What is a Ladyslipper?

Rebecca Partington

A ladyslipper, also known as Lady Slippers or Lady's Slipper, is a type of orchid. The ladyslipper encompasses the genera Mexipedium, Cypripedium, Phragmipedium, Pahiopedilum, and Selenipedium. All of these genera belong to the Cypripedioideae subfamily, which in turn belongs to the Orchidaceae family.

A ladyslipper requires a tropical climate with warm temperatures year round.
A ladyslipper requires a tropical climate with warm temperatures year round.

One of the most unique characteristics of a ladyslipper is its pouch, which is designed to force insects to brush against the ladyslipper's staminode and thus gather or deposit pollinia. This helps the orchid reproduce. The pouch resembles a slipper, which is how the flower got its name.

The Cypripedium genera of the ladyslipper subfamily grows throughout a large area of North America and some portions of Europe. The Pahiopedilum genera grows in tropical forests throughout southeast Asia. This type grows easily and thus some species in this genus have been overcollected by orchid growers. Finally, the Phragmipedium genera grows in Central America and the northern part of South America. It too is easy to grow, so it is also popular among orchid enthusiasts.

A person who wants to grow a ladyslipper will usually choose one from the Mexipedium, Phragmipedium, Pahiopedilum, or Selenipedium genera. The species in these genera require warm temperatures year-round, so unless the person lives in a tropical climate, the plants from these genera will need to be grown indoors. However, plants from the Cyrpipedium genus may be grown outdoors in temperate climates.

The light requirements of the Paphiopedilum genus, the most popular ladyslipper for the average orchid grower, are low to moderate, and the humidity requirements fall within human comfort levels. These requirements make them easy to care for. This genus also requires good drainage, which may be achieved through the use of a growing pot with holes in the bottom and a quick-draining orchid potting medium. The Pahiopedilum grower should give the plant a lot of water at each watering, but must let the roots dry out somewhat between waterings. These orchids should also be fertilized regularly with special orchid fertilizer.

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