Houseplant Spotlight: Lady Slipper Orchids
A gorgeous and forgiving orchid, the Lady Slipper is an excellent choice for the beginning house plant gardener.
This type of orchid is part of the group of orchids that don't need a lot of light. They need a shaded spot with some indirect light. An east facing window is the best choice. If there is too much light, blinds or sheer curtains make a great barrier. This orchid also can do quite well away from a window, for example, placed on a coffee table or desktop.
If the leaves of your plant are darker than medium green, they are not getting enough light. If they are looking yellow, they are getting too much light.
Orchids are unique plants and their watering specifications are just as exceptional. They extract moisture from the air in addition to getting it from the soil like a traditional houseplant. Because this requires a different method of watering than other plants, you may think it will be complicated. It is quite the opposite, though.
Do a regular watering every week or so, or when the top of the soil feels dry. It is important not to let the soil dry out too much. Although these plants are quite a drought tolerant, it isn't good for their health to get too dry. On the other hand, be careful not to over water them either as they can develop root rot. The best method for watering is to put the pot in the sink and let the water run through the plant for 1-2 minutes. Let it drain completely before returning it to its' honored place in your house.
In addition to the regular watering, set up a shallow tray (a cookie sheet works great) filled with pebbles and water and place the lady slippers' pot on top of it. Do not let the pot sit in the water, it should rest on top. This increases the humidity around the plant and lets it do its' moisture extraction thing. Dry air is horribly detrimental to the health of the lady slipper.
There are a bunch of specific orchid fertilizers on the market. Choose a balanced one (example 25-25-25) and fertilize every week with a ¼ strength solution. Alternately, you can fertilize every other week with a ½ strength solution. In winter, reduce the fertilizing to once a month.
A slow-draining, loose medium is best for lady slipper orchids. There are potting mixes designed especially for orchids and these are the best option.
Lady Slipper Orchids grow mainly in Southeast Asia, Southern China, and India in the decaying ground layer of the forest floor. They like an average temperature of 55F-80F and hotter or much cooler environments can cause problems. The best way to replicate these conditions is to use a good, aerated potting soil that emulates the natural humus material they are used to and to be mindful of how much light they are receiving.
Repotting and Reblooming:
This orchid is a very slow grower. Be patient. Some take 4-16 years to bloom! Yes, that's a long time but when they do it is entirely worth the long wait. Blooms can last for months.
Potting soil can get compacted and loose drainage capabilities over time and this can be quite detrimental to the orchids' roots. Re-pot this orchid every 2-3 years so it can benefit from the renewed potting medium. Choose a pot that is just 1-2 inches wider than the previous one. They grow slowly and actually enjoy a little crowding.
An excellent plant choice for the beginner gardener who is looking for a stunning, dramatic flower to brighten up their house.