Lady’s slipper orchids are popular indoor plants, but there are also numerous hardy varieties for the garden. The new hybrids are extremely hardy and easy to care for. It’s not that easy with indoor plants and not all species have the same requirements. That’s why we’ve divided the plants a bit to make it easier to get an overview. You can read about the requirements of these species and how to care for the orchids in our detailed text.
Table of Contents
- Native to Southeast Asia, Indonesia and the Philippines
- Also known as the Venus shoe
- The downward-pointing petal is in the shape of a shoe
- Four groups are distinguished
- Spotted species
- Pure green-leaved species with narrow leaves
- Multiflowered Species
- Pure green-leaved species with broad foliage
- There are about 50 species plus numerous hybrids
- These species like quite different culture conditions
- There are also numerous species that do not fit into any group
- Flowering time – spring or autumn, hybrids also all year round
- Flowers in many colors, depending on the variety, red, orange, pink, green, yellow or multicolored
- Possess a rhizome from which new sprouts are constantly formed
- Toxic ingredients, especially in the leaves and stems
- In the meantime, hardy lady’s slipper orchids are also on the market
- All wild species in nature are under protection!!!
Types of lady’s slipper orchid
With hybrids, there are about 100 lady’s slipper orchid species. There are also numerous varieties. For maintenance, they are roughly divided into four groups. Not all fit into this classification, but most do, which is why you can use it quite well.
- Spotted species
- Pure green-leaved species with narrow, long leaves
- Multiflowered Species
- Pure green species with broad leaves
- Then there are the outdoor orchids
Caring for the lady’s slipper orchid
Lady’s slipper orchids aren’t quite as easy to grow as the popular Phalaenopsis orchids, but they’re not overly complicated either. The species all thrive in temperate conditions. Unfortunately, there are no general rules. All like high humidity and reasonably high temperatures. But then the similarities stop. The difficulty with lady’s slipper orchids lies in maintaining high humidity and the right pH. They are mostly indoor plants, although some like to be outside in the summer, albeit in the shade and protected from the rain. Otherwise regular airing is important, but without cold drafts. This prevents fungal infestation.
In general, it can be said that soft, large leaves require temperatures of around 20 °C, while narrow and harder leaves tolerate slightly cooler temperatures. The right plant substrate is important. It must be able to hold water, but also be very permeable. Lady’s slipper orchids are repotted annually and must be adequately watered and fertilized. Otherwise they are very easy to care for.
The individual species sometimes differ greatly in terms of their location. So it cannot be generalized. Green-leaved species, for example, can also spend the summer outdoors, but in the shade. They just bloom better then. The others thrive best indoors.
Spotted species in consistently warm conditions
- Bright, but without direct sun, so best in semi-shade
- Summer – 20 to 25°C
- Winter – 16 – 22 °C
- With this species, the temperatures should be lowered slightly at night after the growth phase, which promotes flowering
Pure green-leaved species with narrow leaves
- Shady location, also in the north window
- Normal light intensity
- Summer – during the day – 20 to 22 °C and at night – 19 to 17 °C
- Winter – during the day – 20 to 23 °C and at night – 16 to 13 °C
- Lowering the temperature is crucial for flowering
- Be sure to keep cooler after new shoots
- Bright but without direct sun
- Tolerates bright locations and high light intensity
- Summer – 20 to 23°C
- Winter – 18 to 22°C
- Minimum temperature 18°C
Pure green species with broad foliage
- Shady location, also in the north window
- Summer – 18 to 25°C
- Winter – 16 to 20°C
- Half-shady to shady location
- You must not get the midday sun!!!
The pH value is decisive for the plant substrate. This is so important because this orchid only absorbs its nutrients and water through the roots in the substrate. She has no extra aerial roots. If the pH is too high or too low, the plant is extremely susceptible to diseases and, in the worst case, can wither. Therefore, regular tests should be carried out!
- Not too fine substrate – orchid substrate or clay granules
- No potting soil!!!
- Professionals recommend a mixture of peat, chopped spagnum moss, pine bark, and perlite or Styrofoam flakes. The mixture contains a lot of water, but is still very airy.
- pH must be between 5 and 6.5
- Calcareous – add lime regularly, it is important for growth
- Shell limestone is practical, it has a long-lasting effect and does not have to be constantly re-added. (Remove sea salt from mussels first!)
- For outdoor orchids – fluffy but not too dry
- Heavy soils must be loosened up with expanded clay or lava gravel
Lady’s slipper orchids must be handled very carefully when planting. Do not injure the roots, because the plants do not tolerate this well. Suitable containers and drainage in the pot are important. Experts recommend annual repotting.
- Use transparent orchid pots so the roots can be checked regularly
- Choose a container that is as small as possible to limit root growth.
- The same pot can usually be used again
- Use a larger one only if there is no more space for substrate
- Best to repot annually
- Repot in the growth phase, but only when the roots have spread so far that there is no more substrate space
- Disturb roots as little as possible
- Remove the substrate only roughly and put it back in a pot
- Fill up with fresh substrate
- Always with drainage in the bottom of the pot
- Planting plants for the open ground in September
- Dig a hole about 10 cm deep and spread the roots or rhizome flat.
- The sprout bud, from which the new shoots will grow, should only be covered two centimeters with soil.
- Fill in the soil loosely, but do not press on!
watering and fertilizing
When watering and fertilizing, it is important that a resting phase is observed. This starts during flowering. Then the watering should be drastically reduced and not too much fertilizer should be used. A renewed growth spurt can often be recognized by the formation of a new leaf. Then it is watered evenly again and fertilized every three weeks.
- High humidity of 50 to 70 percent. The best way to achieve this is to fill the planter with moist clay granules and place the jar with the orchid on top.
- Water vigorously, but discard excess water shortly after watering
- Then let the substrate dry, but never dry it out
- Water significantly less in winter
- No waterlogging
- Too much moisture quickly leads to fungal growth and the flower buds getting stuck in the sheath
- After flowering, severely limit watering for about 6 weeks. Allow the root ball to dry out almost completely between waterings.
- Fertilize for 12 months
- In summer, fertilize about every third watering, in winter only once a month.
- It is best to use orchid fertilizer according to the instructions on the package
- Very sensitive to salt
- Provide outdoor orchids with a commercially available long-term fertilizer
There is not much to cut with the lady’s slipper orchids. Only the withered flower stalks should be cut off, but only when they are really withered to the bottom. It is important to use a very sharp and clean cutting tool, which is best used for this purpose only. The stem is cut off above the second or third eye.
- Cut off the flower stalk, but only when it is completely dry.
- In addition, roots that are too long can be shortened when repotting.
The care over the winter doesn’t really differ that much for most species. They don’t hibernate. The spotted specimens are an exception. For these, the temperatures should be lowered a bit. This is the only way flowers can develop.
- Additional lighting as an additional light source from September promotes the flowering of the orchids.
- Outdoor lady’s slipper orchids tolerate temperatures down to around minus 20 °C, at least under a protective layer of snow.
- If this is not available, the plants should be covered with a thick layer of fir brushwood to be on the safe side.
Lady’s slipper orchids can be easily propagated by division. Although propagation by seed is also possible, it is very complicated. Professionals can certainly do it, but sowing is not recommended for beginners.
- Starter packages are available on the market, which contain everything you need for sowing, i.e. culture medium, container and disinfectant.
- However, you have to work under sterile conditions and that is complicated.
- If the plant has more than six shoots, it should be divided, preferably into three parts of two each.
- These can then be replanted separately.
diseases and pests
Illnesses are often caused by care errors. Pests, in turn, are due to a wrong location and insufficient care. With the wrong pH value and too much moisture, the plants weaken and become more susceptible. This is to be avoided.
- Fungal diseases – due to moisture and lack of fresh air – leaf spot disease
- scale insects
- Mites – mostly on the flower stalk
- spider mites
- Nudibranchs in outdoor specimens
Frequently Asked Questions
Why doesn’t the lady’s slipper orchid bloom?
There can be different reasons. Quite often no rest period was observed. This is crucial for the beginning of the buds. Some species should not be kept too warm either (especially Paphiopedilum insigne). The so-called American hybrids don’t like it too warm either. Varieties with variegated leaves are best brought to bloom in so-called plant showcases. Other plant lovers have gotten their orchids to bloom by putting them outside during the summer.
How to cultivate hardy lady’s slipper orchids?
These are quite easy to care for if the location and plant substrate are right. The plants need a semi-shady or shady place, preferably under deciduous trees that do not form large and strong roots (witch hazel). The open shadow on the north side of a house is also favourable. These orchids do well in combination with low perennials or ferns.
Hybrids are more suitable for the garden than the wild species, they are significantly less sensitive. The plant substrate must be loose and crumbly, to a depth of at least 10 cm. It must not be too dry, but it must not be waterlogged either. Loosen dense and heavy soil better with expanded clay or lavalite. In dry, sandy soils, it is good to mix in Seramis, which increases the water storage capacity. Do not use peat! The soil should never dry out completely. Gentle showering during dry and hot summers will help plants survive the heat. In the spring, regularly provide nutrients with mineral fertilizers. A thin layer of beech leaves or needle litter has a beneficial effect on the soil structure and its moisture.
Actually, no winter protection is required. However, I would put a layer of brushwood over the plants, if only to keep out excess moisture, which the plants don’t like.