Paph Culture

Caring for your Orchid. 

Paphiopedilum is the “lady slipper orchid”.
Characterized by a cup-like lip, called a pouch, their native habitat is the jungles of the Far East and Indonesia. They are related to our own North Carolina lady slippers. These plants have flowers of heavy substance and their blooms will last from one three months. They come in a fascinating array of colors and forms.
Light: Paphs do well in diminished light. An east or west window is preferred. (The eastern exposure 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 plants. Around 800-1500 foot candles is ideal. Paphs also do well under artificial lights, such as fluorescent or high pressure sodium lights. Run the lights according to the seasons: 11 hours in the winter, 14-16 hours in the summer.

Humidity: The easiest way to provide humidity in a home is to fill a glass or plastic tray with gravel or small rocks and keep a layer of water at the bottom of the tray. Place your pots on top of the gravel, making sure the bottom of the pot does not rest in the water (to prevent root rot). As the water evaporates it will provide the plants with the required humidity. The plants do not require this but like it, and it simplifies watering.

Water: Paphs need a moist medium — never soggy, but never dry. It is important to water your paph early in the morning. This insures complete water evaporation on the foliage as well as the crown by nightfall (water left in the crown of the plant can lead to rot). Water the plant as it approaches dryness. Do not use salt-softened water. Put the plant in the sink when watering and run plenty of water through the potting mix and then allow to drain well. As a rule of thumb, water every 7 days or so in Fall and Winter and every 4 or 5 days in Spring and Summer. Better to be a bit on the dry side than too wet all the time, but try to keep the mix from drying out completely.

Fertilizer: Fertilizer should be applied regularly. The type used in Spring through early Fall should be a 30-10-10, 20-10-20, or 20,20,20 fertilizer every second or third watering at 1/4 to 1/2 the recommended strength. (Normally 1/2 to 3/4 tsp. per gallon.) In the mid Fall and through Winter switch to a bloom booster type of fertilizer (with a low first number and high middle number like a 10-30-20) or African Violet fertilizer, again at 1/4 to 1/2 the recommended strength..

Repotting: The major requirement is that the mix not get soppy, the plants must have good drainage. Paphiopedilums require repotting when they outgrow their pot or when the potting mix no longer provides good drainage. Typically this would be every year to year and a half.