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Paphiopedilums, the lady slipper orchids, are easy to grow and very rewarding if a few simple principles of culture are followed. First, and most important, the potting medium should not be allowed to become stale. Paphiopedilums like to be put in fresh potting medium at least once a year. The key to growing paphiopedilums is to keep a good root system, as the plants have no bulbs or stems in which to store moisture or nutrients. Potting in a proper medium is necessary to maintain healthy roots. We generally recommend a Douglas Fir Bark media with fine particulates to help hold moisture evenly.
Watering: Due to general low humidity, we recommend that paphiopedilums be watered twice weekly in the home, and that a small amount of water soluble fertilizer such as Growmore 20-10-20 or Dyna Gro 7-9-5 be used every 3rd or 4thh watering. Too much fertilizer will damage the plants, so the best practice is to fertilize lightly. Do not allow the blooms to get wet as water in the pouches will cause flowers to drop prematurely.
After the plants are watered, they should be placed so that the pots do not stand in water. Some people like to place the pots in a tray or saucer of gravel. This helps to insure that the base of the pot is not immersed in water and provides some air circulation under the pot.
Light: Place the plants in or near a sunny window. When grown as houseplants, paphiopedilums need good light to do their best. Paphiopedilums and phalaenopsis do not need as much light as cattleyas, cymbidiums or vandas, but they do need at least the light required to bloom African Violets. They will be comfortable at any temperature that is comfortable for humans (55-80 degrees). Avoid cold or warm drafts such as near an open window or heat vent. Some species may require cooler temperatures to flower properly.
Repotting: 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.
Note: This guide is only applicable to Paphiopedilums. For other varieties, please click on one of these links: