Culture Column: Slipper Orchid Series-Bulldog Paphiopedilums

Bulldog type lady slipper orchid
Complex Paphiopedilum hybrid, photographed by Roddy Gabel

 

Complex or Bulldog Paphiopedilums first show up in orchid cultivation the 19th century. Breeders and growers continue to develop new and different colors and patterns, but this group is unmistakable with their large (generally round), waxy, long lasting flowers. This group is less common in the commercial trade and in the U.S. rarely show up in garden center offerings but a quick trip online or a run to a specialty nursey will open up a number of opportunities to add these plants to your collection.

Light: Like the Maudiae Paphs, these plants can grow with lower light levels but have proven to be adaptable, tolerating a range of light conditions. Ideally, you would want them growing in low to moderate light (diffuse edges on your hand’s shadow). If growing in brighter light, it is important to keep an eye on the leaves of any plants in your collection. If you see that they are fading from green towards yellow or if you see red on the leaves, they are in light that is too bright. East or North facing windows will provide plenty of light for these plants to pack on size. These plants do well in the temperature ranges we enjoy (80-60 degrees Fahrenheit) but are able to tolerate slightly cooler temps (down to 50).

Potting Media: Medium sized bark mixed with charcoal and perlite will provide the roots of these plants with the air and space they need to develop strong heathy systems. They like moisture in the root zone but if grown wet, will succumb to root rots and ultimately fail. Staying on top of your repotting (typically once a year) will keep the mix from decaying and damaging the roots of your plant.

Water: Humidity in the root zone is important for these plants and they appear to be less forgiving than the Maudiae paphs if grown too dry. Watering 1-2 times a week will allow the plants to pick up the moisture they need. Growing these plants on a shallow dish filled with pebbles will allow you to maintain higher humidity levels around the roots without adding another watering to the rotation.

Fertilizer: A balanced fertilizer applied at half strength regularly will keep these plants health. Fertilizing too often will increase salts in the root zone and damage the roots of your plant. Skipping every fourth fertilization and replacing it with an extra watering will help wash salts out of your media.

Reblooming: These plants typically bloom in the late fall or winter. The change in photo period (the length of time they receive light) and drops in temperatures will help these plants initiate flowers on mature grows. Giving the several weeks of cooler temps, either by moving to sheltered area outdoors in the fall or moving closer to you windows indoors, will give you strong show blooms through the winter.