- Frequently Asked Questions & Tips -
- The best trick for beginners is
to stick a toothpick into the drainage holes underneath
the pot - if it comes out stained and/or moist the compost
is still in good shape. If it comes out dry you've let the
Paph/Phrag go too long without water. Paph/Phrag roots should
never dry out completely (although doing so once in order
to gauge how often you should water will probably not hurt
the plant). It's also a good idea to completely FLUSH the
pot when watering to prevent a buildup of mineral salts
(which can kill Paph. roots). Paphs normally shed lower
leaves as they grow, but if the leaves on several of your
plants start going all at once, you've probably rotted a
portion of the roots - in this case repot, remove the dead
roots (which are hollow, squishy and sometimes smell), and
cut back on your watering.
- I don't think there's one "correct"
answer to this one. The general rule of thumb is for Paphiopedilums
to fertilize every 1 to 2 weeks at 1/2 the strength of the
recommended dosage for other orchids such as Cattleya's
and Phals. I haven't had any problems following that guideline
and my plants grow quickly and strongly.
- For Phragmipediums I've ended up cutting back to 1/4 strength
doses at most, as I've been developing a lot of fertilizer
burn on the leaf tips recently.
- I actually raise my Paphs on tables
with humidity trays along an expansive run of windows (they're
almost like a greenhouse) which have semi-shaded southern
exposure which I'm told is too much light. However, I have
not had problems with "sunburn". The Phrags (with
the exception of the terrestrial caudatum types) are grown
in trays which collect the irrigation water and allow the
Phrags to "soak" for a day or two before the water
evaporates; THEY LOVE THIS. However, the Phrags must be
repotted every 6 months.
- I also do some growing on racks under lights in locations
that don't receive sun. This is primarily my area for storing
flasks, compots, and the plants you're buying!
- If your Paphs/Phrags are receiving too much light they'll
grow a lighter shade of green (more like a mint/lime green)
and may turn brown at the leaf tips. In a home growing situation
(which most of you are doing) you can shade the window,
move the plants back from the window, or move to a different
location which receives less light.
- In this area I've found humidity is never a problem in
the summer. In the WINTER my growing area becomes VERY dry,
even with the humidity trays. Throughout the winter I spray
my Paphs & Phrags each morning with a fine mist of distilled
water (doesn't leave behind mineral deposits). It's a LIGHT
spraying; I never allow water to collect in the crown of
the plant. I must stress, just a LIGHT spraying. Other people
will tell you to never spray a Paph because it will die
but that's ridiculous! It has to rain where the come from,
no? The key is not to "over-spray" and not to
spray at night.
- OK, the answer is quite simply that
I can't ever answer that one! I'm biased because the Paphs
/ Phrags come easy to me but I'm sure many people haven't
had such good luck! However, I think that if I can give
a Paph to my Aunt and SHE can rebloom it, then they can't
be THAT hard!
- I honestly think the success in your area has NOTHING
to do with where you live. I ship plants to people everywhere
from Washington State, to California, to Florida, Pennsylvania,
Arizona, and New York. That's a wide range of climates but
a lot of people are growing these plants there! What determines
your success will be your ability to provide the plants
with what they need - that's a judgment call you'll have
to make after doing some more extensive research than just
I mainly grow in two indoor locations; the first is a long
expanse of windows with a southern exposure, partially shaded
by a large Jonquil Tree. The plants receive some direct
sunlight, which is appreciated by the Phragmipediums and
Paphs. of the subgenus Corypetalum.
- The other large growing area is a large
expanse of industrial shelving, retrofited with flourescent
shop lights. The mixture is 50% cool white and 50% "Grow
Bulb", plants are 3-6" beneath the twin bulbs
and growing like weeds! My relative humidity is usually
40-45% in the winter, 50-70% in the summer. Overall temperatures
typically range from a daytime high of 80-82 F to a nighttime
low of 65-70 F although the extremes can be 90 F+ down to
- Plants under lights typically need to
be watered every 2-5 days, plants on growing tables in front
of the windows usually need to be watered every 3-7 days.
I fertilize every other watering using 1/2 the "recommended
dosage". My growing mix consists of roughly 65% fine
Fir bark, 10% carbon, 10% perilite, and 15% canadian peat.
YOUR IDEAL CONDITIONS WILL DEFINITELY VARY!
- My best advice is to PAY ATTENTION to your plants from
the start! Sometimes when a plant is not in bloom we're
tempted to not pay much attention to it but that's the biggest
mistake you could ever make. Give your plants a good looking
over while you water.
- My biggest problem in Paphs has always been Mealy Bugs.
They like to hide in the bases of the leaves and will quickly
destroy developing buds. Mealy Bugs appear to be small (less
than .5 cm) hairy ovals. When you find them it's wise to
QUICKLY do something about it! A good first defense is Schultz
7 Day Control (a purple aerosol can). You should keep a
can on hand. I've tried "spot treating" a single
plant and that really doesn't solve the problem - it just
drags it on! You have to spray all the plants and especially
pay attention to the underside of the leaves! Spray the
buds and flowers too - this may kill them but the plants
will bloom again; if you don't spray your entire collection
you won't HAVE plants to bloom again! You need to repeat
the treatment a week after the first time and ALWAYS read
the label and follow the precautions. In SEVERE cases of
Mealy Big infestation you can use a product manufactured
by Ortho called ISOTOX - this stuff is STRONG, noxious and
it STINKS. It will weaken your plants. However, if the 7
Day Control isn't doing it, Isotox is your alternative to
giving up. I have also recently started spraying with NEEM
Oil and this seems to be working VERY well.
- Mealy Bugs gravitate to ONE particular plant species in
my entire collection; Paph. moquettianum. They leave even
closely related species sitting in the NEXT pot alone. Therefore,
I use my moquettianums as my Mealy Bug barometer! Now, there's
no scientific proof of this, but I'd suggest that EVERYONE
keep a moquettianum in their Paph. collection - the first
place I ever notice a Mealy Bug infestation has ALWAYS been
on my moquettianums. If I find a single mealy bug, I just
swab it off with 71% Isopropyl alcohol. If I find several,
I start checking my other plants!
- To a lesser extent I've also encountered scales, but NEVER
on my Paphs / Phrags. Scale requires the same treatment
as Mealy Bugs but they are much more resistant and require
more vigilance to ensure the problem is handled. I've also
found bacterial/fungal infections once or twice on leaves
- in that situation it's time for a rapid leafectomy - slice
the leave off at the base with a sterilized razor to stop
the spread to the base of the plant. Sprinkle the wound
with cinnamon which dries it out and prevents infection.
- Occasionally I offer excess seedlings fresh out of flask
which require special attention and care. Of utmost importance
is not to let the pots completely dry out; especially with
the Phrags! I'd suggest spraying down the compots every
day with distilled water (this keeps up the humidity) and
watering 2 X per week...1/2 strength fertilizer and completely
flush the pot when watering. Your watering schedule will
vary depending on your growing conditions...but the aforementioned
is typically what I need to do. You may only have to water
1X per week..on the flipside sometimes you have to water
You're going to loose some seedlings in a compot...it's
normal. Sometimes they may not die, but they can lose most
of their leaves while going through the "shedding process"
that happens anytime you deflask. It tends to be my experience
that they seedlings loose most of their leaves from the
flask but grow back newer, thicker ones. They may seem to
be floundering for the first few months...don't give up.
My "St. Swithin X Black Brier" were on the brink of death
earlier this year but now just a couple months later the
largest have 4-5"+ leaf spans! It can take 2 years before
they're ready to go to individual pots....of course sometimes
by 6 months they're ready to go. I'd say when the leaves
are 1/2" to 3/4" wide you could probably move them out;
of course it also depends on the particular plant you're
dealing with - a leaf span of 6" would be good to pot into
a 2-3" pot. Keep in mind that when I place all the plants
in the compot "clumped together" it a) makes it easier to
ship them and b) helps the plants do better (I've found
that "spaced out plants" don't grow as well). However, when
you de-compot you'll have a LOT of fun detangling the roots...take
your time! Earlier this year I had 4 Paph. Lady Isabel compots
that were "overdue" for relocating; I did them all in one
weekend and the yield was 21 plants; it took me 4 HOURS
to do it
How do you shoot your photographs?
Photographing Orchids is easy! I utilize
a Kodak DC5000 and occasionally a Fuji Finepix 40i (for
ultra-closeups). All my stud plants are now shot against
BLACK VELVET...that's the real key. In most cases when utilizing
a digital camera, I HAVE to use the flash. However, on light
blooms (i.e. Paph niveum) I shoot with two alternate methods;
I either utilize a tripod to steady the camera and shoot
with the time delay and flash turned off, or I use something
like a matchbook held at an angle in front of the flash
to deflect it...both methods work well but sometimes require
some color correction.
If you didn't see it here, and you're still
scratching your head, send
me an email to ASK ME!