The Q&A Archives: Lady's Slipper

Question: Hi NGA staff,

I have a lady slipper for a little more than 4 years. The name on the tag of this orchid is "Paph candy apple". It took 2 years for this orchid to bloom. After the first time and the flower wilted, I noticed new growth on the side of the original growth. To promote growth to this new area, I cut off the old plant. 2 years later, it bloomed again. This time I heard from a friend that I shouldn't cut the old growth when new shoots come out beside it. So far I haven't touched it, but noticed the new growth is smaller than I had previously. Should I cut away the old portion of the plant?

Answer: Lady's Slipper Orchid is Paphidpedilum, a terrestrial plant native to the tropics. The plants produce graceful, arching foliage that is either plain green or mottled. Plain leafed forms usually flower in winter and mottled leafed forms flower in summer. In general, mottled leafed forms do best with temperatures of 60F-65F at night, 70F-85F during the day. Plain leafed forms require nighttime temperatures of 55F-65F at night and 65F-75F during the day. Both forms grow best in a soil of equal parts ground bark and sandy loam, and thrive when potbound. Give plants bright, indirect light and keep the soil moist at all times.

Repotting should be done about every two years, or as the medium decomposes. Seedlings are often repotted annually. Mixes vary tremendously; most are fine- and/or medium-grade fir bark, with varying additives -- perlite (sponge-rock), coarse sand, sphagnum moss, etc. Moisture retention with excellent drainage is needed. Divide large plants by pulling or cutting the fans of the leaves apart, into clumps of 3 to 5 growths. Smaller divisions will grow, but may not bloom as well. Spread the roots over a small amount of medium in the bottom of the pot and fill with medium, so that the junction of roots and stem is buried 1/2" deep in the center of the pot. Do not overpot; an average plant should have a 4 to 6" pot.

If you're cutting away more than just the spent flowers and stems, you're cutting off part of the living plant. Try dividing the plant when new shoots appear and repotting the divisions.

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