.

Provide adequate drainage and air circulation. Because they do need lots of moisture in their roots, sometimes we can overwater them. And this is a big no-no. Overwatering can surely kill your orchid. In order to prevent this from happening to your paphiopedilums, you have to give them adequate drainage.

You can do these by placing pebbles at the bottom of your pots, filling them about a third of the way up before placing your compost. This will keep the roots cool and moist while draining away excess water.

Another tip for these plants is to provide a good source of fresh air. Air movement means the compost dries up fast allowing you to increase the frequency of your watering. This also makes your plants less susceptible to fungal and bacterial infection due to stagnant air.

Follow these few tips and in no time you will be having your healthy paphiopedilum orchids blooming with vibrant and robust flowers.

And to learn even more paphiopedilum orchid tips, download my totally FREE 5-Day Orchid Insider training course by going here: Free Orchid Care Course.

Lady Slipper Roots

I recently repotted my lady slipper orchid and found that it virtually had no roots. The plant has beautiful leaves and seems to be healthy but it did not bloom this year. What should be done now? Kathy S
Paphiopedilums, or lady slippers, are unique members of the orchid family in every respect – flowers, foliage, and roots. Most of the hybrids have just one flower each year – an unusual bloom whose shape and distinctive pouch are sure to get attention. Many growers also remark that the plant’s lush mottled foliage is another benefit, providing year round enjoyment whether the plant is in bloom or not.
The roots of the Lady Slipper, however, are not too impressive and may only consist of a few in the pot. If no roots are found, drastic measures must be taken or the plant may die. The grower must wrap a small amount of sphagnum moss around the base of the plant and place in the smallest pot that will fit. Keep the moss damp at all times and, hopefully, new roots will sprout within a few months. After another repotting, this time using the normal potting medium (fine bark or coconut husk mixture), the plant will be well on its way to producing a new flower stem.

Today, we moved all our orchids and other tropical plants outside. What is the highest temperature that orchids can survive with little or no harm? Should they be watered more? Elizabeth H
Orchids are mostly warm loving plants so they are happiest outside during the summer months in Virginia. In fact, successful growing in this climate almost requires the use of outdoor space. General guidelines for temperatures are anywhere from 60 to 90 deg F year round. When hotter days arrive (approaching 100 deg F), orchids still prefer being outside as long as the roots are kept damp. Increasing the watering frequency to 2-3 times per week may be necessary since the plant will be using more water.
Another common technique for cooling plants down is to provide a light misting of water on the leaves as one might find in the rainforest. A word of caution before placing orchids outside – they cannot receive full sun even for an hour or the leaves will burn to a crisp. Try to find a location (off the ground) where there is filtered sun for the intermediate light orchids (Cattleya, Dendrobium, Oncidium) and strictly shade for the low light plants (Paphiopedilum, Phalaenopsis).

What can I do to get rid of the ants that I found crawling on my orchid plant? Beth S
Ants are not considered an orchid pest because they don’t actually hurt the plant However, they can be unnerving to watch and it is probably best if they just go somewhere else. Assuming the ants are living inside the orchid pot, the simplest approach is to take the plant outside and place it in a bucket of water for 1 hour. Make sure that the water level is higher than the lip of the pot. The ants will either crawl out or drown. The plant is now ant-free and can be brought back into the house.
If, however, the ants are congregating on the leaves or the flower stems, and look like they are feeding on tiny droplets of sap, a greater problem exists. Another insect or mite has chewed into the plant and the ants are merely joining the party. In this case, use a safe insect spray (such as a pyrethrum-based one) to kill the main offenders but don’t worry about the ants. They will get bored and leave.

Slipper Orchids

By Steven A. Frowine

In This Topic

  • Seeing the advantages to growing lady’s slippers
  • Helping your lady’s slipper to feel at home Choosing the right lady’s slipper for you

Lady’s slippers are some of the easiest orchids to grow and among the most rewarding orchids you’ll find, making them a great orchid for beginners. They present a wide range of strikingly colored, frequently glossy flowers in myriad shapes. Some have petals that are elegantly twisted, while others are marked with hairs and warts. All slipper orchids are noted for very-long-lasting blooms — the flowers usually last six to eight weeks. Many slipper orchids have gorgeous marbled foliage, which makes them stunningly beautiful, even when they aren’t in bloom. Collectors of slipper orchids tend to be a fanatic lot — and it’s easy to see why.

The official name of this group is Paphiopedilum ‘Asian Lady’s Slipper,’ but you’ll probably hear them referred to as lady’s slippers or just plain slipper orchids — though they’re anything but plain. These orchids got their common name because of their pouchlike lip, or labellum, which resembles a lady’s slipper (see Figure 12-1).

In this topic, I introduce you to the world of lady’s slipper orchids — giving you some slipper-specific growing tips, some suggestions of varieties to buy, and some tips on which hybrids are your best bet.

Figure 12-1: The parts of a lady’s slipper orchid.

Slipping into a Lady’s Slipper

Lady’s slippers are wonderful flowers for beginning orchid growers. In this section, I fill you in on why you should consider growing one, what kind of environment to give a lady’s slipper after you bring it home, and how best to encourage your lady’s slipper to bloom.

Seeing what lady’s slippers have to offer

  • Lady’s slippers are extremely popular among orchid growers — professional and amateur alike — because
  • They display a great diversity of flower forms. Many are easy to grow. Many have beautiful foliage.
  • Most have very-long-lasting flowers, usually lasting many weeks.

Giving your lady’s slipper a good home

Although lady’s slipper orchids are found in cold climates in North America, the ones that are most commonly grown indoors are the ones from the old-world tropics, like Southeast Asia. Almost all lady’s slippers grow well in average home temperatures — 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C) during the day, and 55°F to 60°F (13°C to 18°C) during the evening — and have modest humidity requirements.

Some of the lady’s slippers are among the least demanding orchids when it comes to light, so they’re very adaptable to growing on windowsills or under lights.

Getting lady’s slippers to bloom

Slipper orchids are some of the easiest of all orchids to grow and bloom. That said, you can’t force these plants to flower if they’re not mature or if it isn’t their normal time of year to bloom. If your slipper orchid hasn’t bloomed in over a year, and it needs a little nudging, try this three-step method:

1. Grow your lady’s slipper in a little brighter spot.

If you don’t see the flower buds forming in six to eight weeks, keep it in this same location and move to Step 2.

2. Drop the temperature at night about 20°F (12°C) cooler than the daytime temperature.

If you don’t see buds forming in six to eight weeks, move it back to its regular growing temperature and then move to Step 3.

3. Let your lady’s slipper get a little drier than usual for six to eight weeks.

Straight from Nature: Bumps, Warts, Hairs, and All

Lady’s slipper species, which is what the plants are called as they come from the wild, display an exotic array of nature’s work. In the following sections, I give you a sampling of some of the easier-to-grow of the more than 60 commonly found lady’s slipper species.

Paphiopedilum bellatulum

Paphiopedilum bellatulum is not the easiest of all lady’s slippers, but it isn’t difficult if you just keep in mind that these plants prefer to be a little cooler and drier than the other lady’s slippers.

This orchid is commonly called the “egg-in-a-nest orchid,” because that’s what its white pouch looks like as it’s surrounded by its rounded-white with burgundy-spotted petals. The thick leaves of this dwarf grower (only a few inches high) are beautifully patterned (see Figure 12-2).

Figure 12-2: Paphiopedilum bellatulum is a compact-growing horticultural gem.

Paphiopedilum callosum

Paphiopedilum callosum was the first lady’s slipper orchid that I grew, over 30 years ago. I had imported it from Thailand, and seeing it bloom for the first time was a thrill! It continued to perform on a regular basis.

This orchid is one of the simplest to grow and one of the most dependable to bloom. It comes in various flower shapes and color combinations of burgundy and green (see Figure 12-3). Its strong constitution and attractiveness make it very popular as a parent in hybridizing. This species is quick to multiply, so it’ll give you a large plant in a relatively short time.

Figure 12-3: Paphiopedilum callosum is as dependable a bloomer as you can find.

Paphiopedilum delenatii

Paphiopedilum delenatii is a delicate-looking, prized beauty. I used to find this orchid a bit on the temperamental side when it came to growing. Fortunately, the newer forms on the market today have more vigor and aren’t finicky as they once were. Mine blooms dependably each spring, bearing one or two elegant light pink petal flowers with a darker pink pouch (see Figure 12-4). Unlike most lady’s slippers that are scentless, this one possesses a subtle and delightful citrus fragrance.

Paphiopedilum dianthum

Paphiopedilum dianthum is a Chinese species that is relatively easy to grow, needing just a modest amount of light — mine blooms consistently every year. This orchid puts on a floral display for many weeks. Its flowers have twisted green petals and a burgundy-brown pouch, topped with a white dorsal. The 12- to 16-inch (30- to 40-cm) leaves of this slipper orchid are glossy green with a leathery texture (see Figure 12-5).

Paphiopedilum fairrieanum

The upswept petals and prominently marked dorsal of the Paphiopedilum fairrieanum present an exotic display (see Figure 12-6). This is another slipper orchid that is undemanding and can be quickly grown into a nice-sized plant. The most common form of this species has petals striped in greens and purples, but there are other color combinations that are yellow, dark red, and green —some have longer and narrower petals than the standard type. The albino form — green and white — is especially enchanting.

Figure 12-4: Paphiopedilum delenatiidisplays special elegance.

Figure 12-5: Paphiopedilum dianthum requires a very modest amount of light to grow and flower well.

A conservation success story

The history of the discovery and collection of orchids is littered with dismaying accounts of man’s destruction of habitats resulting from the careless and greedy collection of these plants from their native lands. Encouragingly, this isn’t always the case.

Paphiopedilum delenatii was first discovered in Vietnam in 1913 by a French officer. From the plants collected and exported at that time, only a few survived. One of them was grown by the famous French orchid nursery of Marcel Lecoufle, who successfully produced seeds from it. Shortly after, no more of the plants of this species were able to be found in the wild. For generations, all the plants of Paphiopedilum delenatii that were known were those resulting from these seedlings form Marcel Lecoufle!

Now this is a commonly grown and admired species.

Figure 12-6: Paphiopedilum fairrieanum hails from the cliffs of India and Bhutan.

An orchid with a history of intrigue

For over 50 years during the late 1800s and early 1900s, the source of this treasured orchid, Paphiopedilum fairrieanum, remained a mystery. The only plant that was known had shown up in a shipment of unknown origin. In 1904, the famous orchid purveyor in England, Frederick Sander, offered a reward of £1,000 for anyone leading to the rediscovery of this orchid. This bounty was enough to bring results as new plants were discovered and exported from Bhutan and sold in the English orchid auctions for princely sums. Now this same horticultural gem is commonly available for indoor gardeners worldwide to enjoy at a very modest price.

Keeping the plant on the cooler, dryer side for six weeks during the winter will encourage it to put on its spring flower show.

Paphiopedilum glaucophyllum

Paphiopedilum glaucophyllum rewards you with a very long blooming period — its flowers open one at a time, so the plant can be in bloom for months. It has attractive blue-green foliage. Its fuzzy petals — green dorsal edged in white — and rosy pink pouch make quite a nice presentation (see Figure 12-7).

Figure 12-7: Paphiopedilum glaucophyllum is easy to grow and will reward you with months of bloom.

Paphiopedilum hirsutissimum

Paphiopedilum hirsutissimum is another distinctive Asian beauty. It has long, lance-shaped, light-green foliage with purple-and-green-marked flowers with wavy edges (see Figure 12-8). It’s a vigorous grower but can sometimes be a reluctant bloomer.

Some growers have found if they drop the night temperature to 40°F to 45°F (4°C to 7°C) for several weeks in early winter, this may trigger flowering.

Figure 12-8: Paphiopedilum hirsutissimum grows in cooler spots than many of the other slipper orchids.

Paphiopedilum spicerianum

Definitely one of my favorites, Paphiopedilum spicerianum puts on a dramatic display. Its shining white dorsal marked with a purple vertical strip up its center, surrounded by the shades of green and brown on its petals and pouch, make it a showstopper. Its white dorsal is so special that this slipper has been used frequently as a parent in breeding to impart this beautiful feature to its progeny. Turn to the color photographs in the center of this topic for an example of Paphiopedilum spicerianum.

Paphiopedilum sukhakulii

Some commercial growers lament that Paphiopedilum sukhakulii grows so quickly that they can’t keep up with it. This is a “problem” that most amateur orchid growers would love to have! Paphiopedilum sukhakulii is a compact grower with prominently and attractively marked foliage. Figure 12-9 illustrates my plant in a 4-inch (8-cm) pot.

Its flowers offer a green-and-white-striped dorsal, wide-horizontal petals that are green with mahogany spots and sprinkled with warts and hairs, all set off with a dark maroon pouch. This species quickly forms a good-sized plant with many leads, and it frequently blooms more than once a year. See the color photographs in the center of this topic for another example.

Figure 12-9: Paphiopedilum sukhakulii is a compact-growing, undemanding, high-performing slipper orchid.

Paphiopedilum venustum

Described in the early 1800s, Paphiopedilum venustum was the first of the lady’s slippers to be cultivated. Its handsome foliage makes it a standout even before its flowers, with distinctly veined lips and brightly colored petals, put on their show (see Figure 12-10). Paphiopedilum venustum is found in many different color forms.

Letting the plants get a little drier in the winter than you would in the summer increases their likelihood of flowering.

Figure 12-10: Paphiopedilum venustum is easily identified by its prominently veined lip or pouch.

One Step Removed from Nature: Primary Hybrids

Primary hybrids are the results of crossing (mating) two different species, like the ones mentioned in the preceding sections, to create a new plant. In doing this, exciting new forms of orchids are created. The crossing process started in the 1800s and is continuing at full speed today. As new species are being discovered or better forms of the same species are showing up, the orchid breeder gets more new genetic material to play with. The results of some of these efforts are quite impressive.

The goals of breeding vary within the group, but the main purpose is to

  • Expand the color range.
  • Vary the flower shapes.
  • Make the flowers larger.
  • Create a new “look.”
  • Make the plants more compact.
  • Make the plants more vigorous and easier to bloom.

In the following sections, I introduce you to just a handful of some of the many great successes. It’s fun to look at the parents and guess what the offspring will look like. There are plenty of surprises!

Some superior primary hybrids

These primary hybrids do their parents proud! Each of the following hybrids carries the good looks from its parents, but also adds its own new beauty and, in most cases, is more vigorous and easier to grow than either of the parents:

Paphiopedilum Angela: From the photo of this variety (see Figure 12-11), can you take a guess what one of its parents is? Do you see the exotic touch from one of its parents, Paphiopedilum fairrieanum (refer to Figure 12-6)? Its other parent is a darling white species that can be a bit difficult to grow well, Paphiopedilum niveum. When these two are mated, the offspring — Paphiopedilum Angela — is a delightful compact-growing plant, easier to grow like Paphiopedilum fairrieanum, but with the delicate white coloring from Paphiopedilum niveum.

Paphiopedilum Armeni White: Another good choice, this hybrid has very-dark-green patterned foliage and a large, soft-white flower.

Paphiopedilum Delophylum: This is an enchanting orchid with soft pink flowers, borne sequentially, on compact plants with attractively marked foliage.

Figure 12-11: Paphiopedilum Angela has a charming flower on a compact plant.

Paphiopedilum Fumi’s Delight: This is another case where two fetching but sometimes-tricky-to-grow species, when mated or crossed, yield a more vigorous offspring than either of the parents. One parent has a bright yellow flower (Paphiopedilum armeniacum); the other (Paphiopedilum micranthum) has a pink bloom. The offspring of these parents have flowers varying in color from creamy yellow to light pink (see Figure 12-12).

Paphiopedilum Ho Chi Minh: This is a new hybrid that is highly sought after. One of its parents is Paphiopedilum vietna-mense, a gorgeous dark pink slipper recently discovered, and the other is Paphiopedilum delenatii, an elegant soft pink flowered slipper (refer to Figure 12-4). This should be a winning match.

Paphiopedilum Gloria Naugle: This orchid is the result of crossing the largest-flowered and king of the slippers, Paphiopedilum rothschildianum, with Paphiopedilum micranthum. This hybrid inherits the bold stripes from Paphiopedilum rothschildianum and the hot pink from its other parent. The results are quite striking (see Figure 12-13).

Paphiopedilum Magic Lantern: One of the most popular newer primaries, Magic Lantern, is a dependable grower and bloomer and its dark pink to red-pink flowers always elicit oohs and ahs.

Figure 12-12: Paphiopedilum Fumi’s Delight is a popular primary hybrid.

Figure 12-13: Paphiopedilum Gloria Naugle presents an arresting picture.

Paphiopedilum Makulii: Although not literately a primary, this orchid is very close to it. This hybrid takes the dramatic petal markings from Paphiopedilum sukhakulii (refer to Figure 12-9) and combines them with the darker flower colorations of its Maudiae hybrid cousins (see the section “Marvelous Maudiaes,” later in this topic). This lady’s slipper is a snap to grow.

Paphiopedilum Saint Swithin: Another hybrid — with one of its parents being the huge Paphiopedilum rothschildianum — this orchid is combined with another impressive bloomer, Paphiopedilum philippinense, which has a smaller growth habit and a history of being easier to flower. The result is striped flowers with dangling twisted petals — nothing less than extraordinary (see Figure 12-14). This is a larger lady’s slipper than some of the others, but it’s well worth the growing space! This one does require more light that the other slippers mentioned earlier. Grow in the same medium to bright light you provide cattleyas and it will be happy.

Paphiopedilum Transvaal: This is a classic beauty first bred in 1901 and still popular today. It takes its stateliness from Paphiopedilum rothschildianum but reduces its size and adds ease of blooming from its other parent, Paphiopedilum cham-berlainianum. This is another orchid that likes it bright, like Saint Swithin.

Paphiopedilum Vanda M. Pearman: One of the most popular of all primary hybrids, Vanda M. Pearman has large light pink flowers dusted with dark burgundy spots, all shown off against thick, leathery, gorgeously marbled foliage (see Figure 12-15). This is a must-have lady’s slipper.

Figure 12-14: Paphiopedilum Saint Swithin puts on a spectacular show!

Figure 12-15: Paphiopedilum Vanda M. Pearman is admired for its elegant flower and attractive foliage.

Marvelous Maudiaes

What a fabulous group of lady’s slippers these are. The word Maudiae is the name given to one of the first hybrids made, in 1901, between Paphiopedilum callosum (see the color photographs in the center of this topic for an example) and Paphiopedilum lawrenceanum. Paphiopedilum Maudiae and its offspring are noted for their exceptional vigor, ease of blooming (sometimes more than once a year), undemanding growing requirements, gorgeous foliage, and striking, gloriously colored flowers. They are found in three major color groups or combinations, covered in the following sections.


Green-and-white Maudiaes are occasionally referred to as albinos because they lack the more commonly found red pigment. There is a simple timeless elegance to these flowers. They’re highly revered in Europe as cut flowers.

Some super clones exist within this group like Paphiopedilum Claire de Lune ‘Edgard van Belle’ AM/AOS (see Figure 12-16). Its regal name fits its aristocratic look. It’s huge impressive flower stands proudly above dark green handsome foliage. I received a division of this plant from a now deceased dear friend, Frances Nelson. It’s a treasured memory of him, and I’ve shared divisions of it with special friends. It’s a vigorous grower that still wins ribbons for me at orchid shows.

Another famous clone is Paphiopedilum Maudiae ‘The Queen’ AM/AOS. If you’re fortunate to find these clones at a price you can live with, snatch them up. If they’re too pricey for you at this point, try any of the standard green-and-white Maudiaes. None of them will disappoint you.

Figure 12-16: Paphiopedilum Claire de Lune ‘Edgard van Belle’ AM/AOS is a prize for anyone’s orchid collection.


This group is typified by a large dorsal and petals displaying streaks of purple in the flowers. The flower shape of this type looks very similar to the green-and-white Maudiae but has much more red and burgundy markings (see Figure 12-17). Many times the dorsal is larger and rounder.

Figure 12-17: A coloratum type. Notice the wide dorsal and the streaks of darker color throughout the flower.


The flowers of this type look like they’ve been varnished. They’re a rich dark red or purple and have many admirers. This is probably the most sought after form of the Maudiae types. Their solid burgundy to mahogany blossoms shine (see Figure 12-18).

There are many good vinicolor varieties out there — too many to list. If you’re lucky enough to actually see them in bloom, you can choose the ones that you like best. Unfortunately, because they’re popular and are quickly snatched up, you may be forced to pick out blooming-size plants or ones in bud so you aren’t sure what they’ll look like when they bloom.

Here are two ways to increase your odds for buying the best:

Check out their parents. Several orchid parents have a good reputation for producing high-quality offspring. Here are some to look for:

• Black Cherry

• Blood Clot (Ugh! What a name!)

• Eric Meng

• Laser

• Macabre

• Raisin Pie

• Red Fusion

• Red Glory

• Ruby Peacock

Look at the color of the leaves, flower stem, and bud. The darker the purple in the newest leaves, the undersides of the leaves, the flower stem, and the buds, the greater the likelihood that the flower will also carry this dark pigment.

Figure 12-18: A vinicolor showing solid dark coloration over the entire flower.

Huge and round: Modern hybrid lady’s slippers

These lady’s slippers are sometimes called “bulldogs” or “toads.” To tell you the truth, I don’t know how they got branded with such odd nicknames! They look nothing like these two creatures to me.

Another moniker for them is complex hybrids, and this makes sense, because their parentage is very convoluted, many times consisting of 20 or more parents.

All the orchids in this group have plain green foliage and most of their flowers are huge and round (see Figure 12-19). They’re basically categorized by their flower colors: spotted, green, white, yellow, red, pink, and shades of these colors. A spotted one of mine that has been a delight is Paphiopedilum Langley Pride ‘Burlingame’ HCC/AOS (see the color photographs in the center of this topic for an illustration).

Figure 12-19: A modern complex hybrid showing its full, round flower.

The whites have been particularly elusive in this quest for perfection. An older hybrid, Paphiopedilum F.C. Puddle (see Figure 12-20), doesn’t match many of today’s hybrids in terms of size and shape but is still in many collections today because it’s a charming dependable grower and bloomer.

A different kind of slipper orchid

All the slipper orchids that I cover up to this point in this topic are tropical ones found in the old-world tropics, mostly various parts of Asia. Another type of lady’s slipper has been known about since the 1800s but is now witnessing a strong new interest by orchid lovers. This group is called phragmipediums or simply “phrags.”

Phragmipediums call their home Central and South America. Many grow in the mountains, and number more than 30 species. They have a similar growth habit to some of the paphiopedilums and have the same requirements for humidity and temperatures.

Figure 12-20: Paphiopedilum F.C. Puddle is an older white hybrid still appreciated today.

Culturally, they have some differences. In general, they like it wetter than paphiopedilums. In fact, they’re commonly grown in platters of fresh water. This practice is unheard of with most other orchids! Also, they prefer more light — similar to cattleyas. These used to be expensive plants, but their prices have come down thanks, in part, to Hawaiian growers who have perfected their culture so they can now be grown to selling-size plants in record-breaking time.

Most of the flowers are twisted and dangling, are borne sequentially, and are found in shades and stripes of green and maroon. However, there are some key exceptions. Phragmipedium besseae is bright red-orange to yellow, Phragmipedium xerophyticum is white with a touch of pink, and Phragmipedium schlimii (see Figure 12-21 for a hybrid of this species) is a shade of pink as is Phragmipedium fischeri. But the absolute star of the show is a recently discovered marvel, Phragmipedium kovachii, with immense 7- to 8-inch (17.5-to 20-cm) magenta flowers. (See the nearby sidebar for more on this special plant.)

Although there has always been interest in the phragmipedium species, it is the hybrids that everyone its talking about. These newer hybrids are more vigorous and easy growing then most of the species and are becoming available in a broad range of colors. Many new ones are on the horizon but here are a few to look out for:

  • Phragmipedium Andean Fire has attractive dark red 3/2-inch flowers on tall flowering stems.
  • Phragmipedium Cardinale is a classic hybrid that reliably produces many pink flowers.
  • Phragmipedium Hanne Popow has delightful small pink flowers and is an old favorite that is still offered and is frequently used as a parent to produce newer hybrids.
  • Phragmipedium Jason Fischer has eye-popping brilliant, broad, flat red flowers.
  • Phragmipedium Les Dirouilles displays huge, spectacular green, chestnut, and burgundy flowers with long, twisted petals.
  • Phragmipedium Sorcerer’s Apprentice has broad foliage with very large and dramatic flowers with twisted petals in shades of green, brown, and burgundy.

Figure 12-21: Phragmipedium ‘Wilcox’ AM/AOS is a lovely hybrid with a delicate beauty.

New Phrag creates a scandal!

Phragmipedium kovachii was “discovered” in 2002 at a roadside vendor in northeast Peru by an American orchid enthusiast, J. Michael Kovach. He immediately recognized it as being exceptional and probably new to the orchid world. Kovach purchased this rare orchid and pirated it back to the United States, illegally, with grand visions of his name entering the annals of orchid history by having this “holy grail of orchids” named after him.

He rushed it to the orchid experts at Selby Botanical Garden, one of the world’s leaders in orchid research, to get it identified, documented, and officially described in Latin so it could be published in a botanical journal, thereby assuring that the orchid would be his namesake.

Now the fly in the ointment — the feds. They got word of Kovach’s “discovery” and orchids hit the fan. Kovach was indicted, and they threatened to fine Selby Botanical Gardens 8100,000 (it was plea-bargained to 85,000 and three years’ probation). Selby botanists, administrators, and board members’ heads rolled.

Even though it was part of the plea bargain that the name of this orchid be reverted to an earlier proposed name, Phragmipedium peruviana, most orchid people think it will most likely never happen.

And the scandal goes on. In the spring of 2004 at a Miami orchid show, a vendor and orchid grower from Peru, along with another orchid vendor and grower from Texas, were arrested for selling and smuggling endangered orchids including plants of Phragmipedium kovachii.

Paphiopedilum Orchid

The Lady Slipper

These Southeast Asian plants have flowers of heavy substance, lasting from one to three months. There are multi-flowered, sequential flowered and single flowered varieties of many different sizes, shapes and colors. To this day there is no accurate way to clone Paphiopedilums, making mass production difficult. Therefore the Paphiopedilum is one of the most unique and popularly collected orchids in the world. Many varieties can be grown easily indoors.


Place in any bright window but protect from mid-day sun. Leaves should be a medium-green color. If they are too pale or yellowish, the plant could be getting too much light. (Approximately the same light intensity as African Violets is preferred.)Paphiopedilums do well in a diminished light. An east or west window (providing 1000 to 1500 foot-candles of light) is ideal. The east exposure is better because the temperature is lower in the early part of the day when the plant is receiving the greatest amount of light. A south window is acceptable as long as the sunlight is filtered so as not to burn the plant. Paphs also do very well under artificial lights, such as fluorescent (grow at 10-19″ from tubes) or L.E.D. Grow Lights. Run the lights according to the seasons: 11 hours in winter, 14-16 hours in summer. Strap-leafed, multi-flowered species or hybrids can take stronger light up to 2500 foot-candles.


Paphiopedilum are divided into two temperature groups: warm and cool growers. The attractive mottled-leaf types come from the temperate zones and do best with a night temperature not below 60 degrees F. (preferably 65 degrees F.), and a day temperature of 75-85 degrees F. The solid green-leafed types come from the higher, cooler altitudes. They require a night temperature of 50-60 degrees F. and a day temperature of 70-80 degrees F. There are both warm and cool growing Paphs. Generally speaking, those with mottled foliage and the strap-leafed, multi-flowered species or hybrids do best in intermediate to warm conditions, preferring daytime temperatures of 70-80 degrees F. and nighttime temperatures of 55-64 degrees. The cool-growing species are mostly from India and grow at higher elevations. Complex hybrids are cool growing and bloom mostly during the winter season. These types prefer nighttime temperatures of 55-62 degrees with days around 65-70 degrees. They will all tolerate the heat of summer as long as they are regularly watered, shaded and kept in humid conditions. The mottled leafed varieties do best in a warmer house or apartment and can often bloom twice a year.

Water & Humidity

Paphiopedilum must be kept constantly moist or damp, but not soggy. Check frequently below the surface to determine the need for water. Normal watering intervals are between seven and ten days.Like all orchids, it is important to water in the morning. This insures complete water evaporation on the foliage as well as the crown by nightfall, thus preventing bacteria and fungus rot. Water the plant as it approaches dryness. Use rainwater, distilled water, reverse osmosis water or municipal water. Do not use softened water. Put plant in sink when watering and allow it to drain well. Under most growing conditions, watering is done at 3-7 day intervals depending on the pot size. Important: PLANTS SHOULD NEVER STAND IN WATER! Paphs like a humidity of between 45% and 70%. This may be accomplished by the use of humidifiers or by filling a saucer with crushed rock and placing it under the plants. The water under the rock will slowly evaporate, slightly raising the humidity level. Make sure that the pot rests above the water level in the saucer. Our humidity trays are another option you can use to place your plants on.


We highly recommend Green Jungle Orchid Food, especially formulated to work with rain, distilled, reverse osmosis water or water low in alkalinity. Fertilize with Green Jungle every time you water, all year round. This is the fertilizer that we developed and use on our own plants. The results have been excellent. For tap or well water, during spring and summer we recommend a 1/2 tsp. per gallon solution of GrowMore 20-10-20 fertilizer every other watering. During fall and winter, this should be reduced to every third watering. When using rain, distilled or reverse osmosis water, add back 5-10% of your hard water to provide necessary calcium and magnesium.


Potting material is usually ready for replacement once every year to year and a half. The best time for repotting is the spring or early summer or fall when temperatures are mild. Use a medium grade orchid bark mix for plants in 3.25” pots or larger, and a small mix for plants in smaller pots. Large plants with 6 or more growths can be divided. Pot with oldest growth closest to the rim of the pot allowing room for 1-2 years growth. Most growers find that plastic pots work best for Paphiopedilums.Repotting should be done when the mix has soured or deteriorated, or when the plant has clearly outgrown the current pot. Plastic pots are preferable over clay since clay will dry out faster. When repotting, do not divide the plants into small pieces or individual growths. The larger clumps will produce more new growths and more flowers. Place plants in the smallest pot that will accommodate the root system. This should be a very snug fit, as roots will not grow to fill the pot like Cattleyas and Phalaenopsis. After repotting an application of Cal-Mag 15-5-15 is especially beneficial. This helps the plant recover from the shock of transplanting. Begin watering like before, as soon as the pot had dried out.Paphiopedilum should be repotted every two to three years with a fresh, well draining potting medium, such as fine-grade orchid bark or Orchid Mix. It is important that the base of the growth be potted no deeper than 1/2″ in the medium.


Like all orchids, it is important to water in the morning. This insures complete water evaporation on the foliage as well as the crown by nightfall, thus preventing bacteria and fungus rot. Water the plant as it approaches dryness. Use rainwater, distilled water, reverse osmosis water or municipal water. Do not use softened water. Put plant in sink when watering and allow it to drain well. Under most growing conditions, watering is done at 3-7 day intervals depending on the pot size.


Paphs like a humidity of between 45% and 70%. This may be accomplished by the use of humidifiers or by filling a saucer with crushed rock and placing it under the plants. The water under the rock will slowly evaporate, slightly raising the humidity level. Make sure that the pot rests above the water level in the saucer. Our humidity trays are another option you can use to place your plants on.

Potting material is usually ready for replacement once every year to year and a half. The best time for repotting is the spring or early summer or fall when temperatures are mild. Use a medium grade orchid bark mix for plants in 3.25” pots or larger, and a small mix for plants in smaller pots. Large plants with 6 or more growths can be divided. Pot with oldest growth closest to the rim of the pot allowing room for 1-2 years growth. Most growers find that plastic pots work best for Paphiopedilums.


The Paphiopedilum (paff-ee-oh-PED-ih-lum). Also called the Slipper orchid, so named in honor of its large lip that resembles a lady’s slipper. You will find these orchids are rewarding and easy to grow.

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The Slipper orchid is a low light orchid (1000-2000 fc), making it an ideal orchid for those with low light conditions.


This orchid thrives with humidity levels of 50%. Use a humidifier if necessary and a fan set to low to provide air movement. Home growers: remember 50% is the maximum recommendation. Easily track humidity levels with a humidistat.


The Paphiopedilum is a sympodial orchid and does not have water storage in pseudobulbs. Accordingly, their potting mix should be kept slightly damp at all times. Take care to keep water from accumulating between leaves when watering to prevent rot.


As Paphs are light feeders, apply a weak solution of balanced fertilizer every other week when in active growth. If the orchid is potted in bark use a high nitrogen fertilizer (9-3-6).


As these orchids are considered semi-terrestrial, the most popular potting media is a fine-grade fir bark. Plastic pots are ideal for retaining moisture as well as for checking the moisture of the media. Paphiopedilums can be potted any time – even when in flower.


Every year a new leaf fan, or in spreading varieties, several leaf fans, grow and from each fan emerges a new flower.

Mature, large Paphs are easily divided. When not in bloom, carefully sever the rhizome, keeping in clumps of 3-5 leaf fans

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