Cultural Notes for Paphiopedilum Orchids

The exotic, wax-like, richly coloured blooms last for weeks – sometimes months! They are ideal for home growing. The blooming period generally begins in May and continues through September, with a few varieties blooming during the Summer months. Most hybrids offered today are derived from Paphiopedilums and Phragmipediums which have gained the popular nickname “Lady Slipper” because of the slipper-like pouch. Lady slippers have no bulbs, but are made up of atttractive, glossy, dark green leaves arising off short enclosed stems. After leaves are fully formed, the flowering stems arise from the centre of the newly developed growth.


‘Paphs’ are divided into two temperature groups, warm and cool growers. The attractive mottled-leaved types come from the warmer temperate zones and do best with a night temperature not below 16°C and a day temperature of around 25°C. The plain leaved types come from the higher, cooler altitudes and can withstand night temperatures in the low 10’s and a day temperatures of up to 30 ºC .


They require less light than many orchids, thereby lending themselves more easily to home growing conditions. Place in any bright window, but protect from the direct sun. Leaves should be a fairly deep green colour. If yellowish, it could mean too much light. A good example is to give them the same light intensity as African Violets.


Paphs must be kept continuously moist, but not soggy and waterlogged. Always check the water level below the surface to determine the need for watering. Water from the top of the pot, letting it run completely through the pot, draining thoroughly. This allows for sufficient moistening of the bark and prevents build up of fertilizer or hard water salts. Do not permit water to remain in the leaf axils (centre of each growth). The leaves of the plant should be dry by nightfall. Never allow the bottom of the pot to stand in water. Fertilize your plants at least twice a month with Starke Ayres Nutrifeed balanced fertilizer. During the growing season, I will often give them the occasional feed using an organic fertilizer such as Sea Grow. Remember to only use the fertilizer half strength for this species.


A shallow tray, containing stones and water aids in surrounding the plant with moisture. The humidity caused by the evaporation of water off the stones, provides needed moisture around your plants and prevents them from drying too rapidly. Morning misting of foliage is also helpful, especially during periods of hot weather.


Paphs should be repotted every year – and may be divided – every two years. Repot immediately after blooming. Remove old mix from the roots carefully, removing any dead roots, and trim excessively long roots from the plant before repotting. To divide, firmly pull the plant apart where the leaves join at the base of the growths. Maintain divisions, or clumps, of from three to four mature growths. Pot each clump into individual pots, allowing room for two years future growth. It is important that the base of the growths be potted about 1 cm deep (no deeper) in the fresh potting mix using Outeniqua Orchids Seedling mix. Keep mix barely damp for three weeks until roots begin to grow, then continue watering normally. Lady slippers are mostly terrestrial, but they do require more aeration through the potting mix than most plants.