Paphiopedilums or “paphs” are very easy to grow. They remain compact in their growth habit and have attractive foliage with long-lasting flowers in a wide range of colors. Although classed as terrestrials, they do not really grow in the ground. Rather, they grow in a layer of decaying vegetation found on the forest floor. It is helpful to know where an orchid grows in nature so that we can more easily duplicate these conditions in our home or greenhouse.
LIGHT – Because of their preferred habitat of forest floor, paphiopedilums are definitely shade-loving plants. this enables them to be grown well in the home. A shaded east or west window will work year-round.
TEMPERATURE – Paphiopedilums have a very wide range of temperature requirements. For best growth, we suggest 60 degrees at night and 80 during the day. If you are comfortable your plants will be, too. Air circulation helps to prevent fungal and bacterial problems by ensuring the foliage is dry by nightfall.
WATER – Paphs like to be evenly moist at all times. During the warmer months, water every three to four days and, in cooler weather, once a week or so. The biggest problem that can arise from underwatering is salt buildup in the potting mix. As with all other container plants, always water to thoroughly to allow water to run out of the bottom of the pot. Never allow your plants to stand in water. Roots require air as well as water to remain healthy. Humidity around 50-70% is ideal.
FERTILIZER – Paphs are very light feeders. A light feeding every two weeks should be enough. Because Paphiopedilums are very salt-sensitive, it is important to never feed a dry plant. Of course, your paphs should never be allowed to completely dry out anyway. Foliar feeding with a diluted mixture of fertilizer in a spray bottle works very well.
POTTING – Paphs require a fine but water-retentive mix such as a cymbidium mix. This would consist of small fir bark mixed with perlite and charcoal. Smaller or younger plants should be repotted annually. Mature, larger plants can be left for two years. As the plants remain fairly compact, pot them with enough room for two years of growth.