No, I'm not conjuring up images of sitting by the fire in your warm slippers, with your faithful canine friend snoring by your side. But rather, a type of orchid best available in the cool parts of the year. These are the paphiopedilums, or paphs for short. They are also called slipper orchids because if you use your imagination, that "pouch" on the flower does look like a slipper. A "bulldog" slipper is a type of complex hybrid with a much bigger flower; I like to think of the cute pudgy face of a bulldog breed. They are usually seen in shade of greenish, yellow, and combinations with white. Notice the size difference here, between my "normal" slipper and my bulldog.
Slipper orchids differ from the usual "phals" or moth orchids that we carry in several ways. Instead of having thick fleshy leaves and roots, they have long thin leaves and hairy roots that like to have a consistent source of moisture. Slippers are mostly terrestrial in their native habitat, which means they grow on the ground instead of attaching to trees like many other orchids do. But this doesn't mean they are hard to care for. They just don't want to go as dry as a "phal" can. The slippers I had the most luck with are planted in an orchid bark mixture, with just a little potting soil added.
Another difference between phals and paph is in the way they grow. New growth on phals that will initiate flowers appear directly above the older ones. This is called monopodial growth. After a slipper orchid has bloomed, the new growth that will make a flower is always off to the side of the parent plant. This is called sympodial growth.
The flowers on these plants can last 1-2 months, and sometimes they will grow additional flowers. I once had a slipper that just kept growing flower after flower on top of the same stem. If you look closely at this picture, you can see several joints in the stem, zig-zagging up to the flower at the top. Wherever it "zigged" was a place where a flower had been! It finally finished after it had bloomed for almost an entire year. That was very amazing, and unfortunately, shortly after that it went to plant heaven.
Most slippers come in shade of burgandy, green, yellow, and many with several colors and splotches and interesting patterns on their flowers. With the exception of my super-slipper, they are more petite in size and the flower stays about 12'' above the plant.They can make lovely additions to your decor where you don't need a flamboyant statement. But they can still have fun! These bulldogs were "glitzed up" for the holidays and given as gifts. Maybe there's a place for these petite beauties in your home.
Tue, January 1, 2013
by Tami filed under