Lady Slipper Orchids

Paphiopedilum & Cypripedium acaule

Paphiopedilum Lady Slipper Orchids and Cypripedium acaule, the Pink Lady Slipper are different orchid species. One is a hardy orchid which can be grown outdoors year round. The other is frost tender.

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Paphiopedilum Lady's Slipper flower.

Paphiopedilum Lady's Slipper Orchid

Slipper orchids are called by that name because of the unique shape of their blooms. Part of the flower is shaped like a bedroom slipper.

A similar species, Cypripedium calceolus, is called the Moccasin Flower because of its shoe-shaped lip of its blossom.

Lady's Slipper in profile at Selby Gardens in Sarasota.

The plant has a reason for arranging itself so. The pouch formed by the "slipper" traps bugs. In order to escape, they have to climb up over the stamina, disturbing the pollen and fertilizing the orchid as they go!

Paphiopedilums are native to the tropical forests of southeast Asia northward into southern China. Their easy culture makes them popular among collectors.

Pot this terrestrial orchid in bark.

How coarse?

This depends on how heavy handed you are with the watering can.

Fine grade works well for most growers.

Repot every 2-3 years with fresh media when so many leaves have grown that the bark is no longer visible. Repot plants into new pots which are just a size larger than the old container, and be careful to keep the base of the orchid's crown level with the top of the planting media.

Water: Keep damp, but not wet, by watering every 7-10 days with soft, room temperature water. Mist the plants with this same water on hot summer days. Begin to restrict water just after the flowers fall and keep the planting media drier for 6 weeks as this is a period of slow growth for these plants.

Feed Paphiopedilum species and hybrids once a month, all year excepting the 6 week period of slow growth just after bloom, with a high nitrogen liquid fertilizer. Lady's Slippers are easily burned, so feed at 1/4 strength.

Place in bright light, but not direct sun, just as you would an African Violet. The leaves will tell you if the exposure is right. They should be medium green. If they are yellowish green, the orchid is getting too much sun.

Once you find a spot that your plant is happy in, avoid moving it. They don't like changes in their growing environment.

If your Lady's Slipper has mottled leaves, it can take temperatures as low as 60 degrees F. The solid green leaved Paphiopedilum can take temps 10 degrees lower. Both types prefer to be kept at about 68 degrees F.

Paphiopedilum Growth and Flowering Habits

There are at least 70 Paphiopedilum species and an even greater number of hybrids.

Of these, 2 are particularly easy to grow: P. sukhakulii and P. callosum of Thailand.

Both species are fall bloomers whose flowers can last up to 2 months.

These are stalkless, low-growing plants whose strap-shaped, fleshy leaves curve down over the rim of their containers. The blooms form atop thin, upright stalks which may be as much as 14 inches tall.

There are many varieties which bloom at different times of the year and in a wide variety of color combinations, shapes and sizes. The flowers are unscented.

The genus makes up for this single deficiency by being one of the easiest orchids to cultivate, by reblooming reliably each year, and by being content to live indoors for many years.

The blooms of most cultivars last for a month. A skinny stick inserted into the pot can be used to stake the flower stalk up as it develops. This will prevent the weight of the bloom from causing it to droop

Propagation - Division

A well grown Lady Slipper orchid will grow ever wider in a fan shape. Once it reaches the stage where you no longer wish to shift it into a larger pot, it is time to divide it.

It is best only to divide plants with at least 6 crowns as you will want to replant divisions containing at least 3 crowns.

Carefully remove the plant from its pot and shake the bark from its roots. You will have to cut the rhizome from which the leaves grow, but it is better to pull the roots away from each other than to cut them as any injury to the roots opens the door to rot.

Follow these instructions for potting orchids.

Place newly potted Lady Slipper orchids in filtered light and mist them daily for 3 weeks. Then, care for them according the the instructions on this page.

Growing Tip:

If the leaves of your Lady Slipper orchid begin to rot, you are watering it too frequently or keeping it too cold.

Cypripedium acaule

Pink Lady Slipper, Cypripedium Acaule, Orchidaceae, North America
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Cypripedium acaule, the Pink Lady Slipper orchid is a hardy ground orchid native to the U.S. and Canada. You will find Pink Lady Slippers blooming in woodlands and marshes each spring.

Buy Lady Slippers

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