Lady slippers, aka slipper orchids, amaze and inspire. Many orchid lovers specialize in growing these fascinating beauties. If you received a lady slipper gift for Mother’s Day, it’s most likely a Paph, or Paphiopedilum. Over 100 Paph species have been crossbred into countless hybrids. Their flowers all have a distinctive pouch which makes the blooms look enough like footwear to inspire the slipper nickname. Paphs are native to Southeast Asia and some South Pacific islands.
Paphs are certainly the most common slipper orchids, but there are also other varieties. Like Paphs, Phrags and Cyps have flowers with a pouch, and fortunately, they also have short nicknames. Phrags, or Phragmipediums, have brilliant colors and wild shapes. Phragmipedium kovachii, or PK, electrified the plant world in 2001 when its huge purple blooms were discovered in the Peruvian jungle. Other Phrags have petals which droop to the ground, reaching 2 ½ feet (76 cm) or more. Phrags are native to tropical jungles in Central and South America.
Cyps, or Cypripediums, include lady slippers native to the USA, Canada, Europe, and parts of Asia. They’re sometimes known as moccasin flowers. All types of lady slippers need regular watering and moist, shady conditions to mimic their homes near the rainforest floor. Most live as terrestrials, and need repotting every year or two. Paphs are easy to grow in a home or office, and are popular choices for novice orchid growers. Many Phrags and Cyps have special soil and watering requirements, and are best for experienced growers.
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