Other Names: Lady's Slipper Orchids, Lady Slipper Orchids, Slipper Orchids
The Lady Slipper is actually a broad term that encompasses five different genera. This makes it difficult to care for if you're not sure which genera your specific orchid is from. However, no matter which genera your Lady Slipper orchid is, it will have a pouch-shaped labellum that is used to trap insects and force them to carry out the fertilization process for the orchid.
The scientific name for the encompassing subfamily is Cypripedioidaeae, and it's this subfamily that contains the Cypripedium, Mexipedium, Paphiopedilum, Phragmipedium and Selenipedium genera. Each of these different genera has different care instructions and requirements for the orchids to thrive.
Cypripedium orchids are among some of the most popular and requested genera of orchids in this family available to buy. There are 58 separate orchid species that make up this genus, and these are extremely hardy orchids. You'll traditionally find them spread across the Northern Hemisphere, and they do very well in cooler growing conditions.
They grow wild in the United States, Russia, China, Canada, and Asia. This particular genus has several common names including the squirrel foot, moccasin flower, steeple cap and camel's foot. They're commonly abbreviated as "Cyp," and the name comes from the Latin word Cypris combined with the Ancient Greek word Kypris.
These orchids have a robust and short rhizome that grows annually. It has a bud on one end, and this is where the stem originates from. You'll get an elongated stem with leaves scattered along it. The leaves themselves are usually hairy and vary in shape from long and thin to rounded and short.
The orchid's inflorescence can have anywhere from one to twelve flowers growing at the same time. The flowers feature three sepals, and one makes up the iconic 'slipper' shape. They come in several colors, and the flower's lip is usually a different color from the rest of it.
These hardy orchids do very well with constantly moist soil and bright shade. They shouldn't get direct sunlight, and they don't tolerate acidic soil. They go through a growth cycle where they'll need fertilizer, and then they do go dormant. Finally, when you plant them, it may take up to a year to see growth as they need time to establish their root system.
The Medipedium genera is very small, and it currently only has a single orchid species. This is also a newer genus that was separated into its own genus in 1992. This orchid is considered to be rare, and at the time it was discovered, there were only seven plants. Today, it is available thanks to the efforts of local horticulturists, but it's still harder to find.
This orchid is native to Mexico, and its name comes from the Latin word pes meaning 'foot' in reference to the slipper-like petal. The name also means 'prefers dry conditions' in reference to its native habitat and environmental conditions in Mexico.
This orchid forms short runners that branch out and that are offset from the main orchid by several inches. It has very small leaves that are a silver color and stand semi-erect along the runners. The flower is very small, and it comes in white with a pink hue with slightly curved petals.
To grow well, this orchid likes very airy potting medium, and it grows well mounted on slabs of bark or in mesh pots. It can have more light than the other genera, but it does well with reduced light as well. It likes acidic soil and distilled water, and you shouldn't ever let it totally dry out. This orchid will flower two times on a single flower spike before turning brown and dropping off.
The Paphiopedilum genera is also commonly called the Venus Slipper, and there are 80 accepted species in this genera, including a few naturally-occurring hybrids. You'll find these orchids growing in the Indian Subcontinent, New Gineau, China, Southeast Asia, and Solomon. They're a very widely sought after and cultivated orchid genera.
This genus's name originates from a combination of a city in Cyprus named Paphos and the Greek word pedilon, which means slipper. This genus is commonly confused with the Cypripedium genera, but it's been classified as its own genera since 1959.
Lacking pseudobulbs, these orchids grow several shoots on each plant. Their leaves vary from plant to plant, and they can be thin and elongated or rounded and short. They all usually have a spotted pattern. The flower comes in a variety of striking colors, and this genus has never been successfully cloned, so every plant is unique.
These orchids are considered to be easy to grow and maintain as long as you can mimic their natural environments. They like high humidity levels, and you shouldn't let them dry out completely. You'll need shaded conditions, moderate humidity levels, cooler temperatures, and moderate fertilizer applications for them to do well. Finally, their potting medium should retain moisture but be light and airy.
The Phragmipedium genera contains twenty-three orchid species and three hybrid orchid species. Originating in Peru, this genus was almost wiped out by orchid hunters shortly after it was first discovered in 1851. However, several seeds were saved and successfully grown, so the genera survived.
Today, you can find these orchid species in Peru and South America, and they're considered to be moderately easy to grow and maintain. The hybrid species in the genera are more forgiving and will accept a higher temperature range than most of the other species.
These orchids have very leathery foliage that grows in a fan-shaped pattern, and a few species can have foliage that reaches up to two feet wide. Every plant grows a single flower spike that can have anywhere from two flowers to eight flowers on a single plant. The flowers themselves are brightly colored, and they can bloom for several consecutive months.
They like a lot of water, up to once a day in the summer months. They also like medium light conditions and warm temperatures with higher humidity levels. You'll want to fertilize your orchid routinely throughout the growing months, and they need to be divided when you repot them.
The Selenipedium genera currently has six accepted orchid species, and it is often abbreviated as Sel. The name of this genus originates from the Greek word selen, which translates into moon, and the Greek word pedium, which means slipper.
This genera is native to South America, and it has a very reedy appearance. Also, in South America, several of these orchids were used as a substitute for vanilla in food and drink. However, due to the difficulty level that comes with cultivating these orchids, this trend has faded away.
These orchids have long, reedy stems that are studded with several elongated leaves. These leaves come in bright yellow and a striking darker green that contrasts sharply with the brilliant colors of the flower. The flower itself is smaller, and it typically comes in white, bright yellow, and features stripes or a mottled appearance.
This genus isn't greatly cultivated because they're so difficult, but they like to remain moist constantly. They're very finicky with their growing conditions, and it's easy to damage them. They should have light, airy soil that retains moisture and a loosely packed pot or mesh basket. They do well in lower light conditions or dappled light with moderate humidity levels and warmer temperatures.
These five genera are all mistakenly called Lady Slippers, and this tends to lead to confusion when you're trying to ensure that your orchid remains healthy. However, if you do your research, you'll be able to keep them happy and thriving with the correct growing conditions.
MissOrchidGirl shares her personal experience (mistakes and lessons learned) on how to take care of the Lady Slipper orchid.