PAPHIOPEDILUM: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Bob & Lynn Wellenstein

        This section is intended to serve two purposes. First, it is meant to be a resource for answers to questions commonly asked by newer Paphiopedilum growers. It is also hoped it will assist all Paphiopedilum growers in fine-tuning and improving the existing culture of their plants, and in solving new challenges that may arise in trying to grow these wonderful plants. The goal is to promote better growth of your plants, and in turn to help your plants produce the best flowers possible. Although each of us has different expectations of what we want to achieve in our growing, I think we all hope to grow the plants reasonably well and get good flowers from them. It is important to emphasize here that no one aspect of Paph. culture can be completely isolated from the others, all aspects are interrelated, and changes in any single part may require adjustments to many other parts to maintain the integrity of the whole cultural picture. The material presented here is based on our experiences growing Paphiopedilums for many years in the home on windowsills, under fluorescent and HID lighting, and in our greenhouses. This section will also be a work in progress. If you have a question that you feel we can answer that would be of benefit to you and other growers, please write to antec@ladyslipper.com and we will do our best to answer your questions and post them on this page if appropriate.

I already grow a mixed collection of orchids; will Paphs fit in with my other plants?
        
Paphs are such a diverse group that you should have no problem adding some hybrids or even species to almost any collection, regardless of your growing conditions, even if you are already growing just other non-orchidaceous plants. The ranges of light and temperature tolerances within the genus Paphiopedilum is very similar to other commonly cultivated plants such as Phalaenopsis orchids, African violets, and other common houseplants, and most are relatively easy to grow plants as long as you take into consideration their general needs.

If I buy a Paph as a first orchid, should I buy a species, or a hybrid?
Paph. wardii 'Candor Black Pepper' HCC/AOS
Paphiopedilum wardii 'Candor Black Pepper' HCC/AOS. Paph wardii is one of the species we highly recommend.  
        
This really depends on your preference of flower color, size, and shape. Many people start out buying hybrids simply because there are more of them available than the species (roughly 13,000 hybrids versus about 80 species), and the hybrids often have appealing colors or patterns of color that are rare or unobtainable in the species. The garden shops, orchid greenhouses, and orchid shows will feature a multitude of different types of Paph primary hybrids, Maudiae types, and complex Paphs, but often also a smaller selection of Paph. species.
        Hybrids are often more tolerant about their growing conditions than species can be, and for that reason can sometimes fit more easily into general orchid collections, or more casual growing conditions for the first time Paph grower. On the other hand, there are many species, particularly those that have been extensively seed grown, that are among the easier plants to raise, and are inexpensive "starter" plants. Species such as Paph. sukhakulii or Paph. wardii are very easy to flower, attractive even when not in flower due to their mottled leaves, compact in size and not terribly finicky about growing conditions. Most of the mottled leaf 'Maudiae' type hybrids are readily available, inexpensive, and make excellent easy to grow and flower hybrid choices. Vinicolor Maudiae types, ranging in color from deep merlot to dark raspberry, have become especially prevalent in the trade, and where 10 years ago, they commanded very high prices, today they can be purchased for around $20 or less even in flower.
Paph. Sir Galahad 'Candor'
Paph. Sir Galahad 'Candor', a complex hybrid.  
        Whereas Maudiae types prefer to be grown warm, the so-called complex Paphs will tolerate a wider range of temperatures and less amenable conditions. Complex Paphs were derived from several Paph. species, incorporating Paph. spicerianum, Paph. villosum, Paph. niveum, Paph. bellatulum, Paph. insigne, and others. Over decades of breeding the complex Paphs have become very large, very full flowers in a broad spectrum of colors, ranging from solid white to dark true reds, to solid greens, yellows brushed with green, and those with prominent mahogany splotching on the dorsal.

How big does my Paph have to be to bloom?
        
Predicting blooming size by leaf span can be difficult, as there is not only tremendous variation between the different species, but clonal variation within a species. Differing growing conditions between growers can also produce 'blooming size' plants at different rates. Also, vendors have independent ideas about what constitutes 'blooming size', based on their particular growing conditions. Obviously only limited generalizations can be made within ranges as wide apart as the diminutive Paph. barbigerum and the huge Paph. kolopakingii, but probably one of the best indicators that a plant has reached potential blooming
kolopakingii/barbigerum
Look close for the flowering Paph. barbigerum in the front of the Paph. kolopakingii.  
size is when a new growth starts. This is not always the case, though, as some plants grown in less than optimum conditions will have to produce multiple growths before flowering, and a few species tend to impart a "clumping of growths" prior to flowering trait.

When will my Paph bloom again?
        
You have to be patient when the plant you purchased in flower is done flowering, because it needs to mature another growth before it can flower again, unless it is a sequential bloomer from the section Cochlopetalum (see following paragraph). Your plant will also take a bit of time to adjust to your growing conditions, and your potting medium if you choose to repot it after flowering (which is always a good idea). Many of the species and hybrids are somewhat seasonal in their flowering; others will flower pretty much any time of year when they mature a growth. Still others can bloom more than once a year once they become larger, multigrowth plants.

How long should my flowers last?
Paph. Susan Booth 'Candor Tiger Rose' AM/AOS
Paph. Susan Booth 'Candor Tiger Rose' AM/AOS.  
        
Paphs purchased at orchid shows, or at commercial greenhouses, and then brought into the home should hold their flowers for at least a week, perhaps even for several weeks. If the flowers on the plant were already starting to fade, turn slightly transparent, or lose substance at the time the plant was purchased, the flowers will not last long. This can be most noticeable in the pouch, which will appear slightly wrinkled and perhaps shrunken. If you like the flower, even though it is fading, you can still purchase the plant, as you now have a good idea of the flowers' quality and shape. The change in environment can hasten the fading of the flowers, and when rebloomed in your own conditions, the flowers will last for longer periods of time. Members of the section Cochlopetalum (Paph. glaucophylum, Paph. victoria-mariae, Paph. victoria-regina [chamberlainianum]), Paph. primulinum, and Paph. liemianum) flower consecutively over several months; even when one flower fades and falls from the plant, there will likely be another bud readying on the same inflorescence to open in a short time. Mature plants in this section can be in flower almost constantly under good conditions. Multiflorals, such as Paph. philippinense, Paph. St. Swithin, Paph. Lady Isabel, Paph. Susan Booth, Paph. adductum, Paph. supardii et. al. gradually over several days open all their flowers, until they are all open at once, and then tend to fade the flowers up the inflorescence one after another, starting with the first one opened.

Will it bloom again from the same growth?
        
You will get only one inflorescence per growth; you need to mature another growth to get another inflorescence. There have been rare recorded instances of some plants pushing up 2 inflorescences from the same growth. The exception to this rule is plants from section Cochlopetalum, which will give you flowers sequentially on the same inflorescence for many months.

I noticed a bud forming several weeks ago, but it seems to be taking forever to develop, what's wrong?
        Paphs can be frustratingly or tantalizingly (depending on your point of view) slow to push that bud up and open it. Paph. malipoense, for example, can slowly push the bud up over a period of months, especially if the humidity and light is low. Some others, such as Paph. hirsutissimum and Paph. tigrinum, can initiate a bud low in the growth and then hold it at that stage for several months before pushing it up. You need patience with Paphs. However, if you can look closely at the bud down in the growth, and it seems black or dark brown, and very thin, it has probably died (remember however that many vinicolor buds are very dark maroon normally). Now, you will have to wait until the plant matures a second growth for a flower.

The bud on my Paph. has turned brown (or black). What happened?
browning bud
The ovary on this Paph. malipoense bud has turned brown, and the bud is starting to go.  
        There are many reasons for 'bud blast', or the death of the developing bud. If the bud gets too cold, for instance from being too close to a window in the colder months, it may blast. At the other end of the spectrum, if the bud becomes overheated from too much direct sun it may blast. You can also lose buds to rot if water is allowed to remain in the crown of the plant for an extended period of time, particularly during colder temperatures. Well grown Paphs are not terribly sensitive to bud loss in low humidity, but if it becomes extremely dry, this is a possibility also. Application of pesticides that contain an organic solvent, or oil sprays under high light and heat conditions can cause bud loss. Also check for mealybugs, especially hiding under the bract that subtends the bud, as they can cause enough damage to cause bud loss. Other sucking insects can also cause enough damage to blast a bud, and mice or slugs can take a nip out of the bud or inflorescence and cause enough damage to lose it, or at the very least, cause severe deformities. Inadequate water or nutrient supply, particularly calcium, to the inflorescence and bud can cause it to blast. This can be caused by either inadequate watering or fertilization (or incomplete fertilization), or insufficient root mass on the plant. Remember that the plant grows relatively slowly, so the root mass, if marginal, may be adequate to keep the plant looking okay, but the rapidly growing inflorescence has a high demand for water and nutrients. Some nutrients can be moved from other parts of the plant, but calcium is only slightly translocatable within the plant, and so must be supplied regularly and in adequate amounts to support this rapid growth.

The new flower that has opened on my plant has a split synsepal, and the dorsal didn't quite separate from one of the petals; will the flower always have this deformity? What caused it? I bought it when it was in flower, and it didn't look like this!
Paph. lawrenceanum 'Twolip'
This. Paph. lawrenceanum bloomed with two lips, but probably will bloom normally the next time  
        
Flower deformities such as these happen occasionally, and are rarely a consistent feature of a plant. The cause can be difficult to determine; certainly rapidly changing temperatures or humidity levels just before and during anthesis (the maturing and opening of the bud into a flower) can cause flower deformities. Other causes include damage by sucking insects such as mealies, and by applications of some pesticides. The presence of a split synsepal is a very commonly seen flower deformity in Paphs, although using the term deformity seems wrong as in many cases, especially if the split is symmetrical, it presents a very attractive appearing flower. Petals fused to sepals, multiple pouches, petals forming partial to complete pouches, and very small to nonexistent pouches, as well as just plain miniaturized but perfect flowers, are some of the many such deformities seen if you flower enough plants each year. Again, with only rare exceptions are these regular features of the plants. Among the few consistent exceptions we have seen are Paph. insigne 'Oddity', which forms multiple pouches. Another is Paph. hirsutissimum 'Peloric', a plant we own, that consistently produces petals that form pouches (a similar plant was named as a Paph. species - Paph. saccopetalum - in a bit of overzealous taxonomy). The cross of Paph. niveum with Paph. druryi is named Paph. Microchilum because of the tendency of this hybrid to have a very small pouch.
Paph. hirsutissimum 'Peloric'
Paph. hirsutissimum 'Peloric' is one of the uncommon plants that blooms consistently peloric.  
        Other types of flower deformities that are consistent are a result of combining certain traits. An example might be the result of crossing a Paph. with long, heavily twisted petals with a Paph. possessing broad, cupped petals. The result may very likely produce a percentage of progeny with deformed, crenated petals. Those that exhibit such a trait are not likely to outgrow it.
        Another common deformity is that of 'color break' in flowers. This refers to a condition where what should be consistent background color of a flower is streaked or thinly splotched with a different color. Sometimes, the streaking also produces deformed, indented tissue that twists or pinches a petal or dorsal. The most prominent cases of color break probably occur when vinicolor (wine colored) mottled leaf Maudiae types are crossed with brachypetalums, such as Paph. bellatulum. The best from such a cross can be absolutely outstanding, occasionally producing stunning, near black colored flowers with wide petals and good overall flower conformation, but many from such a cross may also show variable amounts of color break, with white streaks against the dark background. It is possible for some of these plants to "grow out" of this type of color break, but it is usually assumed that if they have flowered with it three times, it will be a persistent feature of the flower. Such a streaked flower may not catch the judges eye so as to be awardable, but if the streaking does not deform the flower parts, the plant can still be desirable to own, depending on the eye of the owner.
        
The bottom leaf on my Paph is starting to turn yellow, what's wrong?
yellowing lower leaf
The lower leaf that is yellowing on this plant is part of a normal process, not a problem developing.  
        
If only the bottom leaf or two is turning yellow, and the plant otherwise appears healthy and is growing new leaves, chances are that it is only the normal senescence (dying) of the lower leaves. They have served their function and are giving up any translocatable nutrients to the rest of the plant. There is the possibility, if you feel the yellowing is premature for the number of new leaves, that it is the result of a translocatable nutrient deficiency. Two possibilities would be Nitrogen (N) and Potassium (K), but a deficiency of either of these is highly unlikely if you are feeding a balanced fertilizer on a regular basis. A more likely possibility is a Magnesium deficiency, which can be cured with an occasional feeding of 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of Epsom Salts per gallon of water every one to three months. See "Mineral Nutrition of Slipper Orchids" for more information.
        There is also the possibility that there is the beginning of a fungal or bacterial infection at the base of the leaf, particularly if there are any areas of brown and wet looking areas at the base of the leaf. This can be difficult to see, particularly if the rot is just getting started, and if there is a bract at the base of the leaf that is turning yellow. This type of leaf yellowing, accompanied by brown rot, is most commonly caused by potting the plant too deep in the mix. Your best bet in this case is to carefully remove the basal (lowest) bract, then take a look at the base of the leaf. If there is a mushy brown area at the base of the leaf, you must remove the leaf, and try to get as much of the diseased area as well. You may need to take a small and sharp knife and gently ---and carefully---remove any of the brown area at the base of the plant, even cutting into the rhizome of the plant to remove any infected tissue, which will usually appear a reddish brown in color. Go slowly with this approach, and watch that you do not cut your fingers at the same time you cut the plant. In removing diseased tissue, you will finally come to the whitish area of unaffected tissue on the plant. Take a plant tag and fill the end with a tiny amount of cinnamon, and then apply this to the open wound. Blow off any excess so that the next time you water, which should not be earlier than one day, the cinnamon does not get down into the pot or on any other roots.

What should I do with dead or dying leaves?
Dead lower leaf
Dead lower leaves are easily removed by simply pressing down at the base while supporting the base of the plant with your other hand.  
        Leaves that have become mostly yellow or crispy brown need to be removed from the plant. This can usually be done easily by putting your thumb on top of the leaf close to the plant, and while supporting the plant just above the leaf with your other hand, pushing down gently and with care, don't force it. We've found removing them this way generally causes less risk of infection than cutting, and also does not leave the little "V" pocket to hold water up against the plant. The dead or dying leaf does not have the natural defenses against bacterial and fungal pathogens that a vital leaf has. To leave part of it attached to the healthy plant as it turns to mush, especially since it is likely to trap a little cesspool of water as it decays, is inviting problems when it is simple to remove it. Is it a huge likelihood? Probably not with a Phrag, maybe with a Paph., but for us stripping the leaf off is simpler than cutting and having to sterilize cutting tools, and eliminates one more risk.

When should I water my Paphs?
        
The quick answer to this question is a short and easy one to give: you water the plants when they need to be watered. Generally speaking, Paphs should be allowed to dry out slightly to moderately before they are watered. This allows the roots of the plants access to air, and encourages them to seek out sources of water within the pot. It also can prolong the life of the medium in which the plants are potted, which ultimately benefits the plants because more air will be available to the plant at the roots for a longer period of time.
roots on a smaller plant
All aspects of your water/fertilzer program and potting & potting mix decisions should center around growing the best possible roots on your Paphs. Good roots are the basis of good culture, grow good roots and a good plant and flowers will follow.  
        When to water is the more complex and many-faceted question, and requires taking into consideration certain aspects of the plants, their growing location and microclimate (whether in the greenhouse, under lights, on the windowsill), their pot size, the potting mix, and the predicted weather conditions for the day if you are growing in a greenhouse.
        Relative location of the plants, wherever they are being grown, affects the speed at which the plants dry out. For example, plants grown under fluorescent lights will generally dry out fairly rapidly--ideally within three to four days, if the plants are correctly placed a few inches beneath the bulbs, with either a 2 or 4 bulb set up. The bulbs and ballasts generate a fair amount of heat as well as light, with those plants that are closer to the center of the bulbs usually drying out the fastest. People who grow under lights will also have a fan or two running, and plants that receive direct airflow from the fans will dry out faster than those that are on the perimeter of the airflow. This of course can be used conveniently to one's advantage in that plants that one wants to dry out faster (i.e. plants in older, broken down mix, or species that are lithophytes or epiphytes in nature, and thus are less tolerant of wet roots for any length of time) can be placed in the direct flow of air.
        Generally speaking, most Paphs will do better in the home environment with a slight to moderate drying out period between watering. Paphs that stay wet for extended periods of time, either through over watering or being in broken down, moisture retentive mix, are prime candidates for losing their roots and dying from dehydration and starvation. Overwatering in the sense of watering too frequently, and not letting the plant's medium dry out somewhat between waterings, is probably the number one reason Paphs die an early death. There has been, and unfortunately still is, a large misconception that even allowing the potting medium to approach drying will kill a Paph's roots. This is probably based on the use of poor quality water, which would form salt deposits on the roots of plants if the pot were allowed to dry out. This has led to a second misconception that the plants should be grown wet all the time, which in turn has probably killed far more plants due to root loss than a little drying would ever have done.
        A standard rule that beginners can apply to a watering program is the following: if you are not sure your plants need watering, wait a day. If you are still not sure, wait another day. If you are a chronic over waterer, repot your Paph into a more open mix that will approach drying faster. A Paph will be exterminated far quicker from over- than from under-watering. It is helpful to remember when one is considering watering frequency that Paphs do not grow in swamps or river edges or other areas where there is abundant water constantly available to the roots. Rather, Paphs can be said to be epiphytes or lithophytes of one type or another, either growing on a substrate such as decaying vegetation on the ground (humus epiphyte), or on rocky outcrops, or on other living plants such as in tree roots or crotches. Regardless of where they are growing in nature, their roots do not stay wet for extended periods of time.
        
Can I water my Paphs with my tap water?
TDS Meter
Relatively inexpensive conductivity meters are available. They will give you an approximation of your TDS in your water and fertilizer mix.  
        The short answer is yes, unless you have a sodium-based water softener. If you have water that is particularly high in total dissolved solids (TDS - so called 'hard water') or that has a high sodium content, then you may have to be careful about avoiding the more sensitive Paphs and Phrags, and you may not be able to grow the more tolerant ones to their best potential. It is advisable to know what your water quality is. If you are on a municipal water system you can get a report from the administrators of that system. If you have a well, you will have to submit a water sample for private testing (very often the companies that sell water treatment systems such as softeners will give you a basic analysis for free). If you use a well, do not depend on the analysis of a neighbors well, differences can be dramatic even within very close distances. There are of course, some indications you can get about your water quality indirectly. If you get white salt deposits on your plant leaves or medium, water spotting on your glassware, and scale buildups in hot water heaters and coffeepots or tea kettles, these are all indicators of water hardness. Soap will not "suds up" as well in hard water either. You may also get an approximate idea of the TDS of your water by using a conductivity meter to measure how well it will pass an electric current. Pure water does not conduct electricity, but the dissolved solids in it do, so the higher the conductivity the greater the TDS in the water. For more information on water quality, water treatments and slipper orchids see "Water Quality Issues for Slipper Orchid Growers".

I've heard rainwater is great for Paphs, is this true?
        Using rainwater can be a great boost for your plants if your irrigation water source is high in total dissolved solids, however you must be careful how you collect and store it. Some composite roofs may allow chemical leaching which could be harmful to your plants, particularly when new. You will also not want to collect the water until it has rained for a few minutes. This will allow the rain to clean off the collection surfaces of any accumulated material you do not want in it, and will also decrease the amount of particulate matter collected from the atmosphere as it falls. Also be aware that the pH of rainwater can be very low in some areas, it can be as low as 3.2 in our area in New York State. The pH of normal rainwater is in the 5.6 to 5.8 range from dissolved carbon dioxide, and will approach 6.5 or so upon sitting and outgassing the carbon dioxide. If you are going to store rainwater for any period of time, you may wish to add a small amount of Physan to inhibit bacterial growth. Storing it in the dark will also decrease growth of algae.
        The second warning on using rainwater or any purer water source is that you must use a complete fertilizer that includes calcium and magnesium, and be careful of the pH after adding the fertilizer. Again, if you are a casual grower who does not want to venture too deeply into the water quality/fertilizer issues, I would suggest a fertilizer such as Dyna-Grow used at label recommendations if you are going to use rainwater.

What is reverse osmosis or deionization that some growers use?
        These are just processes that remove most of the dissolved minerals from water. Many orchid growers with poor quality water will use one or the other to produce high quality pure water for use. To repeat the warning above for pure water users, you must use a complete fertilizer including calcium and magnesium, and be careful of the pH after adding the fertilizer. For more details see "Water Quality Issues for Slipper Orchid Growers".

What kind of fertilizer should I use, and how often should I fertilize?
        
This is a tough one to answer, because fertilization is so tremendously tied to water quality, potting medium, temperature, light and a variety of other factors. However, if you just have a few plants, and don't want to fuss around a lot learning about the intricacies of water and fertilizer, I'd simply suggest you get any reasonably balanced 'orchid' fertilizer, that is low in urea, and use it at approximately 1/4 to1/2 the label strength every other watering. And be sure to water the plants very thoroughly each time you do, letting several pot volumes of water run through. A bit wasteful of water and fertilizer, assuredly, but it will help prevent salt build up at the plants roots, which would result in its decline and possible loss. If you want to learn more about fine tuning a watering and fertilizer program, then read "Water Quality Issues for Slipper Orchids" and "Mineral Nutrition for Slipper Orchids".

I've heard Paphs like lime, do I need to add it to my pots or mix?
        Like so many 'simple' questions, there is no one simple answer. People often tend to look at Paphs as a homogeneous group of plants, but the fact of the matter is they come from a vast range of habitats, and it is difficult to make generalities as to culture. In the case of Paphs, many grow on or in close proximity to calcareous rock, but at least an equal number do not, and many of these would actually do poorly with a higher pH and calcium/magnesium supplement, so it is important first to know which Paphs tend to have a calcareous substrate in nature. For a more detailed discussion see "Calcium Supplementation for Calcicolous Paphs".

How much light does a Paph require?
        
Paphs need light for the same reasons that other plants do: to photosynthesize, grow, flower and thereby reproduce. Species Paphs tend to be more particular about the amount and quality of light they receive, hybrids usually less so. Even among the species Paphs, some prefer bright, strong light because they grow in near full sun conditions; other species prefer lower levels of light because they are forest floor dwellers, or grow in tree crotches or under neighboring, sheltering plants where the light is dappled and relatively low. Hybrid Paphs can be usually much more accommodating in their light requirements, although to some extent, this will depend on their breeding, i.e. whether one of their parents was Paph. rothschildianum, which prefers bright light conditions, or Paph.villosum, which has lower light requirements. It can also be said that generally mottled leafed Paphs require less light to grow and flower than do the plain leafed Paphs.
        That said, the first point to consider with light is that it is better to err initially on the side of too little than too much. It is easy enough to slowly increase the light level to the proper level with no trauma to the plant, whereas placing it where it may suddenly get direct sun or too close to a high intensity discharge light may damage the plant. Under fluorescent lighting, it would be difficult to give the plant damaging light levels, although you can certainly cause unsightly but not fatal burning of the leaf tips if they touch the bulbs.
Casting a shadow to check light levels
While ultimately your plants will "tell" you if they are getting the correct amount of light, one test you can perform is to judge the shadow cast by your hand held about 10" above the plants.  
        One can gauge the light intensity by placing a hand about 10 inches above the plant and looking at the shadow cast upon the plant. You should see a slight shadow; if it is a very pronounced shadow then your light levels may be too high, whereas no shadow would suggest a light level that is too low.
        Paphs that are growing in too strong light will generally exhibit bleached looking leaves i.e. very light green, or approaching whitish green in color, and these plants will mature smaller and smaller growths, and may put out multiple, tiny growths at the base of the plant. Inflorescences will also tend to be short, and the flowers may be small and hard. Too little light, and the leaves of your Paph will be relatively dark green in color, overly long, perhaps floppy and/or lacking substance. Growths will mature slowly, and the plant will take longer to flower than if it were grown in higher light----perhaps the plant will take 1.5 years to mature a growth to flowering size, for example, rather than the expected 10 months. If your Paph has not flowered for several years, but otherwise appears healthy, you may rightly suspect lack of light as a possible culprit. Number of flowers produced by a plant growing in too low light conditions may also be less that what the plant is capable of producing, i.e. a Paph. philippinense may only produce 2 flowers on the inflorescence when it is capable of producing 4-5. If you believe that you have too little light for your Paph after a period of time, make the changes to the correct conditions slowly so that the plant can become accustomed to the higher light levels, and does not suffer during the transition. In other words, don't take a dark green, floppy plant and place it in a bright south window and hope that you can thereby speed up its growing and flowering. It will only burn in this too high light, and you may end up losing the entire plant in a very short period of time from the heat and light it is unable to tolerate.
        HID lights (high pressure sodium or metal halide) put out considerably more lumens per watt, so care must be used in plant placement with them. It is indeed possible to burn a Paph if placed too close or directly under one of these lights. Use the light shadow rule and start below and to the side of the light, gradually moving the plant into higher light until you have it in a position where the leaf color is ideal. Generally speaking, this means a lighter green for the strap leaf species and hybrids, and a darker green for the mottled leaf species and hybrids and complexes.
        Paphs do not appear to be particularly photoperiod sensitive. A photoperiod of 12 to 14 hours should work very well with these plants. Windowsill growers unable to provide this longer photoperiod in the winter months may not experience as rapid growth without supplemental light, but the plants suggested here nevertheless should grow and flower for them.

Paph. barbigerum 'Bronze Glow'
Paphiopedilum barbigerum 'Bronze Glow'. Paph barbigerum and many of its hybrids can be classed as true miniatures, excellent candidates for windowsill culture.  
Can I grow Paphs on my windowsill?
        Because most Paphs can be grown with less light than many other types of orchids, and are more tolerant of low humidity than many other types of orchids, they are excellent candidates for both windowsill and underlight culture. We grew them successfully both ways for many years before building our first greenhouse.
        Windowsill growers need to be aware of the amount and duration of light available at the window, as well as the temperature fluctuations where they propose to grow their plants. Some people have had limited success with northerly facing windows (reverse directions as necessary for Southern Hemisphere growers), and this can work if the window is large, or there are sliding glass doors at this side, and there are no trees obstructing the sunlight reaching the plants. If the Paph is placed on the windowsill of a north facing window, and you live in the north where the winters are frigid, you will have to place some form of insulation (or maintain a greater distance) between the pot and the glass of the window so as not to overly chill the roots of the plant. Chilling might just slow down the plant's growth, but could also freeze it to death if the temperatures plummet. Bear in mind that temperatures next to the window glass can be close to freezing if that is what the outdoor temperatures are! If possible, it might be best to place the plant during the cold winter months on a table close to the window where it will get sufficient light, but will also stay closer to the temperature of the room itself.
        If the north facing window is smaller, supplemental lighting could be added in the form of a 'shop light' with 2 fluorescent bulbs hung over the plants on the windowsill or over a table placed next to the window. Single bulbs sold as 'grow lights' are, in our opinion, not worth buying, and throw excessive amounts of heat at the expense of light. Generally though, quality and quantity of light is better for Paphs at east or west facing windows. South facing windowsills can be a challenge to grow in, because of the light intensity and accompanying heat from mid day sun, especially in the summer. Growing in a south window is possible, though, if you can place the Paph back some distance from the window, say around 12 inches or so. When the sun is strongest at this location, place your hand on the leaves. If they have become warmer than your hand temperature or feel hot, then the light (and the heat) is too strong and the plant will need to either be moved back, or if this is not possible, be moved to a different window, perhaps one facing the east.
        Alternatively, you could place your Paph in this window if there is a plant in front of it that can withstand this stronger light and heat, and will thus shield the Paph somewhat from the harsh conditions. Use of sheer curtains may work, although probably they should only be pulled part of the way shut, and not cover the entire window, as this will limit excessively the total amount of light that reaches the plants leaf surface. You may have to experiment with the curtain for several days, pulling it several inches either way, before you feel that you have it arranged 'right', so that the plant's leaves will not get hot to the touch, but it will also get enough light so that you will get flowers.

If I want to grow under fluorescent lights, how do I set them up, and what bulbs can I use?
        
Under a two 40 watt bulb fluorescent light set up with standard bulbs, you will want to get the plants leaves within a few inches of the bulbs. We prefer C50 (5000K) bulbs, but you will probably be able to do fine with almost any of the commonly available bulbs. When you are ready to optimize you fluorescent set-up we suggest Philips C50 Ultralume bulbs, which have a substantially higher lumen output than standard C50s, and will allow you to do better with some of the Paphs that have higher light requirements. If you have a 4 bulb fluorescent set up you will probably be able to place the plants 6 to 8 inches below the bulbs. Remember that the bulb output is greatest near the center and diminishes towards the ends, so arrange your plant placement accordingly. Also, growing under fluorescent lights will automatically provide the day/night temperature differential of several degrees that most plants appreciate as the lights go on and off.
        You can use just about any fixture as long as it has at least two 40-watt bulbs, with four 40-watt bulbs being better for the higher light Paphs. You can do reasonably well with cool white bulbs, but a better choice would be the C50 (5000K) bulbs available from several manufacturers. Again in our opinion, the best choice is a C50 made by Philips called the C50 Ultralume, which puts out about 40% more lumens for the same energy input. We did not find any advantage in using the special "grow" lights.

Should I cut the inflorescence off the plant after the flower has faded?
        As with most questions, this one has several different answers, depending on the plant in question.
        Generally, it's fine to let the inflorescence fade on its own ----it will slowly dry out and turn a brownish color after the flower has dried up and fallen off the plant. Simply snap the stem off, using your first 2 fingers and the thumb on opposite sides of the stem, close to where the inflorescence emerges from the plant. Another way to remove the stem, especially if hasn't turned completely brown and dry, is to grasp it close to the base and your first two fingers and thumb, and give it a quick twist in one direction. Most stems will easy to remove, but there are some plants, Paph. venustum, Paph. tigrinum, and Paph fairrieanum come to mind, that have very fibrous stems and they really need to be severed from the plant with a knife or razor blade. Remember to flame sterilize your instrument of choice after you have cut off the stem.
        If the plant is a first bloom seedling on the other hand, it may be kinder to the plant to evaluate the flower for quality, make a note of it on the plant's label, and enjoy the flower for a week or so, and then snap it off to allow the young plant to grow stronger for its' subsequent flowerings. Paphs flowers will frequently last surprisingly long times in a vase.
        Occasionally, you might see some sort of damp rot creeping up the stem, heading for the flower bud or flower; this calls for immediate removal of the stem, which is best accomplished by using a cutting tool of your choice, and then unpotting the plant to see what is going on with the roots. There may be a problem with overwatering, or the mix may have started to break down to such an extent that the roots can't get sufficient air, and rot has started at some point in the plant, probably either in the roots, or in the crown of the plant. Very likely, this will cause the stem to self-destruct.
        Sometimes a bud will start to shrivel or dry up on a plant, possibly because it's not getting enough water; here again, remove the inflorescence and take the plant out of the pot and check the roots. If they are hollow and crispy, it's likely that the plant has not been getting sufficient water for some time. It may be located behind or beneath another plant and is occasionally missed when other plants near it are watered, or may have been potted in too open a mix which does not retain sufficient water for the plants' needs. Here it is best to repot the plant into a more moisture retentive mix, and try to keep the plant slightly shaded and warmer, if possible, to encourage root growth. Also, if this is a multiple growth plant that has lost a substantial root mass, do not allow the plant to flower for at least another six months to ensure that the plant has had sufficient time to grow some roots to support flowering. On the other hand, if the roots are mushy and slimy and can be easily pulled off, then the plant has been getting too much water, or the mix has broken down and the roots haven't been able to survive in the absence of sufficient air. Take the plant out of the pot and remove as much of the rotted mix as possible. The mushy roots should be carefully removed from the plant, leaving the wiry interiors if possible, as these will serve to anchor the plant when it's repotted. Be selective, test each root before you remove it, and do not remove those roots that feel firm to the touch or have white growing tips. At this point, wash your hands, or use a hand sanitizer before you continue handling the plant. Carefully place the plant on a clean, shaded surface and let it dry out overnight. Do not allow the plant to be placed in an area that will receive direct sun. If the following day, there is still noticeable moisture at the roots or the base of the plant, wait another day to repot. Place the plant into a new pot using fresh mix (never reuse old mix), wait a day, and then water the plant well and start growing it for its' next flowering.

Small Coconut Husk Chips
Hydrated small coconut husk chips. Coconut husk chips, along with lightweight aggregate and charcoal are the components of our Paph. growing medium.  
What is the best potting mix for Paphs?
        The one that works best for you and your conditions! You can grow Paphs in any number of different types of potting mix; you can even grow some of them mounted if you have the right conditions, although this technique is not suggested for beginners. The basic needs are ample ability for holding air and water, ability to stabilize the plant, and not too high a salt retention capability. The most traditional mixes for the past several decades have been based on fir bark, with various additives such as perlite, aliflor, stone, sphagnum moss or rockwool. Mixes utilizing coconut husk chips and lightweight aggregates are becoming more popular, and are our preferred mix. For more information see "Use of Coconut Husk Chips as a Potting Mix Base Superior to Bark". Pure New Zealand Sphagnum Moss, loosely packed, is excellent for initiating new roots on plants, but is a difficult medium to use for long term culture.

What kind and size of pot will my Paph grow best in?
        
To a certain extent, determining pot size will take into consideration your growing conditions, potting medium and watering habits, but as a general rule you do not want to over pot Paphs, as this leads frequently to root loss over time. Rather pot them so that the roots just comfortably fit into the pot, like a hat on your head: snug enough to stay on but not uncomfortably tight. The other consideration in a pot for Paphs is that it have sufficient drainage. Many pots designed for other types of plants do not drain well enough, so it may be necessary to enlarge existing or cut new drainage holes in your pots. The choice between clay and plastic also depends on your circumstances. Plastic pots are available readily in more sizes, lightweight and relatively inexpensive, and can be modified to increase drainage if necessary using the following technique: needle nose pliers can be used to pry small bits of plastic from the existing holes, bit by bit. This technique generally doesn't work well on older plastic pots, which will tend to develop long, erratic fissures in the pot, instead of releasing small bits of plastic. Clay pots dry faster and are more stable on the bench, but also tend to accumulate salts. They also tend to cool the root zone a bit, which can be either a benefit or a detriment depending on your climate. Also, drainage holes can be very difficult to enlarge on a clay pot without completely destroying the pot in the process.

When and how often should I repot my Paph?
        The short answer to this question is an easy one: you repot the plant when it needs it, whether it's spring, summer, winter or fall. Unquestionably, ideal times for repotting are when the weather is going to be warm for some time to encourage new growth, but if the plant needs repotting, it's best not to postpone it. Following are some of the times you would need to repot your plant.
Aliflor
Small Aliflor, one of several light weight aggregates available for opening and adding weight to Paph. mixes.  
        Any plant recently purchased should be repotted, for several reasons. You want to see the condition of the roots to determine what size pot is best for this particular plant in your particular growing conditions, and this will also allow you to determine what type of mix the plant needs to grow and flourish under your care. You want to be able to check if there may be any tiny unwanted livestock inhabiting the plants' medium or roots, and deal with them accordingly so that they do not spread to the rest of your collection of orchids (here we would be referring to mealy bugs, fungus gnats and their larvae, scale, earthworms, tiny bush snails, et al.) A small 10X loupe or magnifying glass is handy to have if you do not have perfect eyesight! You might also gently peal away the lowest of the leaf bracts of the plant at this time to check for pests, especially mealy bugs, which find this location an ideal home in which to raise a family. These leaves are often very small---less than an inch long, and small forceps or tweezers will do the trick nicely. If you do find mealy bugs a quick spritz of alcohol on the area (not over the entire plant, which can desiccate the leaves!) will generally eliminate the visible ones, but there are likely eggs nearby that you won't see. It's best to isolate this plant from the rest of your collection and watch for more pests to appear, and keep after them with another light spritz of alcohol, or a Q-tip dipped in alcohol on the affected areas.
        Any Paph should be repotted that looks unthrifty, sickly, wilted, is falling over in the pot, is starting to grow up and out of the pot, has overgrown it's pot with an excessive number of growths, has any sort of wet or damp rot visible on the leaves, has extremely pale leaves, or excessively wrinkled leaves, or if you suspect has any of the aforementioned problems. These conditions can be strongly correlated to poor roots and/or poor growing conditions that caused root loss, with the subsequent loss of ability of the plant to absorb water and nutrients. Bacterial rot is nasty to deal with, and can quickly spread if not caught early. It appears generally as dark, damp or weeping spots anywhere on the leaves, and should be immediately removed as much as possible, even if this means removing entire leaves, or an entire growth from the plant. Once this has been accomplished, the plant should be set aside to dry out overnight, and repotted in a new pot in the mix of your choice in the morning. If this appears at the base of a single growth plant, repot the plant immediately into fresh mix, and into a smaller pot, and try growing this plant extremely dry for several weeks. Occasionally, such a plant will push up a small new growth that will thrive once it gets going. If the plant has a poor or nonexistent root system, generally this technique will not work. Fungal problems will appear as dark, dry spots on the outer edges of the leaves generally, but can occasionally occur as a roundish spot in the center of a leaf. If this occurs on a leaf tip, simply tear off this portion of the leaf and dispose of it. (This may also indicate over fertilization too; see "Water Quality Issues for Slipper Orchid Growers" and "Mineral Nutrition Issues for Slipper Orchid Growers") This would not necessarily mean that the plant would have to be repotted, but the plant would bear watching in case the fungus spreads to other leaves. If that happens, the plant should be treated with an appropriate fungicide after it has been repotted. If the fungal spot exists somewhere near the middle of the leaf, a small sharp knife can be used to excise this diseased tissue and a small area surrounding it, without doing too much damage to the leaf in the process. An exception to this is when the fungus appears on the rib of the leaf; removal of this tissue may cause the leaf to lose its support, and the end beyond the cut may break over and slowly turn brown and die. If you suspect this is happening, it's probably best to remove the end of the leaf that has fallen over.
        Unfortunately, there are occasions where wet rot (which can appear as translucent spots on the leaves, or with an orangey-brown color) will start at the base of the plant, and will remain unnoticed for such a length of time that a considerable amount of each leaf will have been infected, and if this is the case on a single growth plant, it's best to cut your losses and immediately discard the plant, wash your hands, and either dispose of or sterilize the pot before re-use. If this has occurred on a multiple growth plant, the diseased growth or growths can be severed, and frequently the plant can be saved. Look at the spot where the growth was removed to determine if there remains any of the bacterial rot on the plant's rhizome. This will appear as an orangey-red stain, smear or spot on what should otherwise be a creamy-beige to white area. A small, sharp knife or scalpel can be used to cut into this affected area to remove as much of the colored rot as possible, then the wound can be lightly dusted with cinnamon. Be careful not to get the cinnamon all over the roots, just the affected area. A Q-tip or artists' brush dipped into the cinnamon is an excellent way to apply it just to the spot that needs it.
        If you are fortunate in having a multiple growth plant that has filled the pot with roots, congratulations! And also, now is a good time to repot that plant. Densely arranged leaves of multiple growth plants can harbor unseen problems (hidden mealy bugs, fungus or bacterial infections) in the center of the plant that can go undetected until some leaves or entire growths of the plant have died, and this can become a difficult problem to deal with if not caught in the early stages. Additionally, it's nice to have "back-up" divisions of favored plants, and dividing large, overgrown plants is an excellent way to increase your collection either for yourself, or for divisions for trade or sale. We've found the easiest way to repot root-bound plants is to soak the plant in a small container holding enough water to cover the root mass for an hour or two in order to thoroughly wet the roots, and then gently, and slowly, pick apart the roots individually. Also, turn the plant upside down, and see if you can remove old potting mix from the interior of the root mass. Take your time with this, and don't rip the roots apart if you can help it. At this point, you can examine the plant for natural division areas, and gently pull the plant apart using even pressure with both hands each holding a section of the plant. It's best to do this on a large, clean surface free of other plants. Any wounds on the plants' rhizome caused by dividing can be dusted with cinnamon prior to repotting, or coated with a latex-based tree sealant. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for some of the roots of the plant to fall off during the division process despite careful handling. Simply discard them, and again, dust any wounded surfaces with cinnamon. Divisions can be numbered according to their size, i.e. 3.2 on the plant tag would indicate that there are three divisions total, and that this plant is division number 2. Pot the plants according to the size of their root systems, insert appropriate tags with numbers, and then wait a day and water them thoroughly. It's helpful if you can put these new divisions in a place where you can keep an eye on them, in case they start to go backwards due to overpotting or developing rot in the root system.
        Most plants appreciate, and need, repotting at least annually if they are in standard bark mixes. Seedlings can benefit from twice yearly repotting if you have the time. Generally, it's helpful, but not absolutely necessary, to water these newly potted adult plants (not the seedlings) a little less often than your other plants for awhile, to encourage roots to grow and seek water and nutrients in the mix. We believe the new coconut husk mixes may allow for longer intervals between repotting of adult plants as their roots grow to fill the pot, (see "Coconut Husk Chips as a Potting Mix Base Superior to Bark") since the coconut husk does not break down as rapidly as the bark mixes do.
        Finally, don't be afraid to take a plant out of its pot to check on the condition of the roots at any time. It's better to have to unnecessarily repot a healthy plant, than suffer the consequences of waiting until you have a serious problem with your plant.

When my Paph plant becomes multigrowth, can I divide it? When is the best time to divide it?
        
The choice over whether to divide large plants really depends on your growing goals and situation. You may wish to grow the plant into a larger 'specimen plant' that will produce larger and more flowers reliably, or you may want to produce divisions for trade or sale if the plant is in demand. Because most of our plants 'work by producing seed, we are very hesitant to divide them unless they fall apart at a division point when they are repotted. We also tend to keep the first and sometime second division for ourselves as backup plants. If at all possible, try to keep divisions at least two to three growths or larger to help insure their ability to recover and reestablish themselves. If you are physically dividing the plant, that is severing with a knife or other sharp instrument the rhizome, versus it having divided itself, be sure to examine the root system as well as the top growth before deciding on the division point. This is to make sure that each piece will have adequate roots to support it. The instrument used to cut the rhizome should be sterilized to prevent spread of pathogens. Also be sure to seal the division point to make it inaccessible to bacteria or fungi. We've used the latex-based tree seal for this, but also have simply dusted the whitish, wounded area with cinnamon. Both methods have worked well. If the cinnamon is used, wait a day before watering the plant.
        Occasionally, accidents happen, and a plant will divide itself right where you don't want it to. Perhaps there is ample top growth but only one or two roots to support the division. If this happens, find a pot that will just fit the root system, and carefully work the roots so they will fit inside the pot. Take needle nosed pliers, and make a 'U' out of florist wire that is not longer than the pot is deep. Now, if the wire is the right length, insert it upside down over the rhizome of the plant if possible to hold it firmly in place while it grows new roots. Alternatively, you could invert the wire over the leaves on one side of a growth, but you must keep an eye on this plant so that the wire does not distort any new growth coming from the center of the plant.
        Sometimes, the opposite will happen, and when the plant divides itself there will be many roots, but little in the way of 'top growth'. The same rules apply: find a pot that will comfortably hold the root mass, or will even be a little snug, and repot the plant. You should see new growth springing up very quickly from such a plant where there is an ample root system already in place.
        
My Paph seems to have lost most of its roots (or the roots have turned mushy, or have almost completely dried out), is there anything I can do to save the plant?
Bagging with Sphagnum
A "hospital" tray of rootless plants bagged with barely damp New Zealand Shagnum Moss.  
        
If the base of the plant is still intact, yes. If you were growing on the windowsill or under lights, where maintaining high humidity may be a problem, we'd suggest the technique that uses Sphagnum moss and a ziplock bag. Remove any dead, mushy or slimy roots from the plant. Then thoroughly wet a handful of long fibered New Zealand Sphagnum moss, and squeeze all the excess water out that you can, leaving it just slightly damp. Place the moss loosely around the base of the plant and put it into a clear plastic bag. For most Paphs the quart to gallon size zip lock types work well, for larger plants you'll have to improvise----clear garbage bag, or something similar. Close the bag in from both sides so that there remains only about an inch of open space in the middle. Fill the bag up with humid, slightly CO
2 enhanced air by breathing in deeply and then blowing the bag up at this spot, and quickly sealing it shut. Place the bag in a warm area with subdued light. If at all possible try to keep leaves from touching the sides of the bag, as they may accumulate moisture there and be prone to rot. Periodically, say every week or so, reopen the bag and refill it by breathing into it, and quickly sealing it shut. You should see roots emerging within a few weeks, and when there appear to be two or three roots at least an inch in length, you can remove the plant from the bag and pot it up normally, being careful to keep it still warm and in somewhat lower light conditions until it has good root growth again. You may at this point want to use a piece of inverted wire over the plant to make absolutely sure that the plant is immobilized in the pot so that the fresh growing tips aren't damaged as they work down into the mix. If you are especially concerned about humidity on such a plant, you might put it back in the plastic bag but this time keep it open, and turn out and under the edges of the bag so it won't try to reseal on its own. This creates a special microclimate for the plant and will keep it a bit more humid for awhile.
        If you have higher humidity conditions, such as provided by greenhouse situations, we have found our coconut husk chip medium to be excellent for recovering plants that have lost roots. Pot the plant up normally, and use the inverted piece of 'U' shaped wire over the top of the fans and extending down into the medium to anchor the plant into the pot and medium. Water and fertilize very sparingly, and keep in subdued light and warm, until new roots have been well established. If you are dealing with a very small seedling, we've found it can be conveniently anchored with a rubber band snapped over the fan and around the bottom of the pot. The rubber band will disintegrate in the greenhouse environment after six to eight weeks, but by then the seedling should be well anchored by its own roots.

You have some photos of very mature Paph. plants with roots that seem to fill the entire pot, totally engulfing the planting media, where it seems root mass exceeds potting material. I have a couple Paphs that have similar root systems that will need repotting this year. Do you "pot up" these plants, or pull apart the roots to remove the old bark before repotting?
Paph. roots
A common misconception is that Paphs naturally do not grow many roots in culture. They will if their requirements are met for water quantity and quality, fertilizer balance and pH and air. A plant with a large actively growing root system will certainly reward you with more and better quality flowers.  
        Realistically, I don't like to let Paph roots fill the entire pot before I repot them, because it is a lot more work to separate the roots, remove the torn, independent pieces, and pick through the center of the root mass to find whatever decayed mush may be hiding in there. You're right though when you say that when this condition of plentiful roots exists, there is more root mass than potting mix. Roots themselves have some water storage capacity, but when you do irrigate such a plant, the water is very likely going to run straight through the pot, barely dampening the roots on its way out unless you water copiously. You do in fact need mix around the roots to provide for more long-term (i.e. 3-4 days) water availability.
        Typically, roots of a multifloral (the plant pictured) can be very difficult to separate, because of the length of the roots, especially if they are going round and round in the pot, not to mention the tenacity with which they cling to each other, and to their pot, be it clay or plastic.
        We have had mixed results in 'potting up', that is, not disentangling or adjusting the root mass at all, and simply placing the entire, undisturbed root mass in a larger pot and filling the edges of the pot with potting mix. Some plants have done very well, others have done okay, and a few have really resented it and nearly died with a considerable loss of roots to bacterial rot. These plants are difficult to try to recover! Consequently, I would much rather take the time, and work with the plant and its roots before it becomes root-bound, so it can be repotted with a minimum of root disturbance, while at the same time, giving it a slightly larger pot if necessary, thus allowing for new root growth. Generally if you repot every year, you will not get an overly pot bound root mass. Repotting does not always mean a step up in pot size, particularly with the brachypedilum subsection. Perhaps due to dividing a plant into smaller pieces with fewer roots, or root loss due to disease, you might want to decrease pot size to just accommodate the root mass. You always want the pot to just barely contain the roots, leaving some room to add mix, and allow some room for growth of the new roots. If you want to try potting up (and it's a dangerous practice with brachys), you need to remove the plant from the pot, invert the plant, and try and remove whatever medium remains in the center of the root mass, because this area will have stayed saturated with water the longest, which may have killed off some roots. Simply insert your index finger into the center and wiggle it a little at first, to dislodge or at least loosen the potting mix. Be aware that removal of some of the bark may cause open wounds on the roots that are difficult to see and treat. After you have removed as much potting mix as you think possible, gently insert some of the new potting mix in this newly opened area while the plant is still upside down in your hands, and pack it in, piece by piece if need be. Next, while the plant is still inverted, place the new pot (while holding it upside down) over the root mass, and then invert---right side up---the plant in the pot. This way, your mix stays where you placed it in the center of the root mass without falling out. Now you can gently insert more potting mix into the space that exists around and between the roots, and between the roots and the walls of the pot.
        If you do decide the repot a brachy and decide not to try potting up (usually the wise decision), here's what I would suggest. First let the plant' roots (not the leaves!) soak in tepid water for a couple of hours to thoroughly wet them and any bark or potting mix that remains. Then, place the plant on a clean bench in a well lit area, then carefully insert a finger up into the center of the root mass, gently wiggle it around and start teasing the mass apart, loosening the bark within, and hopefully loosening the interior edges of the roots. Continue with this until you have some empty space in the interior of the root mass, and all the old potting mix is gone, and any decayed roots along with it. If along the way, you have broken off some of the roots, simply take a small pinch of cinnamon, and tamp it on to the wound area only, being careful to apply the smallest amount needed to cover the wound, and not the adjacent roots. Use extreme care handling brachy roots because they break off very easily with rough handling (sometimes even with careful handling).
        At this point, you can determine the size pot you need for this bare root brachy, taking care to never, ever over-pot. I can't stress this enough. Find a pot that will just accommodate the root system, while allowing for some medium to be inserted into the interior empty space that you have created, along with some space all the way around the exterior of the root system for additional potting mix. If you are unsure of which to choose between 2 pots that you have available, always go for the smaller of the two. This may mean more work for you, in that you will have to take more time to accomplish the repotting, and you will likely have to irrigate the plant more often, because it will dry out quicker, but brachys do not like wet feet for any extended period of time. Their succulent leaves and roots serve a purpose: to act as water and nutrient reservoirs when conditions are tough and rain is hard to come by. Once you have the mix in place, press down very firmly with your fingers all the way around the top of the pot, making sure that there are no empty spaces that could be occupied by mix. If the mix condenses with the pressure of your fingers to considerably below the base of the plant, you'll want to add more mix so that newly emerging roots will have something to grow into. Now, let the plant rest a day, and then you can water it.
        Multiflorals are somewhat different; the procedure is the same as mentioned above, but you will find that it's rare that the root mass can be left undisturbed once you have opened up the interior and removed any old potting mix and dead roots. The good news is that it's frequently possible to simply compress, gently, the remaining root mass and see if it will fit back comfortably into it's original pot. Or perhaps after looking at the roots, you'll feel that the plant would be better off in a slightly larger or deeper pot. This of course makes the whole repotting effort much easier, but base your decision to do this because of root mass and not ease of repotting. If possible, after opening up the interior of the root mass and removing all the dead and dying roots and old potting mix, I would next gently try to ease the roots apart. Gently remove any old pieces of mix that you find, trying not to damage the roots during the process. Sometimes a slight twisting motion is better than pulling the bark straight away from the root. If slight pressure from your fingers doesn't remove the bark, leave it on. It is rare that in this procedure that you will not inadvertently tear off a perfectly good root, but the slower and more carefully you do this, the less that will happen. Once you have the roots slightly separated throughout their mass, try to find the right pot, and once found, compress with both hands the root mass so that the fit looks right. If the pot is too big, find another. If too small, find a slightly larger one. As above, you may invert the plant, insert mix into the interior of the root mass and place a pot over the roots, turn the plant and pot right side up, and start normal repotting procedures. Finish by pressing down with your fingers all around the top of the pot, and if it's necessary, add more mix so that it just reaches the base of the plant. Wait a day, and water the plant.
        If you find that the roots have rotted and turned to mush, slowly strip them of the dead tissue using your thumb and index finger, while trying to leave the wiry interior piece of the root intact. Wipe your hands on paper towels often as you do this, to keep the spread of bacteria at a minimum. You may wish to lightly dust any open wounds on the plant or roots with cinnamon. It is hoped that some live roots remain on the plant, but if not, let the plant dry overnight on a clean surface and pot it the next day into fresh mix. If the next day the root area is still noticeably moist, wait another day to repot. You want this diseased area to completely dry out. Keep in mind the pot should just barely fit the remaining roots. If no live roots remain on the plant, choose an undersized pot that will contain only enough mix to stay damp in your conditions for 3-4 days, no more. Use the inverted wire 'U' to hold the plant in place in the pot. Also, at this point, it's helpful to consider what might have caused the root loss in the first place so you may go about correcting the problem.

I'd like to try growing Paphs from flask, it is too difficult without a greenhouse?
Paph. flask
A flask of Paphiopedilum seedlings ready to come out.  
        
Actually, in many ways, starting plants from flask to compots may be easier with a light stand using fluorescent bulbs than in a greenhouse. You can keep the light consistently at the lower levels the compotted flasklings need initially, and you will probably be able to provide the consistently warmer temperatures (because of the lights' ballasts) that they need to do well. The only drawback is the possibility of lower humidity, but if you use the 'agar on' deflasking technique that we recommend, the plants will have time to adjust to this also. Agar on deflasking really makes it easy for anyone to do well with growing from flask. Please read "Deflasking and Compotting Paphiopedilums" for detailed information on growing from flask.

Do Paph seedlings require different care from my adult plants?
        
In general, we grow our greenhouse seedlings warmer, and at least initially in lower light levels and lower levels of fertilizer. Because they also are in smaller pots, they are potted in slightly more moisture retentive "seedling" potting mix. If you grow under fluorescent lights, you might place the seedlings further from the bulbs, say 6 inches as opposed to 2 or 3 inches for the adult plants. If you have a microclimate somewhere in your greenhouse where it stays consistently warmer, try to place the seedlings
Paph. seedlings in compot
Paph. seedlings growing in compot.  
there until they have attained some size. It's best to keep them away from direct air flow, as they will try out too quickly, not having the tough outer cuticle that adult plants have. If you have a particularly small seedling, you might try the ziplock bag and sphagnum moss approach, until the seedling has attained enough size to be put with the other plants you grow.

Can I put my Paphs outside during the summer?
        While the quick answer is yes, in general we would discourage you from doing so. You are giving up control of the conditions your plants receive when you put them outdoors. While some people's plants experience a growth spurt, it is probably because they have not optimized their indoor culture of the plants, and correcting this would be where we'd suggest putting your efforts. Plants outside can be subject to periods of too much rain too often, or the reverse, possibly extreme and unexpected temperature fluctuations, and damage from wind and hailstorms. They may also be subject to the predations of mice and squirrels, and adventuresome neighborhood cats and dogs. You might also be unable to keep as close an eye on them for developing problems, so that these problems could become major threats before being discovered. You will also face the probability that they will pick up all sorts of nasty insects and other pests such as slugs and snails in their pots.

Is it true that orchid viruses do not infect Paphs?
ELISA results
The results of an ELISA test for orchid viruses. The results are interpreted by color development.  
        This is a common misconception. Paphs are capable of hosting virus infections. In the past we have isolated ORSV (Odontoglossum Ringspot Virus), CyMV (Cymbidium Mosaic Virus) and BYMV (Bean Yellow Mosaic Virus) from different clones, and there are other reports in the literature. What is true is that infection rates tend to be low, probably because Paphs are rarely divided by cutting with a sharp instrument, but are simply broken apart, or allowed to fall apart on their own. The only symptoms we have seen occasionally in those Paphs that were positive was a general unthriftiness in the plants that were infected with BYMV. Rates of virus infection in Phrags tend to be a bit higher than in Paphs, but still lower than with other commonly cultivated orchids. The most likely to be infected are the clones that have been around for a very long time and in mixed orchid collections, resulting in an increased chance of being exposed, again usually via cutting tools.

How can I tell if my plant is virused?
        You need to send a leaf sample to a laboratory that does plant virus testing, and even with testing you can only be reasonably sure it's okay for those viruses expressing epitopes the antibodies used in the assay were created against (assuming some sort of serologic assay is used, the most common type), or if it tests positive. The most commonly encountered viruses, and therefore those which are tested for most frequently, are CyMV, ORSV and BYMV. BYMV can be tested for using a Potyvirus specific monoclonal antibody, so this assay would potentially pick up any other Potyviruses present (several have been uncommonly isolated from orchids). If you suspect your plant is virused, but are unable to have it tested, it is advisable to place this plant where its run off water will not fall into another plant below it. If you handle the plant, do so as the last item on your days' agenda, and wash your hands thoroughly after handling it. If you need to pot this plant into a bigger pot, wash and then disinfect the old pot with a 10% Clorox bleach solution, or discard it. There is also some question about whether using pollen from virused plants onto uninfected plants will cause transmission of the virus; if you are in doubt about the quality of the pollen, find different pollen to use. Lastly, infected plants may show no symptoms whatsoever, and may grow and flower as well as uninfected plants, so always sterilize any cutting tools you use on your plants in between cuts. Never reuse old mix even if it looks fine, disinfect old pots before reuse, and don't allow runoff water to go from pot to pot. Control of sucking insects, particularly aphids, is also of utmost importance in minimizing risk of spread of viruses in a collection.

Why is it not possible to import collected Paphs from their country of origin, as is possible with some other orchid species?
        
Paphiopedilum and Phragmipedium have been placed on Appendix I under The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), an international treaty that controls international trade in flora and fauna. An Appendix I listing essentially prohibits all commercial international trade in the organism listed, although it directly has no control over trade within a national boundary. Artificially propagated Paphs and Phrags are considered Appendix II plants, which can be traded across national boundaries with appropriate documentation. Flasks have been exempted from CITES documentation. However, it is important to note that flasks derived from illegal plants are also considered illegal. It is also important to note that the concept being promoted by some of the plant smugglers that once a plant has entered the country, even if illegally, it is now legal to possess is incorrect. Unfortunately plants that have been imported illegally, either through outright smuggling or collected plants being brought in with fraudulent paperwork stating they were artificially propagated, or with paperwork misidentifying them as species legal to import, are regularly being offered by some unethical sellers. If such activity continues, and it will as long as people support these activities by purchasing these plants, then we will see increasing regulation and restriction of our hobby.

Why aren't there Paphiopedilum x Phragmipedium crosses available?
        While there have been at least four such crosses registered, documentation that they are what they are purported to be is lacking at this time. In the one cross investigated cytologically, there was no evidence of the presence of Phragmipedium chromosomes, only those from Paphiopedilum (the two are quite distinguishable morphologically as there is a large difference in physical size when viewed in a squash under the microscope, nuclear DNA content of Phrags averages about 1/3 that of Paphs). Does this mean that such crosses will never be possible, or that they should never be attempted? No, just that such crosses are unlikely to be successful.
        It should also be pointed out that when such crosses are attempted, occasionally plants will appear to produce capsules and even seed and plants; this is especially true when the Phragmipedium is used as the capsule parent, but can also happen when a Paphiopedilum is used as the capsule parent. If plants are produced they will most probably be solely the progeny of the capsule parent, either by selfing (autogamy - several Phrags and a few Paphs are noted for this), or by a doubling of the haploid chromosome set in the capsule gametes.

I have heard it is important to have fans blowing on my plants, is this true?
        
Air movement is an essential component of growing Paphs, but in cultivation (whether greenhouse, under lights, or on windowsills) it is rare that fans blow air directly onto the plants. Rather, air is circulated nearby and around the plants to assist in transpiration and translocation (the plants' ability to absorb water and nutrients through root uptake), and to allow the plants cells to remain relatively balanced and thus grow freely. The only Paphs on which fans are actually somewhat directed toward the plants are our parvisepalum species, and this is because they don't appreciate getting hot leaves during the summer months (we also mist them more frequently during this time of year; note 'mist' not 'water'). However, all of the others plants have fans moving air over and around them at all times. Drying the leaves after watering will reduce the settling of mold spores and bacteria on the surface of the plants, which is most important for the health of the plants. It also helps in distributing heat and humidity evenly throughout the greenhouse, aiding in a more even drying out of the plants throughout the greenhouse. A good indication in the greenhouse of adequate air movement is the gentle swaying of inflorescences, unless of course they have been staked in place. A few Paphs on a windowsill will not likely need fans, as the natural air movement in the home should be sufficient. Fluorescent lights can produce quite a bit of heat, and it's helpful if you can arrange to have a fan gently blowing air nearby but not directly on the plants.

I've heard that Paphs can be divided into warm growing and cool growing by their leaf patterns, is this true?
Mottled leaf Paphs
A small selection of the many patterns of mottled leaf Paphs.  
        
We consider almost all of the Paphs to be warm growing, regardless of the habitat conditions they come from. Most will grow faster and produce healthier roots and leaves if grown warm. The exceptions to this rule seem to be Paph. armeniacum and Paph. micranthum, which will tolerate warm conditions in the summer but seem to do better if kept a little cooler than the other Paphs. They definitely appreciate cool fall and winter temperatures to flower well. Paph tigrinum also appears to like continual "springlike" temperature, but will tolerate warmer conditions. A number of other Paphs need a brief (6 weeks or so) cooler period in the fall to initiate flowering, and others will flower without the cool down period, but flower quality and color will not be as good. It is possible to grow and flower all the Paph species and hybrids in one greenhouse, finding the microclimates---warmer and cooler spots that tend to naturally occur due to airflow patterns. We generally run our adult plant greenhouse with a minimum night temperature of 64 F year round, with a brief (6-8 week) period in the fall where the night temperature is allowed to drop to 58 F. Daytime temperatures range from the minimum of 64 F up, depending on how much solar heat is received. Ventilation fans are set to start at about 82 F, generally we have fewer than 30 days where the temperature in the greenhouse will reach 90 F and above.
        The general rule is that the plain leaf Paphs can tolerate lower temperatures, while the mottled leaf types prefer warmer temperatures. But like all rules, there are exceptions, Paph. armeniacum and Paph. micranthum being good examples of mottled leaf Paphs that tend to prefer cooler temperatures.

Can Paphs be divided into low versus medium light by whether they have mottled or plain leaves?
Plain leaf Paph.
An example of a plain leaf Paph.  
        
To an extent it can be generalized that the plain leaf Paphs will tend to be higher light than the mottled leaf Paphs, with the multifloral or strap leaf Paphs tending to be the highest light of them all. Strap-leaved species that will flower under lower light conditions (even under 2 bulb fluorescent fixtures) include Paph adductum, Paph. wilhelminae, Paph. lynniae and Paph lowii. However, as with most broad generalizations, there are some exceptions. There is also a great deal of clonal variation; we have clones of Paph. philippinense, for instance, that will bloom very easily under fluorescent lights, but we have others that need higher light than can be provided by fluorescents to bloom: indeed, one particular clone that refused to flower for several years under lights needed to be put outdoors in full sun for most of the summer before it would flower. Some leaves were burned in the process but we also eventually had 9 inflorescences on this large plant flower over several months. (It should be pointed out here that this was an experiment, and if a high light plant is put outdoors during the summer months, care should be taken to see that it does not unduly suffer heat burns or become crisp at the roots.) It's quite possible to strike a compromise with light that will let you grow and bloom almost all of the Paphs under the same light conditions. As to mottled leafed Paphs, it has been our experience that the Chinese Parvisepalums (excluding Paph. emersonii) flower better when given quite high light most of the year, with a little extra shading beyond normal only during the warmest months of the summer.

What is the best temperature and humidity for growing Paphs?
        We find most Paphs will grow just fine at temperatures and humidity levels with which we ourselves are comfortable. Ideally, Paphs probably would like maximum temperatures not above the 85F range, but can tolerate much higher temperatures with minimal stress especially with additionally misting and/or humidity. Paphs can also go down into the higher 50's F if necessary without suffering leaf or flower damage, if one is careful about watering times, so that no water is allowed to remain in the leaf axils as the temperatures go down at night. The Paphs listed as beginner plants (see Guide to Buying and Growing Your First Paph.) would prefer to stay mostly in the 60-80F range, preferably with a day night differential of 8-10F, but again for this particular group this is an ideal, and also reasonably easy to approximate with minimum effort on the part of the grower. The day/night differential is fairly easy to attain, either when growing under fluorescent lights when the lights go off, or on a windowsill when the sun goes down. Again, ideal relative humidity would be in the 70%- 80% range, but if plants are otherwise cared for properly (i.e. you've maintained a good root system through having an open potting mix, and a reasonable watering schedule) they will tolerate lower humidity in the 40% range very well. The only drawback to the lower humidity levels in the house might be that the flowers won't be quite as large. Do keep a careful eye out for spider mite damage if you grow in the lower humidity range, and especially if you grow under fluorescents. Red spider mites are particular fond of, and reproduce unbelievably rapidly in, high heat and low humidity, while the predatory mites that normally keep their populations in check do not reproduce well in low humidity. Again, if you are growing on a windowsill, be careful that there aren't periods of extremely high heat during the day from direct sun on the plant. And conversely if you live in a cold climate, that the plant is not so close to the window as to get chilled by the higher heat loss through the glass.

Why are Paphs, particularly awarded clones, sometimes more expensive than other orchids?
        
There are three basic reasons for this. First, although capsules from some types of crosses can yield high numbers of plants, in general the yields of Paph seedlings are lower from any given capsule than for many other types of orchids. And, as 'Murphy' would have it, it always seems that the more desirable the cross, the lower the yield. Secondly, it can also take longer to grow some Paphs up to blooming size than many other types of orchids. Again, there are exceptions; for example yields of many of the mottled leaf hybrids and the so-called Maudiae types can be substantial, and they also can be relatively fast growers, so they tend to be among the less expensive Paphs. The third factor relates to the fact that Paphs have not leant themselves to commercially viable cloning, so it is not possible to make thousands of copies of a desirable or awarded clone in the laboratory as it is with Phals and Catts. Paphs are cloned only by the slow process of division, and it can take anywhere from a year to 5 years or more to grow a plant to where it may be divided without harm to the plant. If you wish to purchase expensive or awarded plants, it's always best to get as much information from the seller as possible, especially regarding number and size of flowered growths on the division, new mature growths, and any presence of new starts. Single, already flowered Paph growths are not always a good buy, unless they have at least a half mature growth growing strongly, and a good root system. If the seller is unsure of the root system, it won't hurt to ask them to unpot the plant and check on it for you, particularly if it's any expensive division. Most sellers will be happy to do this for you. If they are not, be careful as the health of the plant being offered may be compromised. It's also best to buy a division that has had some time to establish itself in its own pot, and grow a good root system.

I am a keen Paph grower, who can grow Paphs to some degree, but far from the optimum condition. Could you advise if you do monitor your culture for air, water/humidity, light and temperature? And if you do, what instrument you use?
        A pH meter is a must, and a minimum/maximum thermometer. We do have a conductivity meter to check the integrity of the RO filter membranes, and there is a min/max hygrometer in one of the greenhouse, and a light meter in a drawer somewhere here, but that is about it. We calculate fertilizer feed rates, and you can judge the humidity and air movement by the feel or buoyancy of the greenhouse air when you are in it, in our opinion, far better than any meters. As far as light, most light meters that are affordable that we have tried are fantastically inaccurate, and the most sensitive meters we've seen are the human eye. You can judge from the intensity of a shadow cast by holding your hand over the plants the light intensity at any given moment as well as is needed, and the color (and temperature during peak light) of the plants' leaves will tell you if the average intensity is okay. The same really also goes for all other aspects of culture. Attention to detail, and time spent with the plants, will allow them to 'talk' to you in a way that you will understand. You have to grow good roots first, and the mix you use, and pot size, and how you balance it all with air, water and fertilizer (and they are in that order on purpose) are the keys to success in our opinion.

My Paph. malipoense is in bud and I noticed mealybugs on the inflorescence. I removed them, what else should I do?
Mealybug
Mealybug.  
        There are some Paphs that mealybugs seem to prefer, and Paph. malipoense is one of them. Paph. micranthum, Paph. armeniacum, Paph. sukhakulii, all brachys, and any album clones seem to be the other preferred Paph meals and the plants to pay most attention to when doing mealy 'surveys' in your collection. And of course, if you are seeing them on one plant, you have to suspect they are present, although not necessarily easily visible, on the rest of your collection. Since we don't know your growing conditions (i.e. indoors, greenhouse, outdoors etc.) or size of your collection, we can't make suggestions as to general treatment, except that it has to be regular and persistent until the pests are eradicated. You have to take the life cycle of the pest into consideration, and which phases your treatment affects. Ambient temperature frequently affects the timing of the life cycles of these pests, so treatment intervals may need to be shortened in warmer weather. Too, summer heat will favor the explosion of unwanted pests on your plants. Lastly, you need to be diligent about the introduction of pest on plants brought in to your collection from outside sources. Isolate them initially from the rest of your collection and treat them if necessary to eradicate any pests observed during the isolation period.
        With regard to the malipoense in bud, you might consider gently splitting the bract (that subtends the ovary/bud) at its distal end (the pointy part furthest from the stem), and peeling it back along its length as this is a favorite hiding spot for mealies. They can do sufficient damage here to cause the bud to fall off in a surprisingly short period of time. We would suggest also the use of tweezers to pull back the bract while you gently cup the bud/inflorescence in your other hand. Note that the inflorescence is very succulent, and while somewhat pliable at this stage, it can also be fairly easily snapped off if you bend it beyond its ability. Go slowly, and don't use excessive force. You also need to keep a very close eye on the bud itself; the smaller mealies can manage to find ways to actually get inside the bud itself while it is still tightly closed. I'd just be diligent with a Q-Tip dampened in alcohol. We'd probably also unpot the plant (yes, even in bud) to check for any mealy infestation below the medium on the roots. Alternatively, you can just gently pull some of the mix aside and check for the white fuzzy spots that indicate mealy egg masses or the insects themselves. A note of caution: plants whose pots stay drier than most down near their drainage holes may allow enough air for colonies of mealies to thrive actually inside the base of the plants roots. In this case, the plant should be unpotted, and the roots lightly sprayed with isopropyl alcohol and left to dry for an hour or so. Try to keep the plant from direct sun or air movement while it dries, to keep excess loss of moisture from the bud to a minimum. This will get rid of the adults, but you will still have to be observant for egg masses and young mealies.

Fungus Gnats? Or I've got these tiny annoying things flying around my pots, how do I get rid of them?
        
What you are seeing is the adult form of fungus gnats. The adults are at worst an annoyance, especially if you inhale them, but the larvae that live in the upper portions of your potting mix can actually damage your plant. It has been conventional wisdom for years that the larvae are harmless, eating only fungi and organic detritus in the pots. However in more recent years, researchers in the bedding plant industry have taken a closer look, and have discovered that fungus gnats can indeed cause significant root damage and vector several pathogens. Since our slipper orchids have fibrous root systems, I think we have to consider them a threat to plant health.
        Their presence alone should be considered a warning sign in Paph. culture. They require fairly continually moist conditions to become established, and this may be an indication that your plant's mix is staying too wet for too long a period of time. This might be the result of a mix that has broken down, or is too dense to start with, or that you are overwatering.
        Getting rid of them starts with correcting the overly wet culture conditions. Repot the plants if needed, in a more open mix if this was the problem, and/or reduce watering frequency. This alone should be sufficient to reduce or eliminate the problem. If upon repotting your plant you discover that the overly wet conditions have led to squishy, dead roots, it's best to gently remove them and let the plant dry out overnight, then repot in the morning. Since most Paph. growers also tend to grow some Phrags, many of which have culture requirements that lead to the creation of good fungus gnat habitat, we'll mention some other control methods.
        You do not need to resort to extreme measures to eliminate fungus gnats. Among the more elegant solutions for smaller collections is to grow some carnivorous plants alongside your slipper orchids. The carnivores will keep the adult fungus gnat population in check nicely, and you've created a small, somewhat self-sustaining ecosystem that has added an interesting dimension to your growing. Slightly less elegant, but also an effective control, is the use of yellow sticky cards to attract and eliminate the adults, keeping the populations in check while allowing you to monitor their numbers. We've employed with excellent success in our greenhouses a pot drench with Bacillus thuringiensis v. israeliensis, a Bt strain especially selected for its pathogenicity for the larval form of fungus gnats. This is available under the brand name Gnatrol, and we have found two treatments about two weeks apart to be extremely effective in eliminating the gnats, with no evidence of them for many months after treatment. It's interesting to note than in the new coconut husk chip mix, the top of the mix dries out fairly rapidly, leaving no attractive home for the gnats.

I have set a seed capsule on my Paph. How long do I leave it on?
        
There can be a substantial range in the number of months that Paph. capsules require to mature to a harvestable stage. Capsules can be removed and sown either at the green 'pod' stage, where the color of the capsule (not 'pod', which is incorrect usage of the term) is actually still some shade of green but not yet dehisced, and is starting to slightly shrink in size. This will be most noticeable around the 'ribs' that parallel the length of the capsule, and the tip (where the flower fell off) will look somewhat brownish and should also be noticeably shrunken. Color of the plant's inflorescence is of no value in predicting when a capsule will be ready. The capsule may be harvestable when the plant is pushing up a new bud from a new matured growth, but this is not as reliable an indicator as the former suggestions.
        Capsules can also be harvested after they have started to turn brown, and may or may not have split. If the latter, the capsule can be gently removed from the inflorescence by breaking it over to one side, and placed in an envelope and sealed, along with the cross tag. If the capsule has split, so that the ribs of the capsule are visibly open, simply hold an envelope under the capsule to catch any errant seed when you gently break off the capsule from the plant.
        While growing under lights, we have had Paph. wilhelminae capsules mature just shy of four months. In our greenhouse, where there are variable days of sun and heat, and a long winter, the same plants can take as long as 7 months to mature the capsule. Different growing conditions will produce different times to maturity.
        Some labs are very particular about, and have best success with, one kind of capsule ----green---or the other kind---split---, which they will sow as dry seed. It is best to ask your lab before you harvest the capsule at which stage they would like to receive the capsule.
        A word of caution here: not every capsule, whether plump or not upon maturity, will or can produce seed. It is also possible a capsule will contain what looks like seed, but there will be no embryos inside them. Some labs will examine a small portion of the seed under a microscope to determine whether embryos are present or not, and if the latter, then they usually don't sow the capsule. If you're not sure about your lab, ask them what procedure they use to examine the seed. This may save you money in the long run. Also, some crosses give very low yield of seed, for example, a complex crossed with a species, but again, this is not a hard and fast rule. A plant that has matured a capsule should not have another capsule immediately set on it, unless it is a multiple growth plant and is growing strongly. If the plant has few growths, it is kinder to the plant to let it rest a year or even two before trying to breed with it again. It is quite possible to breed a plant to death if too many capsules are set on it too often. We have also observed that the single most important factor determining the success of getting seedlings from a cross is the general health and condition of the capsule parent. A single growth plant will, generally speaking, not be as robust a producer of viable seed as will a multiple growth plant.

I have an unnamed Paph. hybrid, can I name it?
        Possibly. First, the hybrid has to have flowered, as you have to be able to describe the flower in some detail. In the case of a primary hybrid (one between two different species) you must submit a photograph along with the registration form. The right to name a hybrid is reserved for the maker of the cross, as defined as the owner of the capsule parent plant, or their assignee. If you are not the hybridizer, then you must make a good faith effort to identify that person and seek their permission. As a start, you might try calling the person from whom you purchased the seedling, or asking at your local society meeting if anyone else has the same hybrid and know its' originator. It's entirely possible that the hybridizer may want to name the plant himself or herself, which is their right. If, after a diligent search you are unable to determine who the hybridizer is, as a last resort you may proceed with registering the hybrid. The nature of this effort must be explained to the registrar, before submitting the registration form on the hybrid as "hybridizer unknown". More details on the entire procedure can be found in "Names and Naming".

What does the name on my label mean?
        There are two sets of rules governing plant names, one for species and natural hybrids, and another for man made hybrids. If your plant is a species, it should be labelled with the binomial epithet consisting of the capitalized genus name (or abbreviation, as in Paph. for Paphiopedilum), followed by the species name in all lower case letters. An example would be Paph. adductum. If it is naturally occurring hybrid, it is listed with an 'X' in front on the hybrid name, as in Paph. x fanaticum, for example, to indicate it's natural origin. If it is a registered hybrid, then you should have the genus name as above, but in this case the hybrid name is also capitalized. An example here could be Paph. Memoria Connie Truax, a primary cross of Paph. chamberlainianum and Paph. micranthum. The capsule (seed bearing) parent is always listed first in a cross, the exception being the American Orchid Society's "Awards Quarterly", which lists crosses as they were originally registered by the Royal Horticultural Society, and not as the exhibitor of the plant lists them, which may in fact be the reverse of the cross. In our opinion, this is not an insignificant difference, as it is our experience that reciprocal crosses may yield differing results because of the influence of the maternal parent, and this introduction of error in the record eliminates the ability to study such effects. Of course, not everyone will care to keep such careful track of which way the cross was made, and some will not know, but with a little experience, it becomes evident which hybridizers' data are accurately presented.
        The collective offspring of a cross are referred to as a grex. A cross is named the same if between the same two parents regardless of which is the capsule and which is the pollen parent. For example, Paph. Memoria Connie Truax can be made either as (Paph. chamberlainianum x Paph. micranthum) or as (Paph. micranthum x Paph. chamberlainianum). A cross of two Paph. Memoria Connie Truax plants would also still be named Paph. Memoria Connie Truax.
        If a cross is unregistered, the parents are usually enclosed in parenthesis. This gets further complicated if plants are used in crosses themselves that have not yet been named, with layers of parenthesis being added according to the same rules they would be applied in a mathematical expression. We feel hybridizers should make every effort to name their crosses to avoid such confusion, as it is hard to imagine why someone would make a cross in the first place that they didn't feel worth honoring with a name.
        If the plant has a clonal name (or in older usage 'cultivar epithet'), it follows the binomial epithet enclosed in single quotes, for example Paph. Memoria Connie Truax 'Candor Cionne' AM/AOS. The clonal name (and award) only applies to that particular clone, and its divisions (remember that Paphs are not commercially mericloned). Offspring of an awarded plant, including selfings, do not carry the award. For example, (Paph. rothschildianum 'Rex' FCC/AOS x self) is a seedling progeny of a selfing of Paph. rothschildianum 'Rex' FCC/AOS, and not the awarded plant. For far greater detail on plant names and rules, see "Names and Naming".

I think I have an awardable flower, how do I go about getting it judged?
        AOS judging takes place at the official Centers (dates, times and locations listed every month in Orchids) and at AOS judged shows. The best option is to accompany your plant to the judging, and observe the process. Allow plenty of time to get there so neither you nor the plants are stressed. You also have the option of sending your plant in to these venues either by FedEx or some other similar type of service. This involves some risk of damage or loss to the plant or flower(s), and the flowers must be very well protected inside the box, best accomplished by using shredded wax paper. You can also send cut inflorescences, but again you risk them being damaged and made unjudgable. Also, a cut inflorescence is sometimes not given the same level of consideration an entire plant with its inflorescence would have been by certain judges. If you want your plants to be competitive at judging, a good place to start is the AOS Handbook on Judging. It explains the rules and regulations, and exactly on what criteria the plants are being judged, as well as all the different awards that are granted in the AOS system: AM/AOS, CCM/AOS, CHM/AOS, etc. If possible, get first hand experience in how judges at your center consider the plants by attending judging at every opportunity. You will also learn how best to present your plants by attending and listening to the judges' comments. For example, different regions may have different preferences about how a plant should be staked. You will also see first hand what lighting is available for the judging process. Some judging centers do not use color-corrected lighting and this can sometimes be to the detriment of consideration of the plant. Vinicolor paphs, for example, will take on an almost luminous appearance and their gloss will be outstanding under color corrected lights, whereas frequently under other light sources they will just appear dark

How do I get my plant ready for judging or a show?
        It takes time, experience, and most of all, attention to detail to learn how best to present your plant. First, the entire plant should be thoroughly 'groomed'. The flowers may be what are being judged (except for CCMs where the entire condition of the plant is considered), but it is your responsibility to present the plant in its best condition. This includes taking a soft, damp cloth and wiping all leaves free of any fertilizer or water or pesticide stains; especially difficult to remove stains may be wiped off easier if some milk is added to the water; this essentially acts as a solvent to dissolve the unsightly chemical buildup. You must also make sure that no plant pests are present. A Q-tip and a tiny bit of rubbing alcohol will remove most of these unwanted critters. You might also use a slightly damp Q-tip to remove any water stains on the flower itself. Any dead and yellowing leaves should also be completely removed, and brown leaf tips could be groomed by taking a small, very sharp sterilized knife or scalpel and removing them also, following the natural outlines of the leaf. Make sure the pot itself is clean; if there are stains, wipe them off. Alternatively, you can place the pot the plant is growing in inside another, bigger pot, and if needed secure it in place with tightly packed, damp moss. If your plant has wonderful flowers, but a sickly appearance, is falling over in the pot, has visible insect damage either on the foliage or flower, or has wilted leaves covered with brown spots, it is probably best for you, the plant, and the judges to wait until the next flowering. This will give you a chance to correct whatever aspects of growing are causing the plant's distress, and then you can proudly present it at its best.
Wrapping a hardwood dowel with florist's tape
You can make a very attractive stake by wrapping a hardwood dowel diagonally with florist's tape.  
        Additionally, most Paphs will need staking of some kind or another, both to provide the best presentation and also to preserve the flower safely in transport. Some people prefer bamboo stakes dyed dark green; we prefer florist wire, because it is less obtrusive and can be more easily cut to correct lengths. If a heavier duty stake is required we use 1/8" or 3/16" hardwood dowels wrapped with green florist's tape. The developing inflorescence of a multifloral should face the closest, strongest light source for best effect, both in length of inflorescence and presentation of the flowers. Be careful not to allow the inflorescence to be burned by the light source, or get too close to the fluorescent light bulbs, or get too close to the greenhouse wall on the south side. Once the flowers start to open on the inflorescence, you can use a long florists wire, and fine needle-nosed pliers, and place a 'U' at the end of the wire; then bend the 'U' so that it's nearly perpendicular to the length of the wire. Once the wire is stuck in the pot, the 'U' should just reach the base of the first flower on the inflorescence. This is to make sure the inflorescence stays erect, and doesn't grow into the foliage of nearby plants. Once inflorescences are 'snake-like', they are extremely difficult to correct so as to be presentable to the judges, and often attempts to correct them may cause them to crisply break off without warning. Make sure that the 'U' in the wire stake is not too tight so as to constrict the growing inflorescence. Once most or all the flowers have opened, you may stake to the top most bud or flower. Multifloral inflorescences should have more than half of their flowers opened in order to be judged, and the more the better. Make sure to allow plenty of time for staking, and do not be in a rush. Other single flowered Paphs may be loosely pre-staked before the inflorescence is fully grown and while still in bud. This helps to keep the bud or flower from bumping against its neighbor, and suffering any bruising or other damage. (A bruised flower will show transparent aspects in the tissue, and may be deemed to be unjudgable.). Once the flower has opened and set, you may now stake the inflorescence. If there are additional developing inflorescences on the same plant that require support for transport to judging, you should stake them also, but again, not so tightly so as to restrict their growth. Try to place the 'U' of the wire at the juncture of the flower and the top of the ovary for best effect. It is helpful first to put the 'U' in the florist wire, turn the 'U' nearly perpendicular to the wire itself, and then turn the wire upside down next to the plant to determine the length to which the wire should be cut. Now, hold the wire up to the plant you will be staking and see if you made the cut too long or too short. Always cut the wire too long rather than too short if you are unsure. You can always re-cut to the correct length. Place the wire into the pot, and make sure it's firmly in place, as you want the inflorescence immobile. Green or brown florist tape may be used to secure the stem to the wire, so they appear as one. Substantial distance in between the wire and the inflorescence is distracting and entirely avoidable. The florist tape can be cut in half along its length if you are staking a very thin stem. Finally, set your staked plant on a bare, level surface, and judge it yourself from all angles, and both from a distance, and close up. Remember that the judges will scrutinize your plant as well as every aspect of your work. Does it have a pleasing appearance? Does it look natural? Is the staking too obvious, and should you try again? Are all flowers displayed to their best advantage if the plant is a multifloral, or has several inflorescences? Are the undersides of the leaves visible and are they clean? Have you made sure the pot is clean? Try not to be deterred from returning to judging if, after all your best efforts, the first time you take your plant in to be judged it is not considered and not awarded. This does not necessarily mean that your plant is inferior, nor that the plant is not awardable. Judging, because it is a human endeavor, is fraught with human feelings, and it is best if you can consider your first, second and third (and more!) time at the judging center as a learning experience and not take any adverse experiences personally.
        The judging of any plant in the AOS system requires a fairly close consensus of the judges scoring the plant (minimum team size is three, but many centers score as one team, so you may need to get a consensus of 15 judges). The plants overall score, which is based on a 100 point scale, covers such aspects as flower size, color, shape, presentation, etc. Some judges may take an immediate liking to your plant, while others may not care for it, and will score it accordingly. Listen to the judges' discussions about the plant they are considering. Pay close attention to other plants that are being judged, and note which plants are awarded, how they were presented and their overall quality. Note too the plants that were not considered and not awarded. Many times, after judging concludes, it will be possible for you to ask a judge what they thought of a certain plant and thereby gain insight into how this particular judge views certain aspects of a plant. Be courteous, and ask them if they have time for a question or two, as they may have other matters to discuss with other judges, or there may be a business meeting afterward, so their time may be limited. Remember also that they are volunteering their time to be judges, these are not paying positions. Taking plants to judging can be both exhilarating and frustrating, but ultimately educational and entertaining. You'll get to see plants rare and unusual, and wonderfully grown, and meet some very interesting people involved in the world of orchids.

Bob & Lynn Wellenstein
AnTec Laboratory
PO Box 65
Candor, NY 13743 USA
607 659-3330
http://ladyslipper.com
Copyright 2000 AnTec Laboratory
May be reproduced by nonprofit organizations for their newsletters or libraries if presented in its entirety.

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