Can you tell me about Paphiopedilum (slipper orchid)? Is it an easy orchid genus to grow at home?


The 60 species of Paphiopedilum (slipper orchids) are mostly terrestrial plants named for their interesting pouch-shaped lip. These orchids grow in pockets of  organic matter on the tropical forest floor, on cliffs and on trees below the leaf canopy. This natural setting of loose, fast-draining, growing medium and gentle, filtered, light is also what they need in the home, though the variation in habitat of origin implies variation in ideal home conditions. You can find detailed information on growing these orchids in our Care Guide to Paphiopedilum.

Both species and hybrids are widely available to home growers and while relatively easy to grow, some plants are more demanding than others. It is a diverse genus divided into multiple sub-genera and then numerous sections and sub-sections within them. The following general care routine will keep most slipper orchids healthy.

Light: Paphiopedilum require bright but indirect light. In the New York City area, an unobstructed, east-facing window with gentle, morning sunlight is usually perfect. In a south or southwest-facing window where light is harsher, protect the plant from direct sunlight with a filtering curtain or distance from the window. A filtered, west-facing window can work well if the intense light doesn't overheat the plant. The multifloral group likes more light and can be kept at a brighter window.

Water: Paphiopedilum does not have a water storage organ like some orchids, so while restraint is essential, it should be kept in a moist (but not wet) medium.  It needs to be watered when the potting medium has dried on the top. Watering frequency is likely to change during the year. Day length, humidity and individual heat systems will affect the rate at which water evaporates from the growing medium.

Humidity: Paphiopedilum can tolerate lower levels of humidity than many orchids. A minimum of 40% relative humidity is required but 50+% is preferred.

Potting: When the potting medium has deteriorated, plants should be re-potted. This is best accomplished every year to two years when new growth is beginning.  The classic mixture for Paphiopedilum is fine-grade fir bark with a little charcoal and perlite. A plastic pot can be a good choice for retaining moisture. Be sure to use only quality orchid potting mixes and never substitute landscape mulches for orchid potting mediums. Large plants can be divided by pulling or cutting the fans of the leaves apart, into clumps of three to five growths. Smaller divisions will grow, but may not flower. Spread the roots over a small amount of medium in the bottom of the pot and fill with medium, so that the junction of roots and stem is buried 1D 2 inch deep in the center of the pot. Do not overpot; an average plant should have a 4- to 6-inch pot.

Nutrition: Paphiopedilum do not require heavy fertilizing.  Generally, a balanced, powdered fertilizer (20-20-20) is best, at ¼ the recommended strength, given to the orchid every other time that you water the plant. It's better to give an orchid too little fertilizer than too much. Feeding can be reduced to once a month in winter. Once a month, flush the growing medium with water to prevent salt build up which can damage roots.

Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service.



  • Last Updated Jan 06, 2023
  • Views 179
  • Answered By Anita Finkle

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