Called 'new world slippers' Phragmipedium are from Central and South America
and NOT Asia as are Paphiopedilum. They are easy to grow.
There are between 15 and 27 species depending on source - some people lump species
together and others split them up and raise what was a variety into a species in its own right.
They are found from Central America to South America.
The Genus was named in 1896 by Rolfe - prior to this they were known as Cyripediums, Selenipedium and Uropedium.
They have been in cultivation since the 1830’s - Phrag. caudatum was first described in 1840.
The second ever recorded orchid hybrid was Phrag. Sedenii in 1873 named for John Seden who was Veitch’s chief gardener.
Pragmipedium differ from Paphiopedilum in a number of ways:
- Plants tend to be more grass like, with larger leaves
generally held erect
- No colour on plant leaves and very little base colour.
- Flower spikes are jointed and branching unlike
- Flower bud segment edges touch while with Paphiopedilum
- The ovary is trilocular (3 cavities) while Paphiopedilum are
unilocular (1 cavity)]
- Generally the base genome is 2n = 20 while for
Paphiopedilum it is 2n = 26
- Chromosomes are smaller than Paphiopedilum
Plants are terrestrial, lithophytic or rarely epiphytic, generally growing on steep cliffs in leaf litter and moss in moist situations. They grow in high light areas with high seepage levels (water at the roots) and sub sequentially high humidity and in high rainfall areas with excellent airflow.
Phragmipedium tend to like higher light levels and more fertilizer than Paphiopedilum.
HOW I GROW THEM
This is how I grow them others may differ in their culture. They are generally easy to grow as they come from the same general area as Cattleya.
Phragmipedium like fairly bright
light about 50 % to 60% shade,
only slightly less than Cattleya.
Leaves should remain a medium green.
Phrag. besseae and its hybrids like a
I divide the genus into 3 groups here:- dry, moist and wet :
The species and hybrids from the following are in each group;
Dry group- caudatum
Moist - besseae, wallisii
Wet - the rest
It can be difficult with hybrids from the different groups as to what they want and can only be solved by observation. Water is perhaps the most critical both in terms of quality and quantity
Phragmipedium are usually found on mountain sloops with high seepage at the root zone and in high rainfall areas.
Some are even found growing with their roots submerged in water. This should give you the idea that most love lots of water.
Phragmipedium like wet feet and clean water. Water quality is also important and town water with high salts and chlorine can cause problems - usually shown by leaf tips browning off.
They should never be allowed to dry out completely. I grow mine in small saucers about 1cm to 2cm deep
As with all orchids air movement is important and even more so
Remember we are growing them moist and humid, if the airflow is
poor it can lead to fungal and disease problems.
Generally what we like to see is the flower spikes just swaying in
Spacing of plants is also important and what we look for here is for
plants to be
just touching each other so that they can get airflow around them.
Tightly packed plants can lead to a range of problems.
My growing range is 0c to about 40c
They are considered to be intermediate growers
(much like Cattleya’s)
Ideal is day of 25c to 30c and nights of 12c to 15c - so in general
local conditions are good for them.
As with all orchids as temperature increases we should look to
raise humidity and airflow.
Phragmipedium love high humidity, 60% to even 90% is just fine
Remember with the plants sitting in water the humidity is
higher anyway.I will often in summer turn on foggers I have
in my bush house to increase humidity and sometimes are
water the floor to further increase humidity.
I treat mine like all other orchids so they get liquid fertilizer
at ½ strength every week or fortnight (I use Campbell’s blue)
I like to take them out of the saucers to fertilize and not have
them sitting in the fertilizer.
I DO NOT recommend any form of slow release as it is too
high in salts and the hairy roots will trap the salt next to the
root and can burn the root. An excellent grower recommends
to top dress the plants once a year with blood and bone at
the rate of a teaspoon per litre of mix.
Potting and potting Mix
The best time to pot is straight after flowering.
The mix needs to retain moisture and also keep good air
circulation - so pot loosely.
Phragmipedium prefer a more acid mix with a Ph of 5 or 6
being fine I use deep rather than squad pots as they have
a very strong and vigorous root system.
As they are sitting in water the mix is always moist so I
repot small plants every year and large plants every
2 years to freshen the mix.
My current mix is 2 parts coco, 2 parts bark and 1 part
perlite - the size varies depending on the pot size -
so small grade for up to 80mm pots, medium grade
for 100 to 140mm pots and large for 150mm +.
The only problems I encounter is climbing plants and
here I just cut another pot in half and join it to the main
pot and top it up with mix and top cover with moss to
hold it all together.
I would recommend a covered roof and open sides so you
can control the rainfall a bit.
My bush house is pipe construction with shade cloth
(50%) sides and a lazerlite roof (55%),
please make you house as high as possible for cooling
and light dissipation reasons .
Benches are weld mesh about 1m off the ground. I have
an overhead fogging system to cool the plants but
generally water by hand.
I consider Phragmipedium to be easy to grow - you treat them much like a Cattleya just
growing in a saucer of water. If you allow the plants to clump up the flower spikes will
get much longer and the flowers bigger.
They are not widely available and some of the newer hybrids are very expensive $50 for a plant
in a 50mm pot is not uncommon. This is because while they are easy to grow hybrids can be
difficult to breed with breeders getting very little germination.
The best to start with I would suggest are:-
Calurum (10cm+ dark pink - sequential flowering over 12mths +)
longifolium (15cm green, tan and maroon - sequential flowering
over 6mths +)
Sedenii (8 - 10cm light pink - sequential flowering over 9 - 12 mths)
Grande (large flowers with petals to 45cm+ - 2 - 5 flowers)
These are all very easy to grow and a flowering size plant can often
be found for $25
Next along would be hybrids like:-
Eric Young (10cm bright red - sequential flowering)
Mem Dick Clemments (10 - 12cm red to orange - sequential flowering)
Sorcerer’s Apprentice (12 - 15cm green and red flowers on tall spikes - sequential flowering)
Noirmont (12- 15cm red to orange flowers - sequential flowering.
I would say give them a go, the reasons to grow them are as follow:
- They are about as easy as a Cattleya to grow
- Treat them much like a Cattleya but with wet feet.
- The flower for a long time with up to 18mth from the
one flower spike being possible - always something
to take to a meeting
- The plants are not unattractive
- There is a large range of colours
(white, pink, red, orange, magenta, greens and tans)
and a large range of flower sizes 4cm to 90cm and shapes.
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