What is Paphiopedilum?

Todd M.
Todd M.
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Known informally as paphs, Paphiopedilum is a large genus of orchids that can be recognized by the slipper-shaped pouch at the bottom of the orchid blossom. Paphs have become some of the most prized and hybridized orchids available on the market. This is due to the fact that they are some of the easiest genera of orchids to grow that provide highly esteemed flowers. There are over 80 recognized species of the Paphiopedilum genus, most of which are native to China, the Pacific Islands, India, and Southeastern Asia. Most species of Paphiopedelum are terrestrial, or ground-growing, but there are also some epiphytes, which grow on other plants, and lithophytes, which grow on rocks.

Paphiopedilum orchids are considered to be one of the most diverse genera of orchids. Paphs can be found thriving on the floor of tropical forests, clinging to the sides of limestone cliffs and surviving high above within the rainforest canopy. Most Paphs have thin, plain green leaves, but there some species that have wide, mottled foliage. The flowers of a Paphiopedilum typically last for one to two months and stay in excellent condition while in blossom.

Most Paph hybrids are much easier to care for than native Paphs. Paph hybrids can be grown indoors in any warm room and will begin to produce flowers in about two years. Horticulturists have developed a wide variety of Paphiopedilum hybrids that have long-lasting flowers in many different colors and shapes. Two of most striking Paph hybrids include the delicate Miller's Daughter and the Paphiopedilum sukjakulii x Tuxedo Junction hybrid. The Miller's Daughter features streaks of light garnet on lavender petals with an orange garnet slipper. The P. sukjakulii x Tuxedo Junction hybrid provides flowers that display unusual lateral petals of lime green with dark garnet spots hovering above a burgundy and green slipper.

Paphiopedilum orchids are typically propagated by division, but most native species can also be raised from seeds if they are properly cared for. Paphiopedilums that have only one flower prefer cooler temperatures and relatively low humidity. Paph species and hybrids that produce multiple flowers should be grown in warm conditions with plenty of direct light. Paphs that have mottled leaves should be kept warm but receive very little direct sunlight.

With the exception of epiphytes, all Paphs prefer to be grown in well-drained pots filled with a loose soil consisting of decomposed bark. These orchids should be watered and misted regularly during the warmer months and then allowed to dry in between waterings during the winter.

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