The weather has turned unseasonably cold, to the point that the National Weather Service has issued a freeze warning for most of central North Carolina tonight. If it does freeze, this will be the latest frost in more than 20 years, a full month after the average last freeze for this area. Consequently, the tropical plants that I have been moving outside over the past few weeks will need to be moved back into the greenhouse or living room this afternoon, probably to stay there until Wednesday at least. There’s not much to be done about subtropical plants out in the garden which are already well into their spring growth; hopefully the fresh canopy of deciduous leaves on the trees will provide some protection from radiative cooling.
For this week’s Six on Saturday, I am focusing on a single group of greenhouse plants: tropical lady’s slipper orchids of genus Paphiopedilum. A google search will turn up reams of information on cultivating paphs, so I’ll only say that I use a potting mix of Orchiata bark, large perlite, and stalite in roughly equal proportions. To this mix, which is suitable for a wide range of orchids, I add a small amount of crushed oyster shell to provide calcium for the paphs that grow on limestone.
Although different species and hybrids flower throughout the year, there is a peak of blooming in spring. Here are six that are flowering now.
1. Paphiopedilum philippinense varieties.
No prize for guessing the home range of this species. P. philippinense is fairly widespread in the Philippine archipelago and consequently exhibits significant morphological diversity. The plant on the left is a dwarf specimen that I have been growing since 1997. Its relatively short petals would probably define it as P. philippinense var. laevigatum, a variety that is relatively uncommon in cultivation. The taller plant, with its long twisted petals, fits the description of P. philippinense var. roebelenii and is more typical of the specimens that are favored by orchid growers.
2. Paphiopedilum QF Ikaika
This is a new hybrid registered in 2019. Its parentage is Paphiopedilum (rothschildianum x anitum) x philippinense, and I’m going to rate it a solid meh. I assume the breeder was going for large size (from P. rothschildianum), dark color (from P. anitum), and twisted petals (from P. philippinense). Instead, the plant inherited mediocre color, moderate size, petals with hardly any twist, and a small, squat pouch. I’ll give it a few more years to mature, but if it doesn’t improve, it is destined for an orchid society raffle table.
3. Paphiopedilum venustum
According to Hennessy and Hedge , this species from the southeastern foothills of the Himalayas was the first tropical lady’s slipper introduced into cultivation (collected 1816, flowered in England 1819). It has been popular ever since for its veined pouch and distinctively mottled foliage. It definitely comes down on the bizarre/grotesque end of the scale, rather than pretty/elegant. I like it.
4. Paphiopedilum callosum var. sublaeve
A dwarf variety of P callosum that seems to be somewhat intermediate between that species and P. barbatum. This is a first-bloom seedling that I got as a free bonus in an orchid order about a year ago.
5. Paphiopedilum lowii
Compared to the P. lowii that I blogged about last year, this clone has a darker pouch, more brown pigment in the dorsal sepal, and more horizontal petals. I particularly like the horizontal stance of the petals–
6. Paphiopedilum appletonianum with deformed flowers
This is the second time this plant has bloomed, and the flowers were deformed last year, too. I’ll give it one more chance to produce a normal flower before I toss it in the compost bin.
The Propagator is the host of Six on Saturday. Head over there to see his Six and find links to the blogs of other participants.
1. Hennessy, E.F. and Hedge, T.A. (1989) The Slipper Orchids, Acorn Books, Randburg, R.S.A.