Alphabetical Plant Listing

Phragmipedium (Slipper Orchids)

Slipper Orchids, Phrags


Mostly native to Mexico, Central America and South America, Phragmipedium (Slipper Orchids) is a genus of about 25 species of terrestrial or epiphytic orchids found growing along stream banks of shady mountain slopes at elevations between 7,200-13,000 ft. (2200-3900 m). Phragmipediums are called Slipper Orchids because of their little floral pouch flanked by long twisted petals that hang like ribbons. They are vigorous, trouble-free and flower dependably in the right conditions.

As with the other slipper orchids, Phragmipedium species are sympodial in growth habit (they produce multiple stems) and form tight fans of usually strap-shaped, mid to dark green leaves.

The flower spikes can reach up to 3 ft. (90 cm) in length and can bear up to 15 flowers. The flowers themselves can measure 30 inches (75 cm) or more from the tip of the dorsal sepal to the tip of a lateral petal. They can be yellow, green and brown, orange, red and even magenta, some with yellow and purplish patterns. The flowering season is heaviest in the spring. However many species can bloom for 6-11 months. The flowers open successively or all at once, depending on the species. The few-flowered species tend to have long-lasting blossoms and stay in bloom for months.

Phragmipedium orchids species and hybrids were less popular in cultivation than their Asian cousins, Paphiopedilum. However, the recent discovery of new striking species (Phrag. besseae and Phrag. kovachii) and the production of new superb hybrids has led to an increase in their popularity. Once hard to find, they are now prominent in the marketplace.

Phragmipedium orchids make beautiful plants in the home or greenhouse.

Growing Phragmipedium Orchids

Light
Phragmipedium orchids require more light than Phalaenopsis or Paphiopedilum and can grow in light to moderate shade. East or south window exposures work best. They also enjoy fresh air, so be sure there is good air circulation.

Temperatures 
Phragmipedium orchids generally require intermediate temperatures between 55°F (13°C) at night and 85°F (29°C) during the day. 

Water 
Because of the absence of any water-retaining pseudobulbs, Phragmipedium orchids need a moist medium - never soggy, but never dry. Rain water or distilled water is ideal, although city water with a low salt level is acceptable. The plants should be flushed out well with each watering.

Humidity
Maintain high humidity (50-70%) for most of the year by standing container in a tray of damp pebbles.

Fertilization
Fertilize once a week after watering. High-nitrogen fertilizers (such as 30-10-10) are recommended when potted in any fir-bark mix. In warm weather, some growers use half-strength applications every two weeks; others use one-quarter strength at every watering. It is important to flush with clear water monthly to remove excess fertilizer, which can burn roots. In winter, fertilizer applications once a month are sufficient. 

Potting
Repot once a year after blooming, using a fine bark and perlite mix, when you see new growth appearing at the base of the plant. Phragmipedium orchids like to be tight in their pots. Pot in small (3- to 6-inch) pots, never more than 1 to 2 inches larger than the previous pot. Do not overpot. Be careful when repotting, as the roots can be brittle and are easily broken. Make sure the base of the new growth is in contact with the potting medium to ensure proper growth.

Propagation 
After flowering, large plants can be divided by pulling or cutting the fans of the leaves apart, into clumps of three to five growths.

Pests and diseases 
Phragmipedium orchids are generally disease free. Keep an eye out for aphids, glasshouse red spider mite and mealybugs.

Tip for reblooming

  • If your orchid does not bloom, try moving it to a brighter, cooler location. If it still doesn’t bloom, add blooming fertilizer in early spring.

 

Guide Information

Hardiness 9 - 12
Plant Type Orchids
Exposure Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early,Mid,Late)
Summer (Early,Mid,Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 1' - 3' (30cm - 90cm)
Spread 1' - 2' (30cm - 60cm)
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Landscaping Ideas Patio and Containers

Khairil Azhar Junos Shutterstock

While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 9 - 12
Plant Type Orchids
Exposure Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early,Mid,Late)
Summer (Early,Mid,Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 1' - 3' (30cm - 90cm)
Spread 1' - 2' (30cm - 60cm)
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Landscaping Ideas Patio and Containers

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