Paphiopedilum – unidentified vinicolor
In late January I attended the Cape & Islands Orchid Society’s annual show in Hyannis, MA. Winter orchid shows provide a welcome taste of the tropics on a winter day in Massachusetts! There are two other shows coming up in February. This weekend, from Friday, February 9 through Sunday, the New Hampshire Orchid Society will hold their show in Nashua. The Amherst Orchid Society will host their show in Northampton on February 24-25.
Paphiopedilum – unidentified
Orchids come in many colors, shapes, sizes and cultural needs. They are fun to grow, although sometimes challenging to rebloom. It is also fun to simply visit a show and enjoy the beauty of these flowers. I’ve included some pictures and care information for orchids that are quite different from the Phalaenopsis (Phals), or moth orchids that are easily found in supermarkets and other stores. The Phals are lovely, but it’s fun to explore other types of orchids.
Paphiopedilum venustrum album ‘J&L’
There are two main categories of ‘slipper orchids.’ The Paphiopedilums (knowns as Paphs) tend to have waxy flowers that last a long time. Their flowers range from wine-red through bronze-yellow, to green. Most are fairly easy to grow, only requiring the light of an east or west window and the comfortable temperatures of our homes. They want a drop in nighttime temperature, and well-drained, moist potting medium. They don’t like to be soggy, but also don’t like to dry out completely.
Phragmipedium Mem ‘Dick Clements’
Another group of exotic slipper orchids are the Phragmipediums (Phrags.) They typically have softer flowers, with pouches that resemble our native lady-slipper (Cypripedium.) The Phrags are more demanding in culture, with many being very sensitive to drying out and to the quality of water used. To grow these successfully, you need to understand the cultural requirements of the individual variety. Some like to almost dry out between watering, others like to sit in a shallow pool of water at all times. They require good light and air movement. If you like a challenge, these can be worth growing – some come in brilliant colors, such as the one pictured to the right. Others have very long petals that reach a few feet in length, and others that spiral and twist.
Clowesia ‘Rebecca Northen’
The Clowesia orchids are reputed to be easier to maintain than the slipper orchids. They like bright open shade, good humidity and frequent watering, with good air movement, during their period of active growth in summer. They can be grown in a shade house or under a tree. When weather becomes cold in the fall, these plants will enter dormancy and drop their leaves. At this point they should be brought inside, not be watered or fed and may be kept on a windowsill, or even put into a basement with no light until they form flower spikes. The plant will start to form new growths (pseudobulbs) in the spring. Once those start to form new roots, you may resume watering.
(Note that the plant pictured is mislabeled by the grower. The caption has the correct spelling.)
Brassia (or hybrid) & Phalaenopsis
Brassias often have many flowers, growing on alternate sides of a long spike. As the flowers themselves are long, this can make a dramatic display with only one plant. They want to be watered once or twice a week when actively growing during warmer months, and less often when growth slows. They can be grown on an east or west facing window, or a shaded south window. If grown in a north facing window, they are unlikely to bloom. As with most orchids, they benefit from high humidity and good air movement.
If any of these orchids tempt you to try your hand at growing, additional information can be found online. The American Orchid Society website is particularly helpful with care sheets on many kinds of orchids. Orchid shows are also a good place to learn more, to meet people who grow orchids, and to learn about local orchid societies.
Information about the New Hampshire Orchid Society’s show can be found at https://www.nhorchids.org/page-1802582 and the Amherst Orchid Society gives the location of their show at http://amherstorchidsociety.org/club-events/our-show-sale/.
Clowesias have a totally different look – they drop all their leaves and enjoy a period of dormancy with little to no water. They then reward the grower with a lovely cascade of flowers. The one pictured here is named after Rebecca Tyson Northen, author. (Note that the name is misspelled on the label – an unfortunately common error in the orchid world.)