The botanical species of Paphiopedilum are found in the jungles of the Far East and Indonesia. They mainly grow in the layer of humus in the jungle and sometimes on stones. They can rarely be found in trees.
Paphiopedilum is also called lady's slipper or slipper orchid. This genus includes between sixty and eighty species.
The shoe-shaped lip serves as an insect trap; flying insects are lured with scent and the promise of nectar in the flower. They can only get out through a narrow opening whereby they pass the pistil and the stamens and get the pollen on their body. At the next flower the pollen then ends up on the pistil.
American hybrids are available from October to March. Multiflowers are available throughout the year. These remarkable orchids are available from better-stocked florists and garden centres. The American hybrids have a large flower. The multiflowers have small flowers, often two to four flowers per branch. Paphiopedilums grow leaf shoots. The flowers emerge from the middle of the shoot. American hybrids come in colours ranging from yellow to red, often with a marking on the dorsal sepal. The multiflowers range from yellow to russet. Paphiopedilum is always reproduced using seed, as a result of which every plant has unique characteristics.
Paphiopedilums are shade plants. Never place them in the full midday sun. Too much sun will result in pale or scorched leaves. The daytime temperature for the variegated species must be between 20 and 24 °C. For the green-leaved species the daytime temperature should be between 17 and 22 °C. Paphiopedilum flowers for six to ten weeks.
All Paphiopedilums like an airy pot soil. Water once a week, slightly more in the summer. Make sure that no water remains at the bottom of the outer pot. Preferably immerse in rain water for about ten minutes. Paphiopedilums need very little food. Feed with orchid food once every two to three weeks, but only use half the amount of food specified on the bottle. This orchid is easy to cultivate in the living room. Do not place the plant in direct sunlight. Cold nights (12 to 15 °C) in the spring encourage the formation of buds.
Every branch flowers just once and then dies back. Cut away the old branch as deep as possible. The plant will flower on a new branch after about nine months. When repotting ensure that that plant’s base is below the potting material, otherwise root growth will stop. If the plant gets too big, it can easily be split into two or three plants. The plant does not like a pot which is too large. Repotting in orchid soil once every three to four years is sufficient.
Because a slightly lower night-time temperature encourages the formation of buds, most plants bloom in the middle of winter. Paphiopedilum is a slow-growing plant - it takes about three years before the plant is mature enough to flower. If there is sufficient new shoot (leaf) growth, it can then flower every year after that. The more shoots the plant produces, the greater the chance that the plant will bloom with more flowers.