I received my first orchid (paphiopedilum) from a friend this past February and I am having some problems. The leaves are wilted looking and starting to turn yellow. Is this caused by overwatering? Klara T
Answer: Paphiopedilums or lady slippers are gaining popularity these days as the orchid craze gets into full swing. It is no secret that since the plants are quite small, dozens of these temptations can reside on a single windowsill. Few people realize, however, that all paphs are grown from seed so each one is different…………and
cute……….and irresistible .
Keeping Lady Slippers alive requires a basic understanding of their native conditions – they grow on the floor of the rainforest which is shady and damp all the time. Nothing more, nothing less.
Wilted or yellow leaves is a sign of major stress, most likely in the watering department. Paphs do not have pseudobulbs to hold water so they cannot be allowed to dry out. Likewise, they cannot be allowed to sit in water for long periods of time or the roots will rot leaving the plant no way of taking up the water.
Old media suffocates orchid roots and should be changed every few years. Potting materials vary but one proven recipe for paphs contains small pieces of coconut husks, charcoal, and alliflor. Very sick plants may require sphagnum moss which helps generate new roots.
The best course of action for the plant in question is to repot using fresh media, water it thoroughly twice a week, and keep it in low light. New leaves should sprout within a few months and the plant will be on the road to recovery.
How would I go about cloning my favorite orchid? I have a beautiful Cattleya plant that I want to make babies from. Bill P.
Orchid cloning is nothing short of rocket science but I don’t want to dampen your enthusiasm. What better way to share your love of orchids than to give identical copies of your favorite plant to your friends. It all sounds so wonderful.
The process begins by cutting off the newest leaf shoot and dissecting it under a microscope using sterile laboratory techniques. The tiny pieces (meristems) are placed into a beaker that contains a solution of growth hormones and is spun around for several months using a rotating apparatus. The meristems try to grow towards the light but since they are spinning, the leaves sprout in all directions which are then further dissected. The process is repeated until the desired number of pieces is obtained.
Next, the pieces are placed into stationary beakers which contain a leaf growth hormone and moved to a temperature and light controlled room where they will receive 16 hour days of low light and 80 deg F. After a few months, the pieces have grown small leaves and are transplanted into beakers which contain a root growth hormone. After another year or so, the plants will be large enough to grow on their own in pots in a greenhouse.
Cattleyas are one of the slower growing orchids, unfortunately, so it will be another 6 years before any flowers are seen – under ideal circumstances. Still interested?
We recently added a Florida room to our house. It has a southern exposure along with large windows and sky lights. Would this be a good place for our phalaenopsis? Nancy M
A good ‘Florida Room’ will transform every day life into a tropical paradise just by stepping through the door…………..Exotic plants of all shapes and sizes – palm trees, ferns, philodendrons,
citrus trees, and bromileads should be growing everywhere………….
And orchids………..if the light levels allow.
There are essentially three intensity levels of sunlight – high, intermediate, and low. Cattleya, Dendrobium, and Oncidium orchids thrive under intermediate light and Paphiopedilum and Phalaenopsis do well in low light. Very few, if any, orchids can handle full sun, even for short periods of time.
The key to growing orchids in a Florida Room is the placement of the orchids so that the intermediate types are receiving filtered direct sunlight and the low light types are completely out of the direct path of the sun. Use of other tropical plants as sun shields as well as partially closing window blinds can help. Outside shade trees may allow for sub-climates within the room. It may take watching the path of the sun all day to determine which spots are suitable for orchids.
One tried and true technique to determine if the sun is too intense for an orchid – Touch the leaves and if they are warm then the light is too intense. Move the plant a little and try again.
Orchids would be a great addition to the Florida Room if the details can be worked out.