Paphiopedilum or Lady's Slipper Orchids

Pronounciation: paf-i-oh-PED-i-lum
Common Name: Lady's Slipper Orchid
Distribution: Asian tropics

From the greek words of paphia, meaning the goddess Aphrodite, and pedilon, meaning sandal. Thus litterally meaning Aphrodite's sandals


Paphiopedilum orchids have always attracted the attention of the more decerning collectors, ever since they were first discovered and introduced to the civilised world. Many men and women have dedicated their lives to discovering new and fantastic orchids. Paphs, as they are refered to, were for many decades reserved for the sole enjoyment of men, they were deemed to be to sexually risque for the Victorian ladies. It has only been in recent times that more and more women are collecting paphs. These are absolutely wonderful orchids and comprise of around 93 species, from these there have been a large number of primary hybrids (two species crossed with each other) and countless numbers of complex hybrids

Paph sub genus comprise of the following:

  • Parvisepalum
  • Brachypetalum
  • Paphiopedilum
  • Sigmatopetalum
  • Polyantha
  • Cochlopetalum

Growing Paphs
Paphs are relatively easy plants to grow and maintain, provided the following criteria is met.

Paphiopedilums prefer daytime temperatures of 20 C to 30 C, and nighttime temperatures of 10 C to 19 C. Paphs can be separated into two groups: the warm-growing mottled-leaved and strap-leaved multifloral types and the cool-growing green-leaved types. Warm-growing types should be kept at 15 to 18 C during the night, and 24 to 30 C or more during the day. Cool-growing types should be kept at 10 to 15 C during the night and 24
to 27 C during the day. However, many growers raise all plants in the same temperature range with excellent results.

Provide Paphs with sufficient light, this is important for healthy growth and flower production. Paphs do well in low ( Mottled leaf paphs) to medium light (Green leaf paphs), full sun tends to burn the leaves easily.

Watering and Humidity
I grow my paphs at a humidity of around 40% to 60%, and they thrive in these conditions. I have read that they will do fine in an low humidity situation (30% - 40%) as occurs in the home, where they can be grown on trays of gravel, partially filled with water, so that the plants never sit in water. Using an evaporative cooling system in warm climates can increase the humidity. Good air movement is essential, especially when humidity is high, this can be achieved by using fans. Water frequency depends on the potting medium you are using, it is very difficult to say that they need to be watered every 3rd or 4th day as your potting medium may retain moisture longer than the next persons, the way I do it is to have a spare pot with the same potting mix on the same bench as the plants to be watered, when I think they need water I turn the spare pot out and can then see if the mix is wet or not. Since paphs do not have pseudobulbs the mix must be kept relatively moist, but NEVER soggy.

Repotting and Potting mixes
There is a wide range of mixes available at present. In fact I have seen paphs grown in mixes ranging from tree bark to stones. There are various other potting mediums, such as osmunda (expensive), tree fern, bark, moss, CHCs (coconut husk chips), perlite, vermiculite, Semi-Hydro (used in the hydroponics industry) sponge rock and rockwool (extruded melted rock). Paphs should be repotted about every two years, or as the medium decomposes. Our seedlings and smaller plants are repotted more often. When it comes time to devide a large plant, I find it best to seperate the fans by gentley pulling or cutting it apart, leaving at least 3 to 5 fans (growths). These are then potted into a smallish pot as they do not like to be over potted.

A potting mix which I have found to work pretty well for me consists of the following:

10 parts small to medium sized bark chips
3 parts Sphrag moss
1 part silica sand, used for pool filters (can also use washed river sand)
2 part small stones
1 part Vermiculite

Should be done on a regular basis, but they should be fertilized at half to quater strength so as to avoid burning the roots. The first signs of fertilizer burn is seen on the tips of the leaves which will turn brown. The pots should also be flushed with clean water regularly to get rid of salts which tend to build up in the medium and around the roots. I prefer to give a weekly foiliar feeding. I was once told by the president of a local orchid society "to feed weakly, weekly" and this seems to be the answer to paph fertilization.