A task that might intimidate and perhaps even prevent otherwise intrepid gardeners from taking up the satisfying hobby of growing orchids, specifically Paphiopedilums, or Lady’s Slippers, (the name originates from the Greek words Paphius [from Paphos, a city in Cyprus associated with the goddess Venus] and pedilon, shoes) is the repotting procedure. It does help to understand that most orchids fall into the categories of Epiphytes, growing without soil, and those that grow in the ground, terrestrials. Paphs are terrestrials, growing on the forest floor, although a few are Epiphytes, all the ones that we grow are terrestrials. Their roots will stretch and take up nourishment in light leaf litter. Getting the mix just right to grow them in pots is the key to success.
Our subject being repotted is Paphiopedilum (Starr Warr x Maudiae) ‘Pisgah’ x Paph. Dark Spell ‘Wolf Lake’. This orchid was a birthday gift from daughter Semi in 2007. There was an orchid show at the mall in Knoxville, how convenient!, on my birthday as we were strolling along just window shopping. The dealers had so many of my very favorite type, the Paphiopedilums. Every size, color and price point were available. It was so difficult to choose one.
That was also the year we decided to give up on the hill of lavender on the far east side of the property, the plants kept dying, and turn it into the Black Garden. P. Starr Warr was selected in the spirit of black, because it was the darkest flower of the lot and the foliage was extremely attractive and healthy. It was brought home and placed on the long wall behind the main house for a photo shoot. The camera used was the Kodak Easyshare DX 7440, before we discovered the macro function. Late April is a glorious time in the garden, as you can see in the background. (Except for 2007 when a late freeze devastated many plants, including the Japanese maple on the hill that can be seen in this photo with leaves the color of toast. It died, along with three other choice specimens.)
This orchid had not been repotted since it was received. During the last three years the plant has been a reliable bloomer, so it seemed best to not fix something that was not broken. But this winter it was noticed that the roots were up out of the potting medium, and the whole thing had really outgrown the small terracotta four inch pot that we had carefully placed the whole thing into when it came to live here. It was purchased in a green plastic pot, the type most orchids are sold in. We like something prettier and less likely to fall over with the weight of the large flowers. Pulled rudely from its pot, the roots of the Paph look healthy. It appears the potting medium used was very nearly entirely sphagnum long strand moss. That requires a quick rethink from the purchased bagged mix for Paphs that was at the ready. The larger bark chunks were removed from that mix and a couple of handfuls of the moss, on hand, were well wetted and mixed in with the smaller bits of the bagged mixture. A slight detangling of the roots found none that were black or damaged. If any had been found, they would have been cut off.This type of sphagnum has been used to top off all of the paphs here. It can be found for sale in small bales with the indoor potting supplies at the big box stores. Initially we used the little clay balls seen in the Salvia cutting post, to view it click here-How To Take Salvia Cuttings, but found that those did not keep the roots moist enough. The goal is to water infrequently but thoroughly, about once a week during the cold winter, more often on warmer sunny days. The moss keeps the roots moist but not soggy which is the most crucial aspect of growing this type of orchid. The container selected was a six inch Guy Wolff orchid pot #2, which was freed up after the abandonment of several orchids that were deemed no longer worthy of greenhouse space in the winter. The size is perfect, slightly larger than the previous home, but not too roomy. The pot was purchased at the now defunct Smith and Hawken store in Houston, Texas in 1997, the date stamped on the pot itself.
In the before shot the roots were exposed. In this, the after shot the roots are snuggled under a blanket of moist moss that has been sprayed with a weak, extremely weak solution of organic liquid fertilizer, concentrated on the node where the new flowering growth will emerge. The new growth will always be opposite the oldest flower stalk, look for the smaller young leaf shoots there. The spray bottle of weak fertilizer is aimed at the newest growth when feeding the orchids in winter. That is where the new flowers are forming and the best use of the spray. It is best to not overfertilize, too little is way better than too much. You might note that the plant is not centered in the pot, but is placed with the old growth nearer the side of the pot to allow room for several new shoots to grow and bloom before the next repotting.
In the big reveal it has gone from the darkness of pre dawn where the camera flash insists on being used to natural daylight outside the windows of the sunroom/greenhouse. The Paph is happily ensconced and joins its tribal siblings. But this is not an adequate final shot for a Fairegarden post, is it?
Seen here in August 2008, after being prepped to come inside for the winter with fellow fall bloomer Paphiopedilum Honey ‘Newberry’ x Paph. primulinus ‘Lemon Glow’. The treatment to debug the orchids can be seen by clicking here-Hot Tub Of Death.
A permanent page is
under construction up for the orchids that will show photos of the blooms and the name of each. Click to view it here-Plants We Grow-Orchids, or look on the sidebar under the heading Pages. A long term goal, unattainable but admirable in scope is to have pages for each type of plant grown here. Deciduous azaleas and daylilies have pages somewhat complete. Chip, chip, chip away at it is the methodology.
For other posts written by Fairegarden, look for How To on the sidebar page listing or click here.
In the spirit, (note: I am reading Dan Pearson’s book so have that word on the brain) of dear friend Jodi of Bloomingwriter’s post about featuring new to us blogs, may I present to you My Weeds Are Very Sorry, They Promise Not To Do It Again by Laurrie. The title of her blog made me laugh out loud, and her posts were very entertaining as well. I think you’ll like her style. And spirit. 🙂