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Paphiopedilum ‘Lord Derby’ (photo courtesy of MAP/Arnaud Descat/Garden World Images)
Paphiopedilum ‘Lord Derby’ (photo courtesy of MAP/Arnaud Descat/Garden World Images)

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Zones 17, 20-24, H2
Partial Sun
Regular Water


Lady’s Slipper
Orchids and bromeliads, Flowers

Sometimes sold as Cypripedium, these terrestrial orchids are native to tropical and subtropical regions of Asia. They are usually grown in a greenhouse or as houseplants but can be brought outdoors in warm weather. Some green-leafed forms can stay outdoors all year in mildest parts of the West Coast (Zones 17, 20–24); more tender, mottled-leafed forms can be grown outdoors year-round in Zone H2.

Leaves are graceful and arching. Green-leafed types usually flower in winter, mottled-leafed kinds in summer. Most plants obtained from orchid dealers are hybrids. Blooms are perky, usually one to a stem, occasionally two or more; each has a distinctive pouch. Many of them shine as if lacquered. Flowers may be white, yellow, green with white stripes, or pure green; or they may show a combination of background colors and markings in tan, mahogany, brown, maroon, green, and white.

A noteworthy species is P. insigne. Among the cold-hardiest of the green-leafed types, it can withstand brief exposure to 28°F (–2°C). It blooms at any time from early fall through winter, bearing polished-looking flowers on stiff, hairy brown stems. Sepals and petals show a combination of green and white, with brown spots and stripes; pouch is reddish brown.

Lady’s slippers lack pseudobulbs in which to store moisture, so their roots must never be allowed to go completely dry (water freely in spring and summer, less in fall and winter). Use the same potting mix as for cymbidiums. Feed with a half-strength solution of liquid fertilizer every week during spring and summer, then taper down to every other week during winter months. Don’t plant in oversize pot; plants thrive when crowded. They flourish with less light than most orchids require.

The least fussy types can be grown in pots in the house. For indoor culture, green-leafed forms generally require temperatures of 50°–55°F (10°–13°C) at night, 60°–75°F (16°–24°C) during the day. Mottled-leafed forms do best with temperatures of about 55°–60°F (13°–16°C) at night, 65°–80°F (18°–27°C) during the day. Heat requirements are best met in a greenhouse.

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