Other Names: Lady's Slipper Orchids, Lady Slipper Orchids, Slipper Orchids
Cypripedioidaeae orchids are called Lady Slipper Orchids because their pouch-shaped labellums look so much like a slipper or sandal. As expected, they have an evolutionary purpose. This "slipper" is used to trap insects and force the fertilization of the flower.
Apart from their slipper-like appearance, these orchids are quite unique when compared to other members of the Orchidaceae family. Unlike other orchids, lady slipper orchids have two fertile anthers making them diandrous. Because they are diandrous, experts debate whether or not these unique beauties should be classified into their own separate family classification.
The Cypripedioidaeae is comprised of five genera: Cypripedium, Mexipedium, Paphiopedilum, Phragmipedium and Selenipedium.
The most commonly planted variety of lady slipper orchid is Paphiopedilum (pronounced paff-ee-oh-PED-ih-lum). Known commonly as the Venus Slipper, this type of orchid grows sturdy shoots with several leaves and extravagant flowers. Compared to other types of slipper orchids this particular variety is very adaptable to cultivation, making it a favorite amongst many gardeners.
Cypripedioidea are found in several varieties and in regions across the globe including Europe, Asia, and North and South America.
These orchids are relatively easy to grow indoors as they prefer temperatures from 55°F to 85°F .
Plain leafed varieties tend to prefer cooler temperatures than their mottled leafed relatives. It is important for both varieties that night time temperatures drop 10-15 degrees below day time temperatures.
Additionally, both varieties of orchid should be protected from rotting in cold temperatures and burning in hot temperatures.
As mentioned previously, these type of flowers are particularly adaptable to cultivation especially when it comes to lighting. Slipper orchids make wonderful house plants because they only require low to medium amounts of light. These beauties prefer one to two hours of direct morning sunlight with indirect lighting for the rest of the day.
Plain leafed orchids in this sub-family need slightly more daily light than mottled leafed strains. Of course, both types will do well when grown under artificial lighting, and both varieties will grow well in an east or west facing window.
Shaded south facing windows can also be an adequate source of lighting for these surprisingly hardy orchids.
Water and Humidity
How often these unique plants need to be watered depends on the type and size of its pot and also the potting medium used.
Because slipper orchids lack pseudobulbs, these orchids should not be allowed to completely dry out. It is equally important to ensure that the potting medium is not over-watered and left soggy. Using good quality water when the top of the growing medium is slightly dry to the touch and ensuring sufficient drainage will keep these beauties happy and growing well.
In terms of humidity, slipper orchids thrive in humidities between 40% and 50%. These orchids can grow well in relative humidities up to 60%, but in climates with higher relative humidity air movement must be part of your growing plan.
In most home settings humidity should not be an issue and in greenhouses average levels of humidity will suffice to keep these orchids comfortable.
Slipper orchids have fuzzy root systems that must be protected from the burning effects of over-feeding. To maintain healthy plant and root systems, maintain a regular feeding schedule using fertilizer prepared at one quarter to one half strength depending on the climate in which you are growing.
In hotter climates, use stronger fertilizer more often. In cooler climates, use a weaker fertilizer less frequently.
Regardless of how often or how much you are feeding your orchids, be sure to thoroughly rinse the plant with clear water once a month to avoid any fertilizer buildup and further protect the root system.
In order to maintain optimum health, slipper orchids should be re-potted every one to two years. More frequent re-potting may be necessary if the medium used starts to decompose.
There are many options when it comes to potting mediums for these delightfully distinctive orchids. Fine or medium grade fir bark, perlite, charcoal, and coarse sand can all be used as the base of the potting mix for your orchid. It is common for sphagnum moss to be added in to retain moisture. Ultimately, the potting mix should optimize moisture retention and adequate drainage.
When it comes to the type of pot that should be used to house slipper orchids, options are a bit more limited. The characteristic larger furry root system requires a small deep pot in order to flourish. Larger plants should be broken down by cutting apart the fans of the leaves in groups of three to five growths. Most average sized plants will do well when grown in pots four to six inches in diameter so long as the pot is deep enough to accommodate the root system.
MissOrchidGirl shares her personal experience (mistakes and lessons learned) on how to take care of the Lady Slipper orchid.